Despite a well-funded education system and a number of ICT skills development programmes, Brunei Darussalam’s ICT-sector workforce could benefit from better alignment with industry requirements. In addition, adding a focus on up-skilling and expanding the competencies of current ICT specialists would help to grow it into a sector that is able to create and maintain employment opportunities for Bruneians.
The Sultanate’s ICT labour force comprised an estimated 4200 workers in 2015, yet by 2020, demand for ICT professionals is forecast to require 1300 more positions. According to data from the Sultanate’s Department of Economic Planning and Development, the estimated total workforce was 203,600 in 2014, making the country’s ICT labour force only about 2% of the of the overall workforce.
In response to this potential future shortfall, the Authority for the Info-Communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) National ICT Manpower Masterplan outlines the steps that need to be taken to increase the number of skilled ICT professionals to 6000 by creating 1800 additional jobs by 2020. The plan’s four strategies include encouraging Bruneians to make ICT a career choice, educating ICT graduates who are ready to enter the workforce, increasing and up-skilling the existing number of ICT professionals. In order for the country to sustainably develop its ICT industry, many more software developers, programmers, managers, coders and app developers will be necessary, according to one industry watcher. “You can’t achieve a knowledge economy if you don’t have enough locals who are software developers and programmers,” Fatin Arifin, lead entrepreneur-in-residence at training company Tru Synergy, told The Brunei Times in March 2016. “At the moment, there are only a small number of locals with such skills,” Arifin added.
Playing its part in conducting ICT skills development programmes, Telekom Brunei (TelBru) has initiated a programme that sponsors overseas training for its employees. The Regional Talent Development Programme sends TelBru staff into working environments abroad, with the aim of developing and sharing professional skills, while at the same time having Bruneians learn from employees at the host companies.
Training At Home & Abroad
In September 2015, four employees entered the six-month programme which saw two employees stationed at Telekom Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and two at the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company in Manila. The programme is expected to pay dividends with TelBru staff acquiring skills in the foreign working environments. When they return to TelBru, the seconded staff will transfer the skills learned from working abroad to their colleagues in TelBru.
Complementing the overseas skills transfer programme, TelBru is also focusing on training up local staff. In April 2016, TelBru announced plans to create a local ICT degree programme. Building on courses aligned with the labour requirements of the ICT industry offered by the Institute of Brunei Technical Education, Politeknik Brunei and the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, TelBru is now preparing to collaborate with other higher educational institutions in the expectation of creating a specialised ICT degree programme for the future.
The ICT education drive will have the knock-on effect of providing much-needed skilled workers to build out and maintain TelBru’s ambitious fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) project. Working with the Youth Development Centre under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, TelBru plans a pilot project to train youths and school-leavers to become FTTH technicians through on-the-job training. After the initial training is complete, some of the trainees will be eligible to become TelBru employees, and the others will bring much-needed experience and skills to the workplace, whether in the private or public sectors.