In Singapore, deep skills are scarce – and lately, the ones in the data analytics and tech domain are most in demand.

The country’s government has recently announced that it is setting aside an additional S$145 million for the Info-communications Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) Tech Skills Accelerator, which is an initiative to deepen ICT skills in the workforce. And in 2017, as part of Singapore’s Smart Nation efforts, it was announced that about 10,000 public servants will receive data science training over the next five years.

Here, organisations are increasingly looking for talent with analytical capabilities. Private sector can help plug this gap by sharing its wealth of expertise with fresh, young minds, moulding them for a future where data is the new oil.

Getting maximum value from data

“There are never enough of these people with the kind of skillsets that you are looking for,” notes Tan Poh Choo, Operations Director at SAS Singapore. That is why the business analytics solution provider and leader is playing a role in training people to take on these crucial skills.

“The time has come for SAS to extend her role in the ecosystem; not just purely providing software solutions, but ensuring that people are adequately skilled to be able to appreciate and get maximum value out of data insights and their investment,” Tan declares.

Together with IMDA, SAS is deepening skills amongst fresh graduates and working professionals. The SAS BIA Program – part of IMDA’s Company-Led Training initiative – recruits and trains these individuals in data analytics and information management.

2018 marks the seventh year of the partnership with IMDA, Tan says, and over the years, SAS has trained over 60 graduates, who are now in over 30 businesses across multiple sectors.

Each course takes up to four months of training, followed by six months of work placement. Graduates come out of it with both technical and business know-how from training with SAS, and real-world experience with partner companies.

The analytical mind

This programme is valuable even for mid-level professionals, Tan says: familiarity with data analytics can bring “a lot of additional value” to individuals running their own teams or business operations. “Organisations do take an interest and see the value of making decisions based on data-driven insights,” she continues, adding that SAS’ customers have, in the past, asked for advice on how to enable their staff to harness data.

For a programme such as this, typically those with strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) backgrounds are ideal – but more important is an “appreciation for numbers”, and good old curiosity. “Interpreting the insights or results requires experience and context, and the curiosity to explore deeper, to analyse and perhaps provide a different reasoning behind the numbers,” Tan says.

Graduates will also be able to ask the right questions: more specifically, “the ability to frame and shape a problem statement”. The data can tell many stories, Tan says, but it takes a keen eye to narrow it down to a specific business problem or statement that needs solving.

“Even though it sounds simple, if you do not ask the right question, then you don’t get the right answer,” Tan explains. “That is part of the skills that will be tested throughout the program.”

The demand for talents with data science and analytics capabilities will only grow, and program such as these allow individuals to tap into and learn from SAS’ rich wealth of experience. As Singapore ramps up its efforts to develop a digitally-savvy workforce, SAS targets to recruit up to 100 more trainees in the next two years.

“We look for people who are very well-balanced, that demonstrate a lot of curiosity, and interest in solving business problems through mathematical or analytical approaches,” she concludes.

The SAS BIA Program is an IMDA Company-Led-Training initiative where applicants are placed in SAS for training and subsequently placed in our client organisations for On-Job-Training. Learn more about the SAS BIA Program here.