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Tech Talent In Demand In The Asia-Pacific, But Shortage Of Skills Still An Issue

Competition for qualified technical talent in the Asia-Pacific is higher than ever, partly because it is harder to find.

Analysts have identified a number of industry sectors where technical skill sets are much in demand. Opportunities in information technology (IT) are wide open, particularly in cloud computing and cybersecurity. An IDC study commissioned by Microsoft suggests that cloud services will have a huge impact on job creation over the next few years. “It will open up new jobs and skill sets across the globe,” says Susan Hauser, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Enterprise and Partner Group. Information security analyst was not an established occupation until 1997; positions for specialists in this area are now growing significantly.

Market research firm Evans Data estimates that the global software developer population has just about doubled since 2010, with an increase of 700,000 in the last year. In particular, m ost of that growth has been in the Asia-Pacific, with about 46  percent more software developers focused on mobile than in Europe, and the Middle East and Africa . Evans Data estimates there are 1.1 million software developers in China alone.

Evans Data also indicates that the Asia-Pacific represents most of the world’s activity in software development for the Internet of Things (IoT), with 20 percent of software developers surveyed reporting they are working on IoT projects. (Only 16 percent of North American developers surveyed said they were working on IoT programs.)



India has long been a major source of IT services, but 65  percent of the electronics consumed in India is imported. T he country has been working aggressively to change that by boosting its internal design and manufacturing programs. In February, the Indian government approved plans for two semiconductor wafer plants. One would be located near New Delhi and would be developed with a consortium led by IBM, Israel’s Tower Jazz, and STMicroelectronics . The other facility, to be located in the western Gujarat state, is being organized with assistance of another consortium that includes HSMC Technologies India Private Ltd., Malaysia’s Silterra, and STMicroelectronics. The two plants were expected to create 22,000 jobs, although analysts have suggested that employment will depend on actual production levels. Final agreements on building the plants were scheduled to be signed in August.

Infosys says it plans to create 50,000 jobs over a decade in Karnataka near Bangalore, but it may be slowed by the maintenance and construction of roads surrounding the facility. The company reportedly has run into a similar problem near the Bangalore international airport where it said it would create 15,000 jobs. Infosys is developing plans for another campus in Nodia that it expects to begin operation in about three years. Once operational, Infosys says it will employ nearly 25,000 IT professionals in the facility.

Another IT leader, Mumbai-based Tata Consultancy Services, said in April that it visited more than 370 Indian engineering schools to recruit 25,000 trainees as part of the 55,000 people it planned to hire in FY 2015. Tata has also visited universities in the U.S. to recruit engineers, and said it expects about 250 U.S. trained students to join the company as trainees through the summer.

Cambium Networks has opened a wireless R&D center in Bangalore to provide R&D support for local and regional customers. Originally a part of Motorola Solutions and an independent company since 2011, Cambium says the new facility aims to meet the growing demand in India for custom wireless broadband solutions.

LSI India, now an Avago Technologies company and LSI’s largest R&D hub, has several job openings for R&D engineers, IC design engineers, senior physical verification engineers, and manufacturing development engineers , most in Bangalore.

Ericsson, which says more of its staff is now based in India (about 18,000 employees) than in its home country, Sweden, has announced a fourth network operations center in India to manage customer and infrastructure support systems. “India’s large ICT [information communication technologies] talent pool and fast-growing economy makes it the ideal place to base a global network operations center to serve Ericsson’s customers,” says Amitabh Ray, Ericsson India’s global services marketing director. The new Ericsson center will be based in Kolkata.

Huawei Technologies Co. is looking for several software engineers for its Bangalore operation, some with experience in Android and graphics development, and machine-to-machine (M2M) software/hardware development.

ARM has also recently established a CPU Design Center in the Hsinchu Science Park in Taiwan to focus on the design, verification and delivery of the ARM Cortex-M processor series targeted at the IoT, wearables, and embedded applications markets. “Close proximity to key semiconductor and ecosystem partners and high-caliber local engineering talent makes Taiwan an ideal location for use to expand our CPU design activities,” says Simon Segars, chief executive officer of ARM.

