How StarHub is addressing the demand for more cloud roles

Image courtesy of Mimi Thian

The pandemic no doubt accelerated digital transformation across enterprises, and as a result came smarter ways of doing business, work-from-anywhere, and a chance to reassess IT infrastructure vulnerabilities.

However, the rapid technological evolution also revealed a harsh reality— that workers are not getting trained fast enough when it comes to digital skills.

According to Catherine Chia, Chief Human Resources Officer at StarHub, people with at least entry-level cloud skills are badly needed, not only at their company, but across verticals in Singapore.

“Not only do we need it today and tomorrow; in fact, we needed it the day before yesterday. So (having people with cloud skills) is super important. As a telco, we are rapidly transforming our physical infrastructure into digital cloud-based applications. As an organisation, we are always looking for ways to automate, to digitalise,” she said.

The talent crunch

In a study commissioned by AWS and conducted by AlphaBeta, 4 in 5 workers in Singapore said they are not confident that they are gaining digital skills fast enough to meet future career needs.

Meanwhile, according to 91% of Singapore workers, they needed more digital skills in their jobs since the advent of COVID-19.

Likewise, 95% of workers and organisations in the country face barriers to digital skills training.

To address the talent shortage, StarHub, along with other business organisations in Singapore, have joined AWS to launch re/Start, the latter’s cloud skills development and job training program in the country.

In partnership with digital learning and talents platform Lithan, the program covers fundamental AWS Cloud skills and practical career tips, including interviewing and resume writing. Through real-world, scenario-based exercises, labs, and coursework, students with no prior experience in cloud computing will be trained to build Linux, Python, networking, security, and relational database skills.

“To deliver work-integrated learning, we need to bring together an ecosystem to support this learning journey, including the public sector, private sector, as well as the nonprofit sector, so as to collaborate and incubate this talent and enterprise for inclusive digital transformation,” said Leslie Loh, Founder and CEO of Lithan.

“You need a whole global village to actually raise a kid. We bring together employers, vendors like AWS who provide the technology, as well as the ecosystem of employers and the government, and we work together to deliver this talent in an inclusive manner for the community,” he added.

For Chia, the program will benefit both learners and employers, not to mention the entire business landscape in Singapore.

“Whenever there is an opportunity to hire people who are committed, passionate, and willing to upskill and rescale themselves with a set of skills that’s future forward and super relevant to us, we are there. Any opportunity where we can broaden our talent, not to mention really contribute to society, in terms of developing future capabilities, and working with AWS to provide the opportunity for the underemployed and unemployed, there are just so many layers to the advantages and the goodness that these programs bring. It addresses a talent gap, it also addresses the future capability of the organisation and of the nation,” she explained.

“We are not growing the skills pool as quickly as we would like, to support the overwhelming demand for digital skills that is out there. How do we effectively harness the capabilities of people from different demographics, from different backgrounds, from different countries? And how do we overcome those? The answer is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this,” said Conor McNamara, Managing Director, AWS ASEAN.

End-to-end talent development

AWS’ re/Start program has already launched in over 40 countries globally. In Asia-Pacific, it is already present in Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

For Singapore, Lithan is offering the program under the Career Conversion Programme (CCP) for Cloud Professionals –AWS Cloud Specialist by Workforce Singapore (WSG).

Companies can obtain salary support from WSG when they tap on the CCP to hire mid-career individuals without prior experience, or redeploy eligible workers for cloud practitioner roles.

Meanwhile, individuals can apply for the CCP for Cloud Professionals with a participating employer to undergo AWS re/Start structured training and on-the-job training to take on their new job role. The program is offered as a standalone or as part of the CCP for Cloud Professionals –AWS Cloud Specialist.

According to Loh, the program will be conducted in batches, with about 20 to 30 people per cohort.

“We contextualise a lot of our learning, so that we can understand the project and the skills that you need for the project. If you have enough students that come into a particular cohort, then we can contextualise a curriculum just for your company. For the contextualisation to happen, we need about 20 to 30 learners to come in,” he explained.

“This is about taking people who are just not exposed to cloud and giving them a very white-glove kind of treatment in terms of bringing them in, training them for 12 weeks, giving them a holistic approach to it, getting them into the organisation, and in the Singapore experience, contextualising that then with on-the-job training,” McNamara added.

The training format, Loh said, will be like a boot camp conducted Mondays through Fridays, on an intensive 9-to-6 clock.

“Essentially, we deliver blended learning. We do have instructor-led live (sessions) that deliver that concept, the understanding particularly for this talent, and a lot of focus is about (converting) learning to doing. We make sure that the live projects are there, that they can internalise and get upskilled by practising and practising. With the upskilling program, there’s a lot of project personnel hand-holding in order for them to really get that skill,” he expounded.

The first cohort in Singapore kicks off this June.

Industry partnership

For StarHub, it was important to have a program partner that they already have a close working relationship with.

“There are opportunities in our network space, opportunities in anything IT-related, and opportunities in our enterprise sales, whether it’s in product development (or other areas). So this is really a great pool of talent and talent pipeline, and not to mention, AWS is also a strong partner of ours. Working together and deepening that partnership is absolutely a good direction to go,” said Chia.

“We are ready to get started working closely with AWS and Lithan. Note that we are going to be partners with you from the get-go. So you won’t just be a beneficiary of the training and of the candidates, but we are here to also work with you to shape this program, to take it up a few notches as every cohort improves,” she added.

For Christie Dao, Director of Capability & Organisation Optimisation at Geco Asia, the training aspect will bring a lot of value to their company, given that they are also experiencing a talent crunch.

“We have so much demand, but we cannot find candidates. So we came up with our own internal upskilling program for us to meet projects. But we’re not a training company, nor are we Amazon. So I am really glad that the two of them are joining forces to drive this forward,” said Dao.

“Cloud roles have accounted for some 40% of our hiring at GECO to date. Currently, we have 45 cloud roles to fill by August,” she added.

For Haji Munshi, CEO of Cloud Kinetics, the demand for a cloud-skilled workforce will continue to increase as more and more businesses embrace cloud solutions.

“We believe that it’s not a matter of when large enterprises decide to embrace cloud. Our research shows that 70% to 80% of enterprises across the region will be looking for partners like us to be able to help them with their cloud transformation journey. So we have a never-ending need for AWS talent. This service is a fantastic way to be able to meet our customers’ needs,” Munshi said.

“We want to make sure that we have people who are super passionate about this space, if they are changing careers, to actually commit themselves to this area, it exhibits an incredible amount of intention. Therefore, I’m generally quite optimistic about having them stay committed to this area, and continue to develop themselves in this area,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chia noted that the re/Start program is closely aligned with their organisation’s business strategy, which makes the partnership a good fit.

“Connecting digital lives as part of StarHub’s five-year transformation strategy DARE+, we are swiftly expanding our cloud offerings, and are placing strong emphasis on attracting, hiring, and retaining talent in this field. We are pleased to work with AWS and Lithan on the AWS re/Start program, which enables us to strengthen our pipeline of talent in cloud technology, while empowering non-tech professionals to embark on a new career. More than just tapping on a pool of unconventional candidates, we believe in nurturing and developing people, to seek the best opportunities they deserve,” she concluded.