How Covid-19 was perfect storm for digital revolution that inspired young talent to work in innovation and technology
- Technology and science talent now in huge demand as pandemic prompts international hiring spree
- About 2,000 I&T jobs on offer to science, technology, engineering and mathematics candidates at March’s online Hong Kong Science Park Virtual Career Expo
“Two years of digital transformation in two months” was how Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella described the impact of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic on businesses and society around the world.
Governments and international financial markets are still taking stock of the social and economic effects of the devastating coronavirus disease outbreak – a perfect storm which has driven a digital revolution that is inspiring global young talent to pursue a successful career in innovation and technology (I&T).
Lockdowns and social-distancing restrictions mean companies and other organisations working across all industries have had to change their established working practices. It has also forced many ofthem to accelerate their plans for digital transformation through the greater use of online technologies, which has highlighted the need to fill a significant skills gap in the workforce.
According to recruitment agency Michael Page’s Talent Trends 2021 report, 68 per cent of companies in the Asia-Pacific region plan to invest in more technology and digital tools – driving up the demand for those candidates with technology skills.
The pandemic has also inspired thousands of science and technology businesses around the world to develop new solutions to tackle the spread of disease and help communities return to some semblance of normality. One of them, SenseTime, a leading artificial intelligence tech company established in Hong Kong, has seen its contactless temperature screening solutions deployed in office buildings, restaurants and schools in a number of countries to ensure the safe resumption of operations.
These opportunities have been met with a new wave of funding, particularly in growth sectors such as biomedical technology and education technology. Total corporate funding on digital health rose 103 per cent in 2020 compared with the year before, the market research company Mercom Capital Group reported.
These developments have prompted a global hiring spree for top talent in the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
Albert Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) – a Hong Kong statutory body offering expertise and all-round support to facilitate the expansion of innovation and technology start-ups and enterprises across the region – said there is no shortage of promising career opportunities awaiting bright young people.
Over the past year, it reported a 13 per cent increase in the number of companies at Hong Kong Science Park, in Pak Shek Kok, New Territories, which is another sign of confidence that the market is strong.
“In recent years, we’ve seen lots of graduates pursue studies in areas such as artificial intelligence and biomedical technology,” Wong said.
“Right now, they are in hot demand and very employable. In March, we will host our annual Career Expo, and we are expecting about 2,000 vacancies offered by [our] Science Park ecosystem will be waiting to be filled.”
Organised by HKSTP, this year’s week-long Hong Kong Science Park Virtual Career Expo, from March 18 to 24, is an online jobs fair which aims to match tech companies with local and international STEM talent.
The virtual event is a godsend for companies struggling to recruit well-educated staff amid lockdowns and other unprecedented logistical challenges as a result of Covid-19.
Last year’s virtual Expo, held between March 25 and April 21 during worldwide travel restrictions, attracted an overwhelmingly positive response, with over 170 companies offering more than 1,100 vacancies, and 60,000 jobseekers from 103 regions taking part.
In 2016 Jacky Mo started work at beNovelty – an award-winning application programming interface (API) platform technology company based at the Science Park – after attending one of HKSTP’s Career Expos.
He spent two years as an intern before becoming a full-time employee as a product manager supporting beNovelty’s new product development.
Mo said jobseekers considering a career in technology should not hesitate. “It might be tempting to defer entering the workplace in the hope of a better job market [environment] later,” he said.
“However, if you are [interested in working] in innovation and technology, Covid-19 has created the ideal conditions to start your career. And HKSTP’s Career Expo has been my life-changing moment.”
The theme of this year’s Expo is “The Future Is Yours”, which Wong believes best reflects the current golden opportunity for young talent to kick-start a successful career.
“Now, more than ever, we need future-minded people who are brave enough to take the first step – to carve a better future for both themselves and the world we live in,” he said.
The organisers of this year’s event are expecting strong demand, particularly in the fields of biomedical technology, smart city, and AI, given their application in anti-pandemic measures around the world.
Financial technology (fintech) talent is also likely to attract great interest given Hong Kong’s growing position as a leading, highly resilient fintech hub in Asia.
The Science Park is well known for nurturing successful science and technology companies. It has more than 14,000 people in its ecosystem, which supports about 1,000 technology businesses originating from all corners of the world.
Yet helping these companies fill their vacancies with top talent is not without its challenges. Wong believes more needs to be done to nurture young talent to bridge the gap between the classroom and the commercial environment.
“In these challenging times, we must invest more in training and initiatives to nurture our young talent,” he said.
“Hard skills can be learned in the classroom, but developing soft and workplace-ready skills requires vocational experience. This is the most effective way for people to further boost their employability.”
Indeed, HKSTP’s own InnoAcademy, which it describes as a “career initiative programme”, combines training, mentoring and a fully paid work placement for two years. Wong said this is a good example of the type of programme needed to upskill the technology leaders of tomorrow.
While such initiatives and events such as the forthcoming Career Expo offer a platform to match talented individuals with job opportunities, Wong believes traditional stereotypes in Hong Kong – including the perception that finance and property are the only routes to a successful business career – need to change to encourage more young talent to pursue careers in I&T.
“Attitudes are changing,” Wong said. “The pandemic has increased people’s appreciation for innovation and technology, and the important role it plays in improving our lives. We’re not there yet, but we’re closer now more than ever.”
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