Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore will always face tight labour market constraints.Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said one way to overcome this is through higher productivity.
He made these comments on Wednesday evening at a conference on productivity called “360 Productivity Singapore 2013 Masterclass Conference: Transformation & Leadership to Build a Productivity-and-Innovation Culture”.
He added that another way to overcome market size constraints is to internationalise.
To help SMEs, a programme (Global Immersion Programme) will be established in 2014 to equip them with the skills to compete internationally.
Mr Heng said: “Doing business in another country carries its own problems. Even when you just go across the causeway or take the ferry to Batam, it is a different set of rules and regulations, a different way of doing business, a different business culture. And you have to adapt.”
A taskforce has been set up to develop the curriculum for the Global Immersion Programme to prepare SMEs for the overseas market.
They comprise corporate leaders, resource persons and global experts.
Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck will serve as the taskforce's honorary adviser.
The programme is a collaboration between the Singapore Workforce Development Agency and Human Capital Singapore.
Mr Heng also took part in a panel discussion on some of the challenges SMEs face, such as not being able to attract graduates to join small businesses.
Some suggested more education is needed for young people to understand the benefits of working with SMEs.
Responding to questions, Mr Heng said the skills, not qualifications of the graduates, are more important.
And that in order to woo talent, SMEs need to ensure they offer good prospects and an attractive working environment.