Coronavirus: Workers and jobs

Firms that are agile, innovative can grow during crisis: DPM

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during a visit to Forefront Medical Technology.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during a visit to Forefront Medical Technology.PHOTO: HENG SWEE KEAT/FACEBOOK

Companies that have remained agile and invested in innovation have been able to pivot to new opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in a Facebook post.

He made these remarks after visiting precision engineering company Forefront Medical Technology on Wednesday.

The firm, which started in 2000, had been actively venturing into new business lines even before the pandemic.

It was originally focused on making medical products for drug delivery and respiratory care, such as laryngeal masks, a medical device used to keep a patient's airway open during anaesthesia.

But it also ventured into building up automation capabilities, adding cleanroom capacity and growing its local talent pool.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, the company expanded into manufacturing products for the diagnosis of Covid-19, including the production of swabs.

Forefront Medical also hired 80 more staff to meet the increase in production demand.

Mr Heng said: "Even in the midst of the crisis, there are still pockets of growth. There are many other companies like Forefront Medical, which are growing and hiring."

The firm now has about 170 people at the Singapore plant.

It also has locations in Shanghai, Changzhou and Xiamen in China, Connecticut in the United States and Kington in Britain. Globally it has just over 1,000 people.

Mr Heng added: "The Jobs Growth Incentive... will support these companies in increasing their local workforce, with more support for our mature workers. And we hope to better match job seekers to these new opportunities."

The $1 billion incentive was announced on Monday in Mr Heng's ministerial statement on how the Government will continue to support businesses and workers. The scheme is aimed at boosting hiring of local workers, especially the older ones.

Firms that hire local workers over the next six months will receive a subsidy of up to 25 per cent of their salaries for one year, subject to a cap. This applies to growth firms that meet the qualifying criteria. The co-payment goes up to 50 per cent for workers aged 40 and above.

Mr Heng said: "In this fast-changing environment, all of us - businesses, workers and governments - will have to remain nimble and quickly adapt. We are in this together, and by working with one another, we can emerge from this crisis stronger."

Forefront Medical president Walter Tarca said: "We place total emphasis on innovation and continuous improvement... Our customers and their patients expect continuous improvement in cost and functionality… and we do everything we can to deliver these improvements through great customer solutions and the highest quality medical devices possible."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2020, with the headline 'Firms that are agile, innovative can grow during crisis: DPM'. Subscribe