ARM is looking for hardware design specialists with experience in Verilog, and scripting in Python, Perl, or Tcl . An ARM executive also said the company needs people with a good understanding of computer architecture. “Across our Asia region, we are looking for candidates with experience in technologies ranging from C, C++, OpenGLES, WebGL, HTML5, and JavaScript to compilers and virtual machines. Experience in performance and power optimization of embedded and mobile devices would be ideal.”

In China, Intel has opened a Smart Device Innovation Center in Shenzhen and says it expects to spend $100 million of its China Smart Device Innovation Fund to accelerate the development for tablets, smartphones, and wearable and IoT devices based on its chips. Samsung Electronics has also invested $7 billion in its chip production complex in Xi’an and plans to build a semiconductor packaging and testing facility in China by the end of this year.

Qualcomm, despite reports in the Chinese media of being the subject of an antitrust violation investigation by the Chinese government, has announced plans to invest up to $150 million in a “strategic venture fund” for Chinese startup companies, ranging in interests from mobile technologies to the Internet and semiconductor development. Cambridge Wowo and Boohee, both mobile companies, have already been funded. Qualcomm is also working with Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC)., the largest chip foundry in mainland China, to advance the SMIC’s 28mm process technology and wafer manufacturing services in China in order to make Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.

According to Bloomberg News, Chinese telecommunication equipment manufacturer ZTE Corp. has formed a special team within its human resources department to recruit engineering talent from BlackBerry Ltd. and is hiring engineers from Motorola Mobility, all aimed at expanding its handset business overseas. Some of the new hires from BlackBerry have been based in Canada, but may move to the U.S. or China.

Satellite specialist ITC Global, based in Perth, Australia, recently opened an office in Singapore. Rohde & Schwarz, the Munch-based test and measurements company, has a new building in Changi Business Park in Singapore with 350 people and says it plans to hire additional employees in Singapore over the next three years to support its growth in the region. “We want to attract the best minds to our company worldwide, and that includes the Singapore talent pool,” says Lim Boon Huat, the company’s managing director in Asia. “This is why we closely cooperate with local universities.” In fact, the newly launched Shanghai Tech University is recruiting faculty for its School of Information Science and Technology. The school is looking for Ph.D-level EEs, computer engineers, and computer scientists, or people in a related field.

In addition to expanding its staff in India, telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies is adding to its technical team in its new OpenDaylight Lab in Shenzhen, China where it specializes in software-defined networking (SDN). Huawei has been actively promoting the application of SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV) technologies in several areas, including mobile backhaul networks, data centers, backbone networks, and metropolitan smart infrastructures. The company is also recruiting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, looking for an access network engineer, wireless solutions manager, wireless network support engineer, and senior product manager.  

Taiwan-based phone and tablet maker HTC says it plans to hire about 1 ,000 people worldwide this year, including hardware and software engineers, designers, operational engineers and product test engineers. While this is about the same number of people the company hired in 2013, HTC says at least 10 percent of its new hires will be dedicated to 4G product development.

South Korea continues to do well in electronics design and production, but has made significant gains as a global hub for tech startups. The Bloomberg Global Innovation Index has ranked the country first among all nations in startups by comparing it through a list of indictors that include R&D, tech density, and patent activity.



APAC companies, like so many others around the world, complain that they can’t find the technical skills they need. But they’re increasingly willing to fill gaps to meet their requirements in ways that ensure they can be competitive in the region and globally, mainly by accepting outside assistance at both the university and industrial levels. (In a reverse philosophy, Samsung’s Device Solutions unit is building a 1.1 million sq. ft. R&D facility in north San Jose, mainly to have access to PhD-level engineers and other top technical talent.)

An IDC study, commissioned by Cisco Systems, projects a skills gap of over 400,000 networking professionals across the APAC region by 2016, a big jump from the shortage of more than 250,000 information communication technology (ICT) specialists across the region the study says existed in 2012. Countries mentioned in the study include Australia, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. To address this gap, the Cisco-sponsored study says education and training institutions will need to increase the number of technical graduates significantly—222,000 more each year between 2014 and 2022. Most difficult to fill, according to the study, are positions that require some background in security; eighty-two percent of the 504 companies interviewed said they would attempt to recruit additional networking professionals with security skills in the next 12 to 24 months.

