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Singapore’s new Tech.Pass will help fill senior roles but won’t solve skill shortages

Singapore’s new Tech.Pass working visa for technologists will help fill leadership roles and boost employment by encouraging new startups to launch, but it won’t significantly dent skill shortages in the tech sector, say recruiters.

The new pass, which opens for applications in January, is aimed at attracting top-tier foreign tech professionals looking to start businesses, lead corporate teams, invest in or advise companies, and teach at tertiary institutions in Singapore. There will be 500 places initially available. At least five years of leadership experience in a large tech firm or developing a successful tech product is a must.

There will be “a lot of interest from overseas tech professionals” in the new visa scheme, says Faiz Modak, senior manager for tech and transformation at Robert Walters. In recent months, there has already been a “surge in applications” from overseas-based tech professionals hoping to secure jobs in Singapore under the standard Employment Pass (EP) regime, he says. This is despite the Singapore government’s efforts to encourage companies to employ more locals, for example by raising salary thresholds for EPs.

“Singapore’s handling of the Covid crisis, both from healthcare and financial perspectives, has been well appreciated globally, and has now made Singapore a more attractive location,” says Modak. “Also, these professionals are seeing opportunities because of the growth of tech firms here, and the launch of virtual banks next year,” he adds.

The Tech.Pass should help banks and other employers of technologists to hire senior tech professionals into high-level leadership roles, says Modak, adding that for these candidates it should be less restrictive than applying for an EP. “As Singapore is a maturing tech market compared to the US and Europe, there’s still a shortage of senior candidates with strong expertise in the latest tech stacks or domains. For example, the UK and Europe already have virtual banks, so as Singapore launches its virtual banks, there will be demand for senior tech candidates with experience in that domain,” he adds.

A 500-place visa programme has its limits, however, in a country that faces chronic technology talent shortages. Singapore will create another 60,000 tech and digital jobs over the next three years, according to Government estimates. But over the same period it will only produce about 8,400 tech graduates.

“Based on our experience, the tech talent crunch is particularly challenging at the mid-management level. These tech passes, while great at bringing in the know-how, will not immediately solve the talent crunch,” says Patricia Teo, director of the technology practice at Kerry Consulting in Singapore.

The Tech.Pass initiative could ultimately provide local tech candidates in Singapore with even more job opportunities as some of the passholders will be establishing their own businesses in Singapore rather than joining other firms as employees. “These passes are partly targeted at people who have solid track records in setting up businesses, which will mean job creation here,” says Teo. “This could benefit the local talent pool by upskilling them through exposing them to newer tech initiatives,” adds Modak.

Teo says the visa scheme will allow senior foreign tech professionals – whether entrepreneurs, employees, teachers or investors – to pass on cutting-edge knowledge to local technologists. “Technology evolves so quickly that the only way to keep up to date is by continuous learning at a global level,” she adds.

Photo by Sreehari Devadas on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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