New body's focus: Helping SMEs with labour crunch

Mr Chan Chong Beng said the Workforce Advancement Federation was not set up to be a rival to the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, which he headed from 2011 to 2013.
Mr Chan Chong Beng said the Workforce Advancement Federation was not set up to be a rival to the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, which he headed from 2011 to 2013.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

It will help them learn how to better recruit and retain staff, and provide mentoring

The former chief of the association representing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has set up a new non-profit body to help local business owners cope with the labour crunch.

Prominent local businessman Chan Chong Beng, who was president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) from 2011 to 2013, registered the Workforce Advancement Federation in January. The new body is set to be officially launched next week.

According to registration papers filed with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, the group has two main objectives: to help firms learn how to better recruit and retain staff, and to provide learning and mentoring opportunities for firms.

Though some functions of the new body would overlap with Asme, Mr Chan brushed off the suggestion it was set up to be a rival.

"We are doing different things," said the 61-year-old. "We are very focused on helping local SMEs be more competitive through boosting the quality of their manpower, whereas Asme covers areas besides manpower," he said.

DIFFERENT ROLES

We are very focused on helping local SMEs be more competitive through boosting the quality of their manpower, whereas Asme covers areas besides manpower.

MR CHAN CHONG BENG, on how his organisation differs from Asme

Mr Chan said the idea of forming a new body was formed in the middle of last year. "It was even before the Government announced the details of the SkillsFuture programme," he said with a laugh.

The SkillsFuture Council, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and announced in September last year, also aims to boost productivity in local firms.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, who is launching the new group at an event next week, said it can help the Government reach out to more SMEs.

"We are dependent on such ground-up efforts to build depth and breath in implementing government programmes," said Mr Teo.

Mr Zainudin Nordin, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said the group would share a common purpose with the Government in boosting labour productivity.

"Such efforts are worth supporting," he said.

When asked about the new organisation, Asme president Kurt Wee said: "Any initiative that helps to uplift the quality of the workforce should be viewed as complementing existing efforts by other organisations."

Mr Chan said he is not closing the door on working with Asme. "Some of our outreach have to be through the SME centres (run by Asme), so I am keeping an open mind."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline 'New body's focus: Helping SMEs with labour crunch'. Print Edition | Subscribe