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Friday December 8th, 2023

High quality ICT graduates severely short in Sri Lanka, soft-skills gap: survey

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s growing information communication technology is generating a demand for higher skilled workers at degree level with soft-skills, which may leave workers with lower level qualifications from vocational schools without jobs, a survey has found.

A 2018 survey by Sri Lanka’s ICT Agency has found that pure ICT companies are now the dominant employer in the sector where the basic entry requirement had grown to degree level in a change from a survey in 2013.

Based on projected demand for 2019, there was a 12,000 person shortfall or ICT graduates compared to less than 500 in the last survey in 2013, with the sector growing fast due to globalization.

"The main conclusion of the survey is that the ICT workforce in Sri Lanka is undergoing deep structural changes at a time when the global ICT sector experiences a period of transition," the National IT-BPM Workforce Survey 2019 noted.

"The influence of the global and domestic transformations is visibly manifested in drastic changes taking place in composition of the ICT workforce in the country.

"The relative shares of major employer categories in the ICT workforce has changed significantly in favour of ICT companies that came to occupy nearly a two thirds of the total workforce."

Quality vs Quantity

The survey found a demand of 21,216 graduates by the ICT sector for 2019, while the supply was 9,076. The gap was higher than in 2013 with the industry rapidly growing and pure ICT companies making up the biggest employer.

"The current situation implies that the demand-supply gap for ICT workforce in the country is widening rather than closing," the ICT agency survey said.

"Considering the fact that the total supply also includes postgraduate trainees, many of whom may already be counted as a part of the existing workforce, this margin tends to increase further."

The survey said the entry level of workers for pure ICT companies was now a bachelors degree or equivalent and gap between demand and supply also relates to quality.

"Despite a large output of trainees from variety of courses offered by training organizations, the quality of a significant share of them remains below the level of expectations of employers," the survey said.

"Their main concern was that the gap should not be understood in terms of demand for numbers alone but in terms of demand for quality as well.

"As a result, many employers look for graduates which could have augmented the figures indicating demand for graduates."

"This is confirmed by the fact that the entry level qualifications for nearly all job categories have now been raised to the level of Bachelor’s degree by many employers.

"As a result, demand expectations for graduates could be somewhat bloated up by employers perceptions about the poor quality, especially of non-graduate trainees."

However, a part of the non-graduate trainee pool have qualifications from well-recognized bodies such as the Britsh Computer Society (BCS) and the Australian Computer Society (ACS) which provide skills similar to a degree.

Red Light for TVET L5 and L6

While universities should revise their curricula in consultation with a bigger task lay ahead for tertiary and vocational education institutes in both state and private sector offering courses below degree level.

"In this connection, raising the skills of trainees at NVQ qualification levels of L5 and L6 (i.e. Diplomas and Higher Diplomas) and upgrading them into the level of L7 which is equivalent to graduate level should be given priority," the survey said.

"These changes should be undertaken in close consultation with prospective employers to make necessary improvements in core, soft and technical skills offered by TVET institute so that the employability of Diploma and Higher Diploma level trainees could be increased."


Employers were also looking for soft-skills. It was particularly so for TVET levels trainees in both state and private sector.

"Increasing the quality of these trainees by giving special a􀆩en􀆟on to enhance their soft skills could be expected to reduce the demand-supply gap further," the survey noted.

ICTA Chairman Rohan Samarajiva said it was not a gap in English that was the main problem as software engineering itself was not depended on English, which could be acquired.

"Don’t get too hung up on English. A lot of people in the ICT sector are very fluent in hardware, software and computer languages. These people are naturally intelligent and English will come," he said.

The survey showed that English proficiency per se was a factor especially for non-ICT companies and BPM firms.

But communications skills in general, team work, creative thinking skills, and professional ethics was in high demand. (Colombo/Aug08/2019)

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SLPP enjoying “great demand” from potential presidential candidates: Namal

FILE PHOTO – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with nephew Namal at the opening of the last part of the Southern Expressway/PMD

ECONOMYNEXT – The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) enjoys “great demand” from potential presidential candidates, and the party will have to take a call on working with incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe, MP Namal Rajapaksa said.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday December 07, Rajapaksa claimed several names have come up concerning the SLPP’s candidate at next year’s presidential election.

“There is great demand: entrepreneurs, businessmen, politicians, are all there. There are presidents too, ready to come forward with our party,” he said.

“Out of all these people, we will put forward on behalf of our party the candidate that can take the country forward while stabilising the economy,” he added.

Commenting on continued support for President Wickremesinghe, Rajapaksa said the while SLPP at present works with the former in the present government, the party will have to decide whether that relationship continues going forward.

“The matter of whether we work with the United National Party (UNP) in the future – this is not a politics dependent on individuals; the SLPP is a party. We will talk as a party with other parties, but no discussions will be held centred around individuals,” he said.

Rajapaksa noted that Wickremesinghe was the only member of parliament representing the UNP at the time of his election by parliament following the resignation of his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa .

