Addressing the Global ICT Talent Shortage

ByAfke Schaart

May 24, 2021

Afke Schaart

The Digital Talent Regional Summit last week addressed a number of questions about ICT skills, current talent shortages, and the future. In this post, I’ve summarized my response to some of the key themes.

1. The impact of the pandemic on the digital divide and skills gap: What are the challenges in local countries/organizations in digital up-skills and talent training?

The digital divide is still an ongoing issue in many countries – half the world’s population remains unconnected and left out of the benefits provided by ICT. Approximately 2 billion women and 2.2 billion young people under 25 lack fixed broadband Internet access at home. This has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, putting countries with low digital capabilities at an increased risk of marginalization. In the post-COVID-19 world, digital exclusion increasingly means economic, social, and educational exclusion.

Over the past two years, the world witnessed the key role digital technologies played during the pandemic and how they can help “build back better”. Countries with high ICT maturity were able to respond to the pandemic more quickly through digital transformation. In countries with high scores as ranked by the Huawei Global Connectivity Index 2020, businesses can leverage digital tools and services to respond to COVID-19 epidemic more quickly to mitigate the impact of lockdowns and social distancing.

Source: GCI 2020 / EUI November 2020 Update

However, the ICT industry’s rapid growth is facing an undeniable challenge: a shortage of high-quality talent. The global “talent shortage” is currently at 38% – representing 200 million people – with the top ten hardest jobs to fill in STEM professions. Meanwhile, a mismatch between the talent pool’s technical capabilities and the interdisciplinary skills the industry requires is hindering talent recruitment. In other words, the industry lacks highly talented individuals with the innovative capabilities that are essential to drive new growth.

The global “talent shortage” is currently at 38% – representing 200 million people – with the top ten hardest jobs to fill in STEM professions.

To bridge this skills gap, we need to understand and teach the skills that enable young talent to take full advantage of technological advances. We believe that education empowerment can transcend age, countries, and levels of economic development, and help bridge digital gender divides worldwide.

2. What is the biggest driving force for the Digital Talent ecosystem?

The digital economy is defined by the growing need for enabling digital skills. Governments have a great responsibility when it comes to meeting this need. They face a great challenge, as providing education as a public good is one of the responsibilities of governments worldwide. Their policies play an undeniably important role when it comes to accelerating the adoption of digital skills, but the private sector can play an equally important role in driving change and triggering digital disruption in the economy.

Governments, universities and business need to work closely on defining skills needs and developing measures that meet the requirements of the digital economy. To support the global need for digital transformation, we need to work together to promote talent development and offer more opportunities for digital skills training. Huawei will continue to support local ICT talent development initiatives. Investing in digital skills training is our corporate social responsibility, but also our duty as an organization to work together with governments to address the digital skills gap.

To support the global need for digital transformation, we need to work together to promote talent development and offer more opportunities for digital skills training.

Closing the digital divide means helping young people access training and educational opportunities in STEM. Companies such as Huawei are investing to offer more opportunities in this area. Huawei has also been working with a number of organizations worldwide on various projects aiming to bring digital skills training to young ICT talents.

3. Initiatives or projects and the support/collaboration needed across stakeholders.

Since 2008, Seeds for the Future, Huawei’s flagship program, has attracted more than 30,000 young people from over 500 top universities in 126 countries worldwide. In 2013, Huawei launched its ICT Academy, a school-enterprise project that involves higher education institutions, to help build that talent ecosystem. Huawei ICT Academy has been launched in China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Southern Pacific, covering 72 countries. In total, 927 colleges and universities are involved and more than 45,000 students are trained every year.

Huawei has invested heavily in exploring practices with universities and colleges and replicating successful experiences. Huawei has partnered with more than 900 universities and colleges around the world — including Polytech Nice Sophia (France), Henley Business School (UK), the University of Malaya (Malaysia), the University of Alicante (Spain), and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China) — providing teaching materials, training, labs, and student certification to more than 45,000 students every year.

Huawei also works with partners to accelerate talent cultivation and address the talent shortage in emerging technology domains. Huawei has collaborated with partners to establish the AI Talent Development Program, for example, addressing the AI domain’s talent shortage. More than 10,000 students are expected to obtain Huawei Certified ICT Associate-Artificial Intelligence (HCIA-AI) certification through Huawei ICT Academies within three years.

Similarly, Huawei is helping to address the talent shortage in the big data domain, working with global partners and higher education institutions with the aim of training more than 10,000 certified big data experts within three years. We have developed the Kunpeng computing industry by releasing the Kunpeng Talent Program, with the aim of cultivating more than 200,000 professionals in technical fields such as using Kunpeng processors and GaussDB, intelligent computing, and AI – all within five years.

4. Suggestions for the cultivation of an inclusive digital talent ecosystem and synergies for inclusive digital prosperity.

Talent development is challenging and it takes time. It requires both dedication and heavy investment to build a talent ecosystem that can thrive. Cooperation between universities and enterprises, with the support of governments, can be key in promoting a solution to the talent shortage. Stronger collaboration between the private and public sector is needed to address this challenge and build an ecosystem that is going to cultivate ICT talent that meets industry requirements, providing high-quality talent for industry development.

A talent development strategy aligned with the industry’s production processes is needed. The prioritization of theory over practice is an ongoing problem and we need closer collaboration between the ICT industry and the education industry to narrow this gap. More industry-education cooperation projects are needed to build an inclusive digital talent ecosystem. Building the talent ecosystem is the cornerstone for the ‘platform + ecosystem’ strategy, where people are the most important part of the ecosystem and the foundation for maintaining the vitality and continuous growth of the industry chain.

Huawei is committed to building an open, collaborative, mutually beneficial talent ecosystem, developing ICT talent and facilitating the industry’s growth and transformation. Huawei hopes to tackle the ICT industry’s severe talent deficiency by developing standards, building alliances, and communicating talent value.

By 2024, Huawei expects to have built a vibrant ICT talent ecosystem and cultivated more than 1 million industry professionals.

Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

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Afke Schaart

Senior Vice President, Global Government Affairs, Huawei Afke is responsible for global engagement with international organizations in domains such as sustainability, digital inclusion, and business ethics.

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