Labour movement can help provide right training for workers in start-ups, says Chan Chun Sing

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing said that the labour movement would do its part to provide workers with the right training.
Labour chief Chan Chun Sing said that the labour movement would do its part to provide workers with the right training.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Wooing start-ups to Singapore hinges on getting four crucial factors right, said labour chief Chan Chun Sing on Thursday (May 18).

These are: right connectivity, right regulatory environment, right focus and right training.

And Singapore, with its unique tripartite system, has "as good a chance to get things right as anybody else", he said at a conference for start-up companies.

Mr Chan pledged the labour movement will do its part in providing workers with the right training.

One possibility is for it to push out new courses every few days, allowing workers to download modules on the latest developments in their industries, and learn on the go.

He had said earlier this month that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) would use its Education and Training Fund to find quicker ways to create courses.

This, he said, would be a boon to start-ups, which need to move fast to keep up with changes even as it struggles to find skilled workers.

"Three months can cause a start-up to go into the dustbin of history," he said.

NTUC can also act as a bridge between start-ups and the Government, he added.

Meanwhile, its social enterprises, ranging from supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice to health and eldercare service provider NTUC Health, can team up with start-ups to take their ideas forward.

"This is why we are here today to partner you, and we hope that when you are successful, all we ask of you as a labour movement is you help us take care of all the working people under your charge," he told start-ups' officials at the Tech In Asia Conference.

The two-day event, organised by tech news site Tech in Asia, ended yesterday. It drew more than 5,000 participants and featured speakers like Mr Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of popular online forum Reddit.

Tech in Asia also signed an agreement with NTUC's U Startup to better support and reach out to the start-up community.

Mr Chan, elaborating on the right stuff for courting start-ups, said rules must go beyond defensive measures to prevent things from going wrong.

"We have to challenge ourselves to have rules that enable things to get going," he said, citing the idea of the regulatory sandbox that allows firms to experiment and test new technology.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has taken this approach on financial technology, letting banks try things out without potentially affecting their main operations or customers, even if the project fails.

As for the right connectivity, it will allow ideas to flow and encourage innovation, said Mr Chan.

The right focus will set Singapore apart from start-up capitals like Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv.

To distinguish itself, Singapore must play to its strengths, said Mr Chan.

One of them is its high brand of trust in sectors like banking.

Singapore also has experience with urban solutions, he added, noting how water-scarce Singapore has invested in water technology and gone on to export such solutions.

"These are our strengths and we should build on them, rather than just be a copycat of somebody else."