#edGY: Information Technology — the next fast-emerging sector

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THE banking and financial sector saw the highest growth in salary in the past year — between 10% and 25% — compared with other industries, according to Kelly Services Malaysia.

Information technology (IT) — despite experiencing a lower percentage increase in salary — is seen as the next fast-emerging sector.

According to Kamal Karanth, managing director of Kelly Services Malaysia, IT is one of the largest sectors in the country — the industry now employs more than 130,000 people.

“The demand for talent in the IT sector is great for one simple reason — it’s a fast-paced industry and it keeps changing,” Kamal says in presenting Kelly Services’ Salary Guide 2014/15.

He adds that based on the 2013 Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Talent Supply-Demand report, 90% of companies hired information, communication and technology (ICT) talents with at least one to five years of working experience, while the rest employed fresh graduates.

Kamal says the most in-demand skill is software development, which topped the employment availability list at 42%, followed by database (23%) and security development (18%).

“Due to the growing number of global development centres in the country, there is a huge demand for Java and mobile application developers. However, the number of people skilled in this role is scarce in Malaysia, hence most of the candidates are often sourced from India, the Philippines and Indonesia.”

According to the report, Malaysia’s creative and animation industry has grown exponentially in recent years as the country has produced a number of local animation programmers.

However, salary growth in the IT sector has been muted — it received the least favourable salary increase of between 5% and 10% on average. This is mainly due to the components of supply and demand, Kamal explains.

“If there are more graduates, the supply pool would be larger. Your salary would be determined by how many [similarly skilled people] are out there. It will keep changing, depending on the level of education and the level of skills you have.

“I can’t say what the right salary is — it depends on how many people are available for the job, what is the supply and how many is needed. It also depends on how competitive the market is.”

Kelly Services has identified six jobs that are considered hot in the IT sector, namely software development manager, lead software developer, project manager, senior systems engineer, IT manager and Java developer.

Based on the findings from the salary guide, a software development manager with 8 to 12 years of working experience earns about RM13,000 to RM18,000 a month. Meanwhile, a Java developer with at least three years of relevant experience would earn between RM5,000 and RM7,000 monthly.

MSC Malaysia is expected to provide 50,000 employment opportunities next year and will inject RM5.5 billion in investment, with cloud-based computing services set to become the next engine of growth.

Even big international conglomerates such as Huawei Technologies, Halliburton, Ranbaxy Laboratories and NTT Communications are leveraging the country’s workforce.

Moving forward

Kamal stresses that in order for Malaysia to be globally competitive and be on a par with other emerging markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong, it is important for the country to be more specialised.

“Malaysia needs to be in industries that are going to be in demand globally. It must possess the right skills to produce more graduates. The way forward for Malaysia is to really pick up all these specialised skills and market them well.”

He says analytics could be a good area to tap into as it is used by companies to monitor consumer spending and track buying habits in order to grow their business. He points out that analytics is a highly paid profession and involves mathematical and logical thinking.

“Companies are observing how consumers are spending, for example, how much you spend on food, movies, all these things are getting analysed.

“That’s how the future of marketing strategy is going to be like. Everything from what kind of jobs are in demand to the sites you are visiting — all these things are being tracked.”

The overall skilled talent pool in Malaysia is at 27% now, a long way from the target of 45% by 2020. Kamal believes that within the next six years, there will be enough time to meet the target in order to become a high-income nation. The recruitment firm expects the country’s skilled talent pool to increase to 33% next year.

This article first appeared in #edGY, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 27 - November 2, 2014.