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Prof Richard Florida, the world's leading public intellectual on creative economy, calls talented people “the driving force behind any effective economic strategy.” And, in today's mobile age, top creative talent move around a lot, so a community's ability to attract and retain top talent is the “defining issue of the creative age.”

Yet, we are facing an imminent talent crunch in ICT manpower supply in Hong Kong: declining quantity and deteriorating quality of ICT and engineering student intake at universities, and the lack of student interests in science subjects at the elementary education level. The reasons behind this apathy? It may still be partly due to the aftermath of the dotcom crash, but more and more I am convinced that the real problem lies in the lack of a sustainable career ladder and respectable recognition for ICT professionals in Hong Kong. How do we attract “top creative talents” if youngsters do not see what in the future of ICT in Hong Kong there is for them?

But, on the other hand, there are also experienced and capable ICT professionals who are unable to find full employment, mostly because of companies moving their ICT operations offshore or to the Mainland. The situation has come to a critical point that this talent mismatch is not just affecting the lots of the ICT sector, but also those pillar industries that ICT serves, including the financial industry. In order to reverse this situation, I will:

   * Propose legislation for ICT professional certification and the establishment of a registration system for ICT professionals, and advocate expanded Government funding for the industry to set up a provisional registration body, in order that the professional standing and recognition for ICT professionals will uplifted, so that more top creative talents can be attracted to join this sector;
   * Examine with the industry and ICT professionals on the way forward with cross recognition of qualifications with the Mainland, with the primary objective of creating more career development opportunities for local ICT professionals;
   * Foster the cooperation between schools and universities with the ICT industry to establish continuous programs to introduce our industry to the young people, to improve their interests and aptitude for science and technology, as well as enhance their overall levels of information literacy;
   * Urge a shift of focus in ICT in education from providing hardware and software to empowering people – for example, additional funding for primary and secondary schools to hire full-time, dedicated ICT coordinators, to assist in ICT administration and educational tasks in schools, offloading the burdens on the teachers;
   * Call for the end of the employment freeze on analysts and programmers by the Government, and initiate a full review on the employment issues facing government ICT and engineering employees, including unequal pay or unequal opportunities for advancement, which exists in various Government departments and statutory organizations, including the Hospital Authority.
   * Lobby the Government to include ICT courses into the scope of the Continuing Education Fund (CEF), and to replenish the SME Training Fund to encourage SMEs to support employee training, including for ICT.

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