“If we are to collaborate with the UNP in the future, we’ll have to discuss that. Once the party has decided on that, we can get a start on those discussions. Today, we work with the president in the present government,” he said.

Last month, when asked to comment on President Wickremesinghe’s 2024 budget, MP Rajapkasa sounded rather sceptical of the president’s ambitions for turning the crisis-hit economy around.

“We must study the budget. He had presented a lot of these proposals in last year’s budget too. They don’t seem to have been implemented,” Namal Rajapaksa said, speaking to reporters after the budget presentation Monday November 13 afternoon.

Rajapaksa’s father and leader of the SLPP former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, however, spoke in favour of Wickremesinghe’s budget.


Sri Lanka’s “forward-looking” 2024 budget will instill fiscal discipline: MR

While not without its shortcomings, the older Rajapaksa said, the 2024 budget is a forward-looking one that aims to ensure fiscal discipline and put Sri Lanka on the path to recovery. (Colombo/Dec07/2023)

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Sri Lanka ruling party MP contradicts poll to claim his party is overtaking president’s

ECONOMYNEXT – The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is rising from the ashes albeit at a slower than anticipated pace, while President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) still commands only 1-2 percent of the vote, an SLPP legislator said.

MP S B Dissanayake, who is not a member of the cabinet of ministers headed by President Wickremesinghe, told reporters on Thursday December 07 that support for any major political party of the island nation is on a downward trend while the SLPP alone is gaining ground.

An independent poll by the Institute for Health Policy (IHP) however shows that this is decidedly not the case. Polling data for October showed that the leftist National People’s Power (NPP) had enjoyed support from 40 percent of likely voters, having dipped 2 percent from September, while the main opposition the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) stood at 26 percent, increasing four percent from 22 percent in September. President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP’s support decreased marginally to 11 percent in October from September’s 13 percent. The SLPP also saw a decrease to 5 percent from the previous month’s 8 percent.

“You can’t gamble with elections. The election must be held. We always say electrons must be held. The presidential election must be held next year. There is no alternative,” said Dissanayake.

“Parliamentary elections can be called if needed. But that’s not how it is with the presidential election. Nominations for that will have to be called by September, October next year,” he added.

Asked by a reporter if the SLPP is ready for elections, Dissanayake acknowledged that support for his party had eroded, to nothing.

“We crashed to zero. We were turned to ashes. But we will rise from those ashes. We’re not where we thought we were. The 6.9 million [votes received at the 2019 presidential election] no longer applies. We’re at about half of that. But we’re rising, like this,” he said, gesturing upwards.

“As other major parties go in the opposite direction, we’re rising slowly. But the UNP is not. It’s still on the ground, and still at 1 to 2 percent,” he claimed.

“The SLFP is there too. Those who left us are the same. Even together they cannot form 1 percent. But we’re climbing,” he said. (Colombo/Dec07/2023)

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Sri Lanka president appoints main opposition MP advisor

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed MP Vadivel Suresh as a Senior Advisor aimed at “fostering the integration of Hill Country Tamils into Sri Lankan society”, the president’s office said.

A statement from the President’s Media Divison (PMD) said Suresh’s “pivotal role will centre around overseeing the comprehensive integration of Hill Country Tamils, particularly focusing on the districts of Badulla, Nuwara Eliya and Rathnapura”.

“The Senior Advisor will play a key role in coordinating various initiatives related to the welfare of Plantation Companies, the promotion of women, safeguarding children, addressing disparities in Tamil schools and upgrading the delivery of health services,” the statement said.

In May this year, Suresh, who represents the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) in parliament and also serves as the general secretary of the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers’ Union, made headlines when he issued an ultimatum to opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa, demanding an apology for a perceived slight on the Indian-origin Tamil community that Suresh represents. He also spoke favourably of President Wickremesinghe, hinting at a possible cross over.

Sri Lanka’s Indian-origin Tamils, most of whom have historically worked in the plantation sector and live in dire conditions on wages widely considered unacceptably low. Speaking at a May Day rally, the Badulla district MP said Premadasa must apologise to the estate Tamils for allegedly snubbing them at an event in Madulsima that he failed to attend.

“I would like to say to our leader, sir, do not take us for granted,” said Suresh.

“If you need us to stay with you, come right now to Madulsima and apologise to my people and then we shall restart our journey. Otherwise I won’t be part of that journey. There will be no Vadivel Suresh. If you don’t apologise to my people, I won’t be with the SJB,” he said.

Making matters worse, the MP also expressed a willingness to join President Wickremesinghe if he was able to raise the daily wage of plantation workers and resolve their grievances. He also said the president has been successful in containing the disruptions caused by the currency crisis.

“On this May Day, we say to both the opposition leader and the president, I and my people would join hands with a leader that worked to increase [estate workers’] wages and give them [access to the Samurdhi welfare scheme] and include them in national policy,” he said. (Colombo/Dec07/2023)

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