ASEAN to train 80,000 tech specialists over five years
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the 33rd ASEAN Summit, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “Even as "considerable strides" have been taken towards a more united, resilient and innovative ASEAN, it is just the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for the 10-member regional grouping.” He further added, "We must stay on the course of economic integration and pool our talents and resources to improve our peoples' lives.”
As talent remains a key focus for the ASEAN economies, the responsibility to ensure their continuous development also falls upon them. Considering the rapid digital transformation all economies are experiencing, preparing the talent for the future of work and equipping them with the necessary tech skills is crucial. Realizing the importance of digital skills, Association of Southeast Asian Nations announced a program for training 80,000 manufacturing and digital industry specialists in five years.
The initiative will focus on skilling engineers, researchers and business managers in manufacturing, artificial intelligence and other fields.
Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe announced the program at a summit meeting and Japan shared its enthusiasm to help Southeast Asian nations train more specialists in information technology. As Japan will be the one assisting ASEAN in this initiative, their participation in helping the economies to train their talent is part of a broader effort by Tokyo towards cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Earlier, in 2015, Japan had made similar efforts to train 40,000 workers in areas like materials processing and infrastructure design and maintenance. However, with the ASEAN project, it is widening its scope to high-tech fields.
The growing tech skills problem
A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute puts the ASEAN region as one of the world’s best performing emerging economies. However, as the region enters a more digitized and tech-driven business world, it struggles to have a technically capable and skilled talent that can address the changing way of work.
It was recently stated in a report by World Economic Forum that about one-fifth of Singapore’s full-time equivalent workforce (20.6 percent) will have their jobs displaced by 2028. Other major economies in the region experience a similar pattern. The figures for Vietnam (13.8 percent), Thailand (11.9 percent), the Philippines (10.1 percent), Indonesia (8.1 percent) and Malaysia (7.4 percent) pointed how collectively the Southeast Asian markets have to prepare for difficult times ahead. As these reports highlight the pressing need to equip the talent with the emerging tech skills, businesses with the help of the governments need to figure out robust strategies to overcome the problem. Many initiatives like SkillsFuture in Singapore and even the one launched at the ASEAN Summit are small steps towards a better future, yet they may fall short in completely filling the tech skills gap.