SMEs going digital, workers aiming to hone skills can get help under new schemes

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing launching the Rise for Business and Rise 2.0 programmes on Tuesday. PHOTO: BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP

SINGAPORE - Small and medium-sized enterprises looking to grow their businesses and workers seeking to upskill can now tap two new programmes that focus on digitalisation.

The first, called the Rapid and Immersive Skill Enhancement (Rise) for Business programme, caters to SMEs aiming to digitalise their businesses.

The second, called Rise 2.0, is for individuals wishing to hone their digital skills and advance their careers, and is an expansion over 2021's Rise 1.0. Rise 2.0 also offers part-time classes to provide flexibility for working professionals.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who launched the programmes on Tuesday, said they complement each other.

He added: "If businesses do not transform, workers will not be motivated to go for reskilling… That is why business transformation and workforce transformation must go hand in hand."

Participants can get up to 90 per cent subsidy for the programmes, run by global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and supported by SkillsFuture Singapore.

The programmes come amid a push for digitalisation, which helps businesses to improve productivity, optimise operations and lower operation costs by adopting technology such as artificial intelligence.

Digitalisation has gained greater currency amid the pandemic, after some firms were caught flat-footed by Covid-19 curbs that affected their physical operations.

Rise 1.0, which catered to individuals, was part of the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways initiative that was rolled out by the Government in 2021 in response to Covid-19's impact on the economy and jobs.

It had seen 70 per cent of its 1,700 participants landing jobs upon completion.

A total of 120 learners in the first phase of the Rise for Business programme will start a 16-week course in November, where they will learn to identify issues faced by the SMEs and offer solutions such as digital marketing.

The Rise for Business programme comes after a joint study by BCG and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) found that more than 60 per cent of SMEs here are digital starters, which refer to companies that have yet to adopt digital technologies collectively under IMDA's measure. The figure for large companies is less than 20 per cent.

For individuals, Rise 2.0 participants not only get to learn essential digital skills, they will also take part in a digital hackathon where they apply the skills to real-life company problems and propose digital solutions to organisations.

Currently, 125 learners are enrolled in Rise 2.0, which aims to eventually take in 700 people.

Ms Yvonne Teo, who signed up for Rise 2.0 part-time classes, hopes to leverage what she learnt to drive digitalisation and automation in her company. She attends the classes, which are virtual, three days a week.

"At the end of the day, it is not about buying an offshore software and introducing it to the company, it is about having someone to be able to personalise and customise things for the company so that it is more sustainable," said the 32-year-old digital transformation manager, who was previously a finance manager in the same company.

Understanding the importance of keeping up with technology, fragrance company Scent by Six's founder and chief executive Jason Lee hopes the Rise for Business programme can help the company make its foray into metaverse – a digital space marked by augmented and virtual reality – amid other business goals.

"As an SME, we have to be hungry and keep ourselves on our toes to stay abreast of the new environment, new technology and be set to change if needed," he said.

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Correction note: This article has been edited following clarifications by SkillsFuture Singapore.

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