A survey by India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) indicates there is a higher demand for niche technology skills that emphasize analytics, cloud computing and mobile. NASSCOM says a growing number of India’s tech companies are automating their “talent hunting process” to help them find qualified job candidates, and the industry group hopes to fill some of the gap through a recently launched registry of technology start-ups to serve as a database for investors, the media, and government. It’s another development in India’s relatively new “10,000 start-up programme” that’s sponsored by I ntel in collaboration with NASSCOM. “Though India is buzzing with entrepreneurial spirit,” Ravi Gururak, NASSCOM product conclave chairman, told The Times of India, “the country lacks skills, scale, and speed required to excel in the fast-paced technology environment.” He said the start-up program aims to draft courses to impart skills like application development, marketing, and analytics.



More companies, hoping to expand their opportunities in APAC countries, are creating training programs. Some of these programs are in-house, while others are the result of “partnering” with APAC companies and universities to further the development of technical skills in the region.

Cisco has launched an Internet of Everything webinar series, Learning@Cisco, that will deliver a new portfolio of IoT curricula to its Asian partners , and a Cisco Specialist Certification program to advance skills development in industrial networking.  

U.K.-based ARM, which has facilities in China, South Korea, Japan, India, and Taiwan, is providing a digital signal processing (DSP) “Lab-in-a-Box” to universities worldwide to help boost practical skills development and the creation of a new ARM-based audio system. ARM says the program is the latest in a series of initiatives by to cover multiple academic topics, including embedded systems and SoC design and programming.

IBM says it has signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s Ministry of Education focused on addressing the growing requirement for big data and analytic skills in China. Dubbed IBM U-100, the company will donate its software (valued by IBM at about $100 million) and provide expertise to support 100 universities in China. IBM says the goal is to create the next generation of data scientists in China. The agreement covers three levels: to set up big data and analytics technology centers in universities, launch undergraduate and graduate programs in 30 universities, and create a Center for Excellence at five universities. The effort aims to reach 40,000 students per year to gain expertise in big data and analytics, skills increasingly in demand in China. (According to CCID Consulting, the big data technology and services market in China will grow from $2.3 billion in 2014 to $8.7 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 99.7  percent.) IBM says it plans to bring 40 new universities on board to this program by the end of 2014.

The IBM agreement follows its announcement in 2013 when it added nine new academic collaborations to its more than 1,000 working agreements with universities worldwide. The agreements included U.S. universities as well as Teresa Women’s University in India, the National University of Singapore, and others. These agreements also focused on big data and analytics.

Broadcom Corp. has also formed an alliance with Shanghai Tech University to accelerate product development in the IoT market, and Microsemi Corp. has opened a new technical support design center in Taiwan, and will add to existing facilities in Hyderabad and Shanghai to train and certify more than 200 field application engineers. Microsemi also plans to conduct several customer seminar training programs worldwide.

Intel, which opened a $1 billion chip assembly and test facility in Vietnam in 2010, has also invested in people to staff it. Intel put 21 Vietnamese engineering students (16 women and five men) through a two-year program at Portland State University in Oregon. The students will be assigned to the new facility in Vietnam, which Intel says will triple in size from its current 1,000  employees, over the next few years. (The Viet Nam Newsreported thatthe country has about 250,000 highly trained IT specialists, but will need 411,000 by the end of 2018.)

Northrop Grumman and the University of Sydney in Canberra, Australia have also signed an agreement to work together to explore areas of common interest in providing educational, research, and training programs that would enhance the university’s curriculum and programs.

With consumer electronics retail sales in China expected to reach $154.4 billion in 2014, the 2,000 company member Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) plans to produce International CES Asia in Shanghai in May 2015. This inaugural event will take place at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. Several exhibitors have already signed on for the event, including Amazon, Ford Motor, Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, IBM, Intel, Monster, Radio Shack, and Gibson Brands. The CEA has not sponsored a tradeshow in China since its 2012 participation with SINOCES.

About Ron Schneiderman:

Ron Schneiderman is a contributing editor for It Is Innovation (i3) and is a regular contributor to IEEE Signal Processing Magazine. He's the author of seven books, including "Technology Lost — Hype and Reality in the Digital Age."