Software manpower crisis

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Software manpower crisis

 
Kim Sung-ryul

The author is a professor at the division of computer science and engineeing at Konkuk University.
 
 
With AI and big data, the era of the fourth industrial revolution is in full swing. As Covid-19 pandemic prolongs, the demand for software manpower is surging in nearly all industrial fields.
 
However, the imbalance in supply and demand of software manpower at national levels is getting worse. In job market, demand for software experts is strong, but training of professionals is insufficient. Especially the imbalance in terms of quality is getting more serious. Demand for software workers rapidly increase but college and company efforts to train related workers are not enough, making it hard to resolve the situation.
 
Lately, the situation has gotten worse. Some companies engage in overly aggressive competition to hire software workers. Rival companies and other industries complain they are unable to recruit skilled workers. Workers are concentrated at online platforms such as Naver, Kakao, Line, Coupang and Baemin. A red light is on in the domestic industrial ecosystem.
 
The online platform industry changes the live of customers with various services, but they are criticized for penetrating into the areas traditionally served by small businesses. The phenomenon is unusual. The software workers, who are scarce, are up for domestic competition. As online platforms aggressively absorb software workers, the growth foundation for domestic IT ecosystem is shaken, and some are concerned that it can hold back large corporations as well.
 
How should we interpret online platforms with as software workers remain scarce? Aren’t they only benefitting foreign IT companies? I find it hard to dismiss it as freedom of choice by companies and individuals.
 
 Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong poses for a selfie with trainees at the Samsung SW Academy for Youth (SSAFY), an education center in Gwangju, August 20, 2019. [SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS]

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong poses for a selfie with trainees at the Samsung SW Academy for Youth (SSAFY), an education center in Gwangju, August 20, 2019. [SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS]

If it leads to weakened competitiveness of key industries such as semiconductors, it would be a great loss for the country. It requires a change in perspective to get over the situation at a national level. A transition from the zero-sum game of bleeding competition for the limited software talent into a positive-sum game that gives benefits to all interested parties is needed.
 
For example, job-creation programs like SSAFY (Samsung SW Academy for Youth) are noteworthy. It is seen to have created a plan to train software workers at national and industrial levels beyond training workforce needed by the company — and producing high-quality workers equipped with skills. The employment rate of the graduates from the program is over 70 percent. Posco’s AI/Big Data Academy and SK’s SUNNY are also operated with similar goals.
 
But it is difficult to resolve the ongoing shortage of software talent with efforts of one company. A more permanent “positive-sum game” strategy is needed to produce skilled software workers at the industrial level in the mid-and-long term. If largest users of domestic software workforce — such as large corporations and online platforms — focus on competing to secure their share from the limited talent pool, the overall domestic industrial ecosystem may be jeopardized in the longer run. Companies need to work with colleges to set up a comprehensive software talent training models and make a transition to expand the pool of quality software workers.
 
Other companies need to create something similar to the aforementioned Samsung program. The synergy would be greater if companies and colleges jointly plan, implement and use highest-level software talent training programs that can contribute to innovative creations in the the fourth industrial revolution.
 
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
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