Sri Lanka’s IT/BPM sector burgeoned with innovations, expertise, standards of excellence and potential, fuelled by a workforce of around 100,000 IT industry employees, needs almost double the workforce it currently has.
Guided by its Vision 2022 of achieving $ 5 billion in revenue and 200,000 jobs, SLASSCOM is keen to assist in bridging this labour demand by increasing the number of prospective candidates for jobs. “We need a lot more students coming out as graduates and qualified IT personnel to fill the gaps in IT-centric jobs and also in jobs revolving around IT,” says Executive Director, Technology Consulting Leader and CIO at PwC Sri Lanka and SLASSCOM Board Director and Head of its Capacity Forum, Nishan Mendis.
While increasing quality graduate numbers is on SLASSCOM’s agenda, the association has started looking at non-graduate segments to fill in the capacity gap in the IT/BPM industry. “We are going for a change in perception with this innovative initiative which has been successful as shown from the pilots we have done so far,” explains Mendis. “From the industry’s point of view, it has always been about graduates, but we have to think of non-graduates to be empowered with IT skills and expertise if we are to be productive.”
The Capacity Forum has identified several key segments in its drive towards increasing the number of industry prospects and is piloting different programs targeted at encouraging more participation in IT.
For 5-10 graders, it is the Techkids program run at a national level to increase the interest of kids in IT, whilst O/L and A/L students are introduced to the Future Careers Bridge initiative which assesses youth on their suitability for the IT sector via a series of challenges, encompassing fundamentals in IT, soft skills development and complex IT coding, and exposure to receive internships and company sponsored scholarships to pursue higher studies.
The SLASSCOM Boot Camp, comprehensive training program conducted in collaboration with the Open University of Sri Lanka is already launched with 30 students picked from the Future Careers Bridge program, with the pilot Boot Camp conducted virtually for a six-month period finishing in December. “We plan to scale up this program to around 20,000 students where the current Boot Camp will be converted into two semesters at the Open University of Sri Lanka, thus giving students the opportunity to continue with the degree there,” explains Mendis, adding that the forum is currently in discussion with the University Grants Commission.
SLASSCOM’s LEAD program is targeted at IT undergraduates, who are given the opportunity to be involved in projects of established IT companies during their university education to get a real-world exposure and have the chance to receive employment opportunities when they complete their degree. They have also introduced a learning platform for the students, on core professional skills and soft skills.
For non-IT graduates, a Degree Conversion program is carried out to convert these students into IT-empowered graduates. “We have started off with students in the statistics stream from University of Moratuwa and Colombo and will be introducing them to IT projects which will then be inculcated into their final year assessments – with the idea of converting them into data scientists,” says Mendis adding that these students are also being connected with industry mentors to guide them.
SLASSCOM’s training program for ICT instructors is in collaboration with Vocational Training Authority (VTA) and YouLead Sri Lanka. SLASSCOM is also partnered by the Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE) for their capacity forum initiatives.
“The support we get from SLASSCOM members that include Bani Chandrasena, SLASSCOM Capacity Forum Lead, and pillar leads who comprise of Hasith Yaggahavira, Chamil Krilendeniyage, Mangala Perera and Rohan Fernando who are the backbone of these initiatives are immeasurable,” highlighted Mendis.
The Capacity Forum, is driven to empower Sri Lankan talent to power the nation towards becoming an IT centre of excellence.