The Digital Talent Crunch in China


Lydianne Yap | April 29, 2019

As the fastest growing market for digital and tech, China is on track to rival America’s tech giants – if it manages to overcome its skills shortage.

Last year, China overtook the US as the top nation for technology acquisitions in the world. It is estimated that Chinese tech acquisitions hit a new high of US$65.7 billion, across 456 transactions, up from the previous record of US$41.6 billion through 434 deals in the same period last year.

But while the size of China’s digital and tech industry might be growing and quickly catching up to Silicon Valley’s, its talent pool most certainly isn’t. Despite being the world’s most populous nation, the Middle Kingdom is finding itself in the middle of a serious talent crunch as demand for skilled professionals now outweighs the supply. A recent report by specialist recruitment firm Michael Page confirmed this, citing the rapid rate of evolution of technology in China as the cause for this growing gap. It also noted that jobs available in the digital sector increased by 30 percent over the last 12 months.

Image: Pexels

“Back in my days in the digital advertising industry, everyone was buying or selling software – from H5 pages to more advanced server-side algorithms – but very few had a clue about how any of this worked, especially at a higher management level,” says Thibault Genaitay, a former executive with digital agencies like Same Same and Dentsu Aegis Network in Shanghai, China. It was this realisation that made him move into executive education, hoping to help professionals bridge this knowledge gap and raise the level of understanding about these concepts in the industry. Genaitay is now the Head of China for Le Wagon, the leading full stack coding school for digital professionals and young entrepreneurs. “We are on a mission to upskill professionals with tech skills and bring them to the top of their game,” he adds.

He is not alone. As young professionals in China increasingly search for avenues of self-improvement, the proliferation of online courses and professional learning institutions in the nation is happening at an unprecedented rate. Approximately 7.4 billion yuan (US$1.16 billion) was invested in quality-oriented education in the first half of 2018 – about 28.9 percent of the total investment in the online education industry. According to experts, this number is only set to grow and the e-learning industry in China is expected to be worth over US$104 billion by 2025. But despite the plethora of courses available on the market, many jobseekers still lack relevant understanding and experience with regards to the topic at hand to effectively fill roles available in the market.

“Some skills are good to have on a general industry level, but these are not necessarily the skills that professionals need to succeed in specific roles and functions within the digital industry,” says Pablo Mauron, the Partner and Managing Director China of independent digital agency DLG (Digital Luxury Group). “Courses available out there are not always in line with what individuals are actually expected to deliver in the workplace, and sometimes do not help to develop their skills from a real-world perspective,” he adds.

Image: Le Wagon

Given the state of today’s manpower crunch, Le Wagon and DLG thought it the right time to jointly launch The Digital Academy: A learning initiative that would provide young digital professionals with relevant technical, design and digital marketing skills from a real company’s perspective. Conceived as a series of workshops, The Digital Academy hopes to groom and inspire the digital industry’s best and brightest, putting them on the right track for success.

“We see so much potential in the industry, and we want to leverage that and direct everyone’s learning efforts in the right direction,” explains Mauron. “The workshops are free, as we are really trying to invest in the human capital of today’s generation. We hope that by removing the cost factor, people who come for the workshops are truly interested and eager to learn,” he adds. A selection process will also take place, to ensure that only the most promising and motivated profiles are granted access.

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For its inaugural edition in Shanghai on May 12, The Digital Academy is offering up to 15 different modules over the course of one day, with topics spanning the technical development, graphic design and digital marketing spectrum. Participants are encouraged to build their own curriculums for the day according to personal and professional interests, creating a learning toolkit that would help take them to the next level.

“Beyond that, we wanted to create a community for digital professionals – hipsters, hackers and hustlers alike –  where they can come together, network and engage with each another,” says Genaitay. “This presents an incredible opportunity for personal development and growth as well,” he adds.

While an initiative like The Digital Academy may seem like a drop in the ocean at this stage, its creators believe that at the very least, it serves as a good starting point for China’s young digital professionals. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the shortage of skilled digital professionals in China won’t be solved with a single learning initiative. But we hope that at least, this helps to set the stage for even greater things to come,” concludes Mauron.

To register for The Digital Academy, please click here.

*Luxury Society is the business intelligence arm of DLG (Digital Luxury Group)

Cover image: The Indian Express

China | Technology