Industry leaders to give SMEs leg-up in upskilling workers

Front row, from left: Prudential Singapore chief executive Dennis Tan, Minister of State for Manpower and Education Gan Siow Huang, SkillsFuture Singapore's deputy CEO (Industry) Michael Fung and Prudential Singapore's head of enterprise segment Juli
Front row, from left: Prudential Singapore chief executive Dennis Tan, Minister of State for Manpower and Education Gan Siow Huang, SkillsFuture Singapore's deputy CEO (Industry) Michael Fung and Prudential Singapore's head of enterprise segment Julian Chee. Middle row, from left: Kah Huat Song Kee Fish Agent managing director Goh Thiam Chwee, EagleWings Group co-founder Julian Theng, Delinatural (Asia) director Hartaj Singh and EagleWings Group co-founder Lisa Theng. Back row, from left: Prudential Singapore's head of innovation Magdalene Loh and SkillsFuture Singapore's director of the enterprise engagement office Peggy Lim. They were at the launch of Prudential's SME Skills Accelerator Programme at EagleWings Cinematics yesterday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

More than 30 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - some facing operational constraints in sending their staff for training - will receive more help to equip their workers with the right skills and grow their business.

Over the course of a year, they will work with Prudential to identify skills gaps and receive the necessary support under the insurance firm's SME skills accelerator programme. These SMEs come from 23 industries including construction, education, funeral services and information technology.

Minister of State for Manpower and Education Gan Siow Huang spoke with some SMEs on the programme yesterday at independent cinema EagleWings Cinematics.

This programme is part of larger efforts by SkillsFuture Singapore to get industry leaders, or "queen bees", to help with the training needs of not just their own staff but also those from other firms.

Prudential is one the 22 queen bee entities currently on board the SkillsFuture initiative. Among the other firms lending their expertise and leveraging their extensive business networks to support other enterprises are Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital and SMRT. There are plans to have some 40 queen bee firms on board by 2025.

Under Prudential's programme, SMEs will get support in their skills development plans.

For a start, SMEs will be guided by a dedicated skills manager from Prudential who will help them identify skills needs and map out learning plans in line with their objectives.

This manager will identify suitable initiatives and available support for the SMEs, and work with a team of trained skills ambassadors - Prudential's financial consultants - who are familiar with and can recommend SkillsFuture initiatives to the SMEs.

A digital community platform will also allow participating SMEs to share best practices, learn from others in the network and obtain useful information on training programmes.

Prudential Singapore chief executive Dennis Tan said it is important for SMEs here to stay nimble to capture future opportunities.

One organisation on the programme is EagleWings Group, which operates a few businesses including EagleWings Cinematics. Eye surgeon Julian Theng, co-founder of the group, said it hopes to attract and retain talent, and equip them with the relevant skills for the new economy.

Mr Ong Tze Chin, CEO of SkillsFuture, said SMEs form the backbone of Singapore's economy.

"Through this programme, we aim to help more SMEs identify their skills gaps, and more importantly, put in place the learning action plans to help their workforce bridge these gaps," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2020, with the headline 'Industry leaders to give SMEs leg-up in upskilling workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe