Let SMEs explain unwillingness to fund employee training

Some employers have had employees resign shortly after investing in their education.
Some employers have had employees resign shortly after investing in their education. PHOTO: ST FILE

The findings from the latest National Business Survey, involving 705 local and foreign companies in Singapore, tell us nothing new (Firms not investing enough in workers, poll shows, Jan 18).

We have known for years that getting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to pay for employees' training is like getting blood out of a stone.

Once again this is the key finding from a survey, accompanied with the same message from the sponsor of the research exhorting businesses to invest in training.

We should hear instead from the SMEs which were part of the data sample, and find out why they are unwilling to pay for staff training.

One common explanation that I have heard is staff mobility. Some employers have had employees resign shortly after investing in their education.

It can be discouraging for SMEs to be treated as "training schools", investing time and effort into imparting knowledge to employees only for them to leave.

Hearing from the horse's mouth on why SMEs are adamant on not paying for employee training can help policymakers come up with programmes to help both SMEs and their employees.

I believe that organisations should support their employees' training and development needs wherever possible.

After all, if the training is specific to the organisation, it is reasonable for employers to pay for it.

However, it is equally important for working professionals to take ownership of their own training.

If their employers do pay for their education, I hope employees take it as a bonus and not as an entitlement.

Tan Kar Quan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2019, with the headline 'Let SMEs explain unwillingness to fund employee training'. Print Edition | Subscribe