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Keep Pace or Risk Being Outpaced

Mr Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, (Industry) Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore Keynote Address - PACE 2003, Auditorium, SICEC

Mr Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, (Industry)
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
Keynote Address - PACE 2003, Auditorium, SICEC
Singapore, 7 October 2003

Good morning
Mr Alex Siow, Chairman, National Infocomm Competency Centre
Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Let me begin by commending the National Infocomm Competency Centre on organising PACE 2003, Singapore's first Infocomm Training & Certification Symposium. I wish the NICC every success in this event and to make PACE into an annual affair that every infocomm professional will look forward to.

2. Before the Asian currency crisis of 1997, the Asian economy was one of the fastest growing in the world. Since then, its growth has been derailed through wave after wave of crisis and adversity - the dotcom crash, global terrorism, global economic downturn and SARS. While our infocomm industry was not spared, it nevertheless showed resilience and grew at a modest rate. According to IDA's Annual Survey on Infocomm Industry 2002, the revenue from the infocomm industry grew by 5% last year to reach S$32.17 billion. The companies surveyed have predicted that revenue will continue to grow positively at 4.5% in 2003 and 7.5% in 2004. Based on the companies' projections for manpower needs over the next two years, the forecasted demand for infocomm jobs also remains positive, with a marginal increase of 0.2% in 2003 and 1.2% in 2004.

3. As the internet continues to provide a bridge across vast geographical boundaries, we need to be better prepared for global competition for talent, investments and jobs. We need to be positively differentiated from the rest - producing products and services faster, more cost effectively and with higher quality. Effective human capital development is the key to achieving greater value-add and higher productivity. A pool of highly knowledgeable and highly skilled professionals will help us rise above the tough competition. But mere skills training is not enough any more. To compete in a high value terms, we need to have the "hot skills" the world is willing to pay a premium for. We also need to show that we have those "hot skills". Certification differentiates the cream of the crop from the mediocre.

4. Earlier in April this year, MetaGroup's research on IT Staffing and Compensation found that nearly one-third of US companies that employed IT staff were relying extensively on the use of IT certifications to differentiate employees' capabilities1. The good news was the study also revealed that in spite of a sluggish economy, IT professionals with special skills continued to command higher pay than other IT staff.

5. In Singapore, this practice of IT certification is catching on with the professionals who appreciate its merits. Skills certification can help you stay ahead of the pack because it is a hallmark of quality that lends credibility to your special skills and capabilities and allows you to benchmark your skills against the best in the industry. Certification can let you gain the edge in employability because it gives your employer the assurance that he is hiring a highly competent individual who can deliver quality work and add value to the organisation. In addition, if your certification is recognised regionally or internationally, you can export your expertise beyond our shores to access a richer portfolio of regional projects and develop better career prospects.

6. Even a 100-meter sprinter knows that it is not good enough for him to win a district race. He has to train harder now to become better by winning the national race. He understands that he can only make a mark for himself when he wins the recognition from a prestigious sports organisation. And if he is more ambitious in aspiring to become a world champion at the Olympics, he will have to further hone his skills and break the world record. I am not saying that you need to become the equivalent of an Olympics champion but I do encourage you to be relentless in your quest to become more highly qualified and let professional certification help you win the recognition that you deserve from the infocomm industry.

Certification Studies with NICC

7. IDA believes that certification of infocomm skills will be the way forward to ensure employability for professionals and quality of skills for the employers. That is why we have commissioned the NICC to carry out seven certification studies over 2 years. These studies aim to identify gaps in skills sets and propose ways to bridge the gaps through building a body of knowledge. This will be done by establishing a skills certification framework to help companies and individuals develop their progression paths.

8. The Web Services Skills Certification Framework was the product of the first study by NICC and IDA just unveiled it at the XMLAsia event last month. I would like to add that this skills certification framework is among the first of its kind in the world. There are three levels of competency in this framework:

(a) the Engineer/Developer, being the fundamental;
(b) the Specialist; and
(c) the Architect, being the most highly skilled.

9. With this framework in place, individuals can become Web Services developers by completing one of the eight certified training courses. For the next level of certification, the specialist level, IDA collaborated with Software AG and their seven partners to train 51 professionals over two years. Each of these seven partner companies has its own unique strengths and the partnership demonstrated how different companies can pool their resources to build capabilities for Singapore's infocomm sector.

10. Today I am pleased to reveal that NICC has completed the first phase for a second study. This study is on Wireless Certification and it has identified that there is a need to certify the skills of wireless professionals in 2 areas, namely Wireless Infrastructure and Wireless Application. The three levels of certification are the same as those I have just spelt out for the Web Services Skills Certification Framework. The next step is to map existing infocomm training courses that are accredited, or develop new ones to train people up to each of the levels. This Wireless Skills Certification Framework will be ready early next year.

11. Meanwhile, NICC is embarking on their third study - Infocomm User Project Management Certification. This time, a different approach is taken. The study will zero in on the project management skills of infocomm users in non-infocomm sectors, for example, banking and finance, manufacturing and logistics. The project management capabilities of the infocomm users are pivotal to an effective sectoral and business transformation. Prior to any transformation, the infocomm user champions the initiation, charting the phases of change and subsequently, implementing the plan. Hence it is important that infocomm users have the necessary project management skills to lead and manage the implementation well, and better assist Infocomm professionals in developing on-time, on-budget applications systems. In the next three months, NICC will complete phase 1 of the study with recommendations to bridge the gap in the certification of the infocomm user's project management skills.


12. The framework for each of the disciplines can help every company and infocomm professional map out your training needs as you plan for your capability development. NICC has used a consultative approach in carrying out these studies. They have involved the industry right from the start to ensure that their recommendations will reflect true skills gaps. They have also conducted extensive research and development work to arrive at the right mix of training and certification to improve the calibre of our infocomm workforce, so as to meet the needs of the industry.

13. On this note, I encourage you all to deliberate on your training plan for your career advancement. If you were the 100-meter sprinter, do you plan to just win the district race, beat all competitors at a national race or set a new world record at the Olympics? To be good, better or the best in your field - the choice is yours.

14. I wish you a fruitful exchange and now I have the pleasure of announcing the opening of PACE 2003.

Notes to Editor:

12003 IT Staffing and Compensation Guide, 9 April 2003, META Group