When Mr Leon Yeow, 26, graduated three years ago with a business degree, he did not expect to find himself handling IT issues at a digital marketing firm one day.

He joined Design Prodigy last September as a digital analyst, after working in sales and tax consultancy. While he had no IT experience or qualifications, he read up on his own and colleagues helped to vet his work at the start.

Mr Yeow is glad that his boss appreciated his other qualities. “The company wasn’t looking for academic qualifications but for qualities that mainstream education can’t quantify, like fluid intelligence and the ability to look at problems from a wider perspective,” he said.

Others are also looking beyond education – a Manpower Ministry report released yesterday found that for four in 10 vacancies for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) last year, academic qualifications were not the main consideration in hiring.

The ministry included this measurement in its survey for the first time to monitor changes in employers’ mindsets, said a spokesman.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said the survey finding was an encouraging starting point.

While the tighter labour market may also be a factor, employers also realise they can no longer get “plug and play” candidates with all the necessary knowledge, he said. “As long as you get people with the right attitude and mindset, I am sure you can help them pick up the skills.”

For Design Prodigy founder Marc Goh, hiring people from fields like economics and mathematics, then training them, helps him get around the shortage of local talent in the software development and marketing technology fields.

He said: “Anyway, for the type of talent we need, it is no longer just about skills but cognitive abilities like imagination and experience.”

Mr Goh, who has seven staff now, said it is hard to compete for top IT talent with big overseas firms that can pay workers several thousand dollars more than small firms here.

A junior marketing technologist – someone who operates software and codes – would earn around $4,000 at a small firm, he added.

Recruitment firms like Adecco Personnel (Singapore) said employers are focusing less on paper qualifications and more on soft skills and technical knowledge when hiring.

Kelly Services Singapore managing director and country head Foo See Yang said soft skills can help employers “assess cultural fit and suitability for the job” .



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