500 SMEs to develop digital capabilities by end-2022 under coordinated programme

An SME Digital Reboot training class at NTUC Trade Union House on March 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - A collective effort to help 500 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) transform their businesses through digitalisation by the end of next year was launched on Tuesday (March 9).

Under the SME Digital Reboot programme, NTUC's U SME network will identify these companies while UOB's innovation accelerator - The FinLab - will provide resources to help the company draw up a digitalisation plan.

Meanwhile, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and NTUC's training arm LearningHub (NTUC LHub) will provide training across five tracks, such as workflow automation, digital marketing and digital communication and collaboration.

The programme also includes an implementation phase with firms receiving guidance on ways to implement the newly learnt skills at the workplace.

A five-month-long pilot launched last year showed 40 companies, made up mostly of SMEs, had benefited from such training.

While the programme is applicable to companies of all sizes, outreach efforts will focus on SMEs, which employ more than two-thirds of Singapore's workforce and contribute about half of its gross domestic product.

A group that benefited from the pilot programme is the Association of Employment Agencies Singapore (AEAS), which saw 30 members come on board.

AEAS president K Jayaprema said many employment agencies, being traditional businesses, are resistant to digital transformation.

"Somebody has to handhold them and we want to keep bringing these initiatives to members so they can leverage on them," said Ms Jayaprema.

Three of her company's staff - including two workers aged 65 and 71 - attended courses under the programme.

Two memorandums of understanding (MOU) were signed on Tuesday at the launch.

One was by the four partners to support the programme, and the other MOU was between AEAS and NTUC U SME to help more of the industry association's members undergo digital transformation through the initiative.

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said Covid-19 brings new opportunities for SMEs who are willing to adapt to new possibilities.

"When SMEs succeed (in digital transformation)... they can create longer term, sustainable businesses in Singapore, exploiting the best technology available and upping productivity.

"With all this in place, the interest of NTUC is to forge better wages, welfare and work prospects for workers in the digital age," said Mr Ng on the sidelines of the launch.

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said Covid-19 brings new opportunities for SMEs who are willing to adapt to new possibilities. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

The labour chief observed two training sessions where participants learnt how to use robotic process automation software to collect data, and digital marketing and behaviour analytics tools to understand consumer preferences.

Mr Ooi Chee Kong, operations director of Jason Marine, has sent 12 of his staff for process and workflow automation and digital marketing courses.

The firm, which employs about 90 staff in Singapore, has eliminated about 90 per cent of its manual processes.

He said: "Staff continue to use what they learnt to link up all the digital tools that we have, and not to view them as individual platforms. They started to warm up to digital tools once they had a taste of them."

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