Budget watch

Budget watch: Help for firms to transform, upskill staff

The office crowd in the Central Business District of Singapore.
The office crowd in the Central Business District of Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

Companies can now tap on a new initiative by the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) to transform the way they work and deepen the skills of their workers.

Five consultancy programmes, covering areas such as integrating older workers, encouraging lifelong learning and implementing technology, will be offered by the SNEF Agency for Productivity Practices, Human Resource and Industrial Relations (Sapphire).

The outfit was launched by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say yesterday and is supported by Workforce Singapore (WSG).

So far, 20 companies have signed up and SNEF aims to have 100 on board within the first year.

Mr Lim said Singapore can learn from the Silicon Valley mindset of innovating repeatedly - using technology to constantly come up with useful products and services, and delivering them to customers in borderless markets.


As an export-oriented economy, Singapore faces a greater risk of losing its competitive advantage if competitors make better and faster use of technology and open markets, he told some 560 employers at a forum at Marina Bay Sands.

"With a workforce that is growing slower, we face a greater risk of running out of growth capacity if we are not able to break our manpower bottleneck with pervasive innovation," Mr Lim said.

SNEF president Robert Yap said Sapphire is also a response to the call by the Committee on the Future Economy for business associations to play a bigger role in helping companies transform.

At the forum, business leaders shared how they had transformed their companies over the years.

CYC International director Dan Chua described how the company introduced robots to do chemical and oil tank cleaning work, so workers can move on to safer and more productive roles. The Boston Consulting Group chairman Hans-Paul Burkner said companies that fail to transform often have bosses that deny the need to change their business model or do not have the courage to make major changes.

Logistics company Shalom Movers has signed up for a programme and chief executive Gideon Lam said he wants to redesign jobs to better support mature workers.

"Many (workers) have been with the company for 10 years to 15 years. We want to transform jobs to take care of them and encourage lifelong learning," he said.

A Sapphire programme for companies costs $3,210 for up to 100 hours, after a 70 per cent WSG subsidy.

Companies can e-mail sapphire@snef.org.sg for more information.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2017, with the headline 'Help for firms to transform, upskill staff'. Print Edition | Subscribe