As the information and communications technology (ICT) industry has become the new global economic growth engine, it is of the utmost importance for our government to equip our workforce with the latest ICT skills so that they can stay competitive amid a fast-expanding digital economy.
Despite the fact that the government launched the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) in 2002 to encourage the working population to study part-time, it has failed to live up to public expectations.
Many potential applicants have been put off by red tape and the massive amount of paperwork. And while Massive Open Online Courses on ICT have become increasingly popular around the world, many of these courses are still being excluded from the CEF’s reimbursable course list.
Apparently, the CEF has is outdated and has failed to keep up with the times. Given that, I strongly urge the government to drastically reform and streamline the scheme so that it can reflect the growing importance of the internet economy and ICT and the new opportunities they bring.
As I have raised this issue with the Innovation and Technology Bureau earlier in Legco, since our city is facing an acute shortage of local talent specializing in cutting-edge technology in the ICT field, it is indeed a matter of urgency for the government to formulate a thorough and long-term strategic plan in nurturing local ICT talent.
Last year, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Applied Science and Technology Research Institute jointly launched the Fintech Career Accelerator Scheme to nurture local talent to meet the growing needs of fintech in Hong Kong.
The scheme has turned out to be highly successful. Given that, I suggest that the scheme be extended to other industries as well.
In the meantime, I also strongly advise the government to facilitate partnerships among the business sector, local tech companies, professional associations and tertiary institutions in providing courses of study on ICT, internship, scholarships and accreditation of professional qualifications in order to train more software engineers, data analysts, cybersecurity technicians, and in particular, data scientists, who have become the most hotly sought-after talent in the ICT industry in recent years.
Meanwhile, the administration should also be more proactive in recruiting both local and overseas ICT graduates and fostering the use of ICT in government departments.
Last but not least, the government should relaunch the scheme of accreditation of professional ICT qualifications under the existing Hong Kong Qualifications Framework.