Service firms to get help, subsidies to transform industry

(From left) Manpower Minister Josephine Teo chatting with Madam Ong Poh Kee, 57, and Madam Chua Cher Kee, 75, both cleaning ambassadors at Fei Siong, about an eco-digester that turns food waste into water and carbon dioxide and helps lighten cleaning
(From left) Manpower Minister Josephine Teo chatting with Madam Ong Poh Kee, 57, and Madam Chua Cher Kee, 75, both cleaning ambassadors at Fei Siong, about an eco-digester that turns food waste into water and carbon dioxide and helps lighten cleaning workers' load, at the conference yesterday.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

They can tap new scheme to redesign jobs, become more manpower-lean: Minister

Service-sector companies can now get more help to transform their businesses as they adapt to changing manpower needs and consumer demands.

They will be able to tap government subsidies and professional guidance under the new Service Industry Transformation Programme (SITP) announced by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo yesterday.

Companies can implement up to two transformation projects with the help of a certified productivity consultant from the Singapore Productivity Centre (SGPC) which, together with Workforce Singapore, aims to support close to 180 companies and 1,100 workers in the service industry over two years through the new scheme.

In her speech, Mrs Teo said that amid present economic uncertainties, some employers might wonder if it is better to think about survival and current jobs than about transformation and jobs of the future.

But Singapore is fundamentally labour-constrained so firms need to become more manpower-lean over the medium and long term, she told about 200 business leaders at a service industry conference.

"We can take advantage of this time to put in new systems and processes to better manage costs in the longer term, to better our product and service offerings to capture market share," she said.

"By doing so, we end up also redesigning jobs to make better use of our manpower resources and also improve job satisfaction for our workers."

BETTER USE OF RESOURCES

We can take advantage of this time to put in new systems and processes to better manage costs in the longer term, to better our product and service offerings to capture market share... By doing so, we end up also redesigning jobs to make better use of our manpower resources and also improve job satisfaction for our workers.

MANPOWER MINISTER JOSEPHINE TEO, on how Singapore is fundamentally labour-constrained, so firms need to become more manpower-lean over the medium and long term.

In the light of this, the SITP aims to help businesses improve the way they serve customers, streamline and digitalise operations, and redesign jobs to attract workers.

Under the scheme, companies can send up to two representatives to attend a two-day workshop on techniques such as service design, job redesign and customer journey mapping. A certified productivity consultant from SGPC will also conduct 61/2 days of training and help companies identify areas for improvement and growth, and guide them through implementing projects over a four-month period.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will need to pay $1,800 or $3,398 before tax, depending on whether they work on one or two projects. This is after a 90 per cent government subsidy.

Larger companies can receive a 70 per cent subsidy and will pay $4,794 or $10,194 before tax.

Companies that are interested to sign up can contact SGPC at joysen_chew@sgpc.sg

Six companies have already come on board since the pilot launch of the scheme last month, said Mrs Teo. She added that the Government hopes more firms will take action to transform so that the service sector becomes much more competitive.

This will also help companies manage the upcoming reductions to the Dependency Ratio Ceiling for the service sector, she said.

The proportion of foreign workers a firm can employ will be lowered from 40 per cent to 38 per cent on Jan 1 next year, and to 35 per cent on Jan 1, 2021.

 
 
 

The SITP was launched at the inaugural Service Industry Transformation Conference at Grand Hyatt Singapore, where 10 trade associations and chambers representing more than 2,300 companies like travel agencies, retailers and hotels also pledged to drive transformation in the service industry.

Vegetarian eatery Greendot, which has a chain of outlets, is keen to join the SITP to benefit from having someone external offer a fresh perspective on how to improve.

Co-founder and chief executive Fu Yong Hong, 30, said the company has streamlined processes and introduced an electronic ordering system since starting as a small stall in 2011.

He now wants to work on better training older workers, who make up about half his workforce of 130, to go beyond serving and clearing food to do more higher-value work as service ambassadors who can explain the company's vision to customers.

He also aims to create a stronger customer experience at his outlets.

"I don't want people to just eat and go, I hope we can positively impact them to change their lifestyle and eat healthier," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2019, with the headline 'Service firms to get help, subsidies to transform industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe