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Speech at Launch of P-Max cum Learning Journey

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Manpower, Goodrich Global Pte Ltd

Dr Robert Yap, President, Singapore National Employers Federation, SNEF
Mr Kurt Wee, President, Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, ASME
Mr Chan Chong Beng, Chairman, Goodrich Global Pte Ltd

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,


  • Good afternoon.
  • Thank you for inviting me here this afternoon.
  • I am always happy to be able to visit our SMEs to learn more about their set-up and understand the different efforts that go into the business to keep them running.
  • Every SME is different and they all face different challenges but it is important to recognise the efforts that they have put in and the significant role that they play in our society.
  • I am happy today to be at Goodrich because it is a home-grown brand that has done Singapore proud over the past 30 years.
  • You have all heard how Goodrich started off as a seven man team in 1983 and has now about 30 regional offices and galleries in the region with staff strength of 400.
  • I always have a lot of respect for what Chong Beng has managed to achieve and his valuable views when we engaged each other in discussions when he was previously the President of ASME.

    “Better Jobs”, not just “More Jobs”
  • Let me take the opportunity to make two points to set the context for today’s event. They reflect a larger learning journey which we have been on, and will continue to be on, as a nation.
  • In a way, these two points reflect a learning journey which the nation has been on since we started to pursue productivity-driven growth, as recommended by the Economic Strategies Committee in 2010. Then, there wasn’t a direction set in terms of where we think we ought to be going in the coming decades and that has shaped many of our policies that we have today.
  • The tight labour market will be a continuing feature of our economy. You might have heard me recently, highlighting that the labour market is likely to get even tighter as the local labour force growth slows especially towards the end of this decade.
  • Now, I am fully aware of the many challenges that SMEs from various sectors face. SMEs have been voicing their concerns about difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, and it is quite understandable that SMEs are even more concerned hearing that the labour market will likely tighten further in the coming years.
  • But I want to put things in their proper context.
  • The labour market will tighten further for a number of reasons.
  • Labour force participation rate has been very positive and encouraging. This is a good thing because you do see many more Singaporeans coming back to the workforce. As a result of this, we are also adding on to the overall family income as we can see from the data on family income growth over the recent years.
  • Our labour force participation is one of the highest in the world, and I think it can go a bit further because of the tight labour market. But we do need to understand that this pool is beginning to shrink because as we all know, the baby-boomers generation is reaching the age where they are beginning to exit the job market with smaller cohorts entering – thus on a net basis, there will be lower levels of labour force growth.
  • We also know that we will have to continue to manage the foreign workforce growth at a sustainable rate.
  • As the Economic Strategies Committee highlighted, we are looking at keeping it to about a third or so of the overall workforce.
  • This is sustainable and manageable both from physical and social perspective.
  • The demographic trend we are facing as an economy is not unique, but as a smaller country, the effects are more pronounced than in other countries. This brings me to my second point.
  • I want to put it across to you that we need to focus on creating quality jobs, and not the quantity of jobs, for locals.
  • What we need are better jobs, not just more jobs, as our labour force growth slows down so that the potential of every Singaporean is maximised.
  • Despite concerns about the current labour crunch, SMEs like Goodrich Global have been forward-looking in its talent management and staff retention strategies, tapping on available Government programmes.
  • I am sure there are many more SMEs out there doing their best to recruit and retain local talent.
  • Today, about 70% of Singaporeans are employed by SMEs and that statistic alone speaks volumes of the important role that SMEs play as we forge ahead in this next phase of restructuring.
  • The Government is fully prepared to work with SMEs to invest in the potential of every Singaporean. SMEs, in turn, must be prepared to manage the changing profile of our local workforce.

    Changing Profile of Workforce and Government Support
  • Our local workforce will be increasingly better educated and it is likely that Singaporean job seekers will have higher expectations.
  • But I suspect that the younger generation isn’t just concerned about earning higher wages.
  • They are also concerned about non-tangible factors such as whether they are able to put into practice what they learned in school, whether they will be able to learn and pick up new skills and whether there are progression pathways.
  • I mentioned that the Government is fully prepared to work with SMEs to develop Singaporeans so that their potential is maximised.
  • So, one scheme which SMEs can tap on to further develop their staff would be the Enhanced Training Support for SMEs, which subsidises 90% of course fees. WDA recognises that the training participation rate in SMEs is generally lower than that in larger companies and this initiative was introduced to encourage and enable SMEs to raise the skills and productivity of their employees, including their PMEs.

    Focus on PMEs and SMEs
  • An important programme which I would like to focus on today is the Max Talent place-and-train programme introduced in April 2012.
  • That was launched with the aim of helping PMEs gain access to good career opportunities in SMEs and simultaneously raise the HR capabilities of SMEs to better attract and retain talent.
  • Recently, one of the SG50 project was to bring onboard polytechnic and university students to work with good local brand companies and put up in-depth presentations about what they have learnt about these companies. The big take-away from most of the students is how much they learnt from these companies, and when I asked if they would consider to join upon graduation and many of them said yes.
  • I think this is something that we will be keen to look at. It is about building up the brand name and creating awareness and we will continue to work with SPRING on that.
  • The pilot Max Talent programme was well-received with 1,000 successful placements in 954 SMEs across various industries such as Retail, Education, Marine Engineering, and Logistics.
  • Let me just cite two interesting stories about how the Max Talent programme proved beneficial to our PMEs and SMEs:
  • Mr Tan Choon Huat was hired as a Sales Engineer by Tangerine Engineering Pte Ltd, a local supplier of industrial pumps, fans and blowers, and was sent through the Max Talent programme.
  • Having been in the industry for close to 10 years, Choon Huat was able to quickly pick up knowledge about goal-setting and KPI-setting processes from the Max Talent programme and dexterously applied it back at work.
  • He was able to put in place a workable goal-setting process for the sales team, which helped the team think about proper performance evaluation. It proved to be so useful that the process was subsequently extended to warehousing, technical support and administrative departments.
  • Since then, Choon Huat has been promoted to Sales Manager.
  • Another example, this time in the F&B industry.
  • Ms Catrina Luo was placed in Ah Yat Seafood as an Assistant Manager through the Max Talent programme.
  • Prior to joining Ah Yat Seafood, Catrina was an Event Organiser in another SME for about 4 years but she decided to move out of her comfort zone and venture into a new industry.
  • She found it hard to adjust initially, as she was required to interact with customers frequently and work was always fast-paced.
  • However, instead of replacing her, Catrina’s employer sent her for the 3-day Max Talent Workshop, where she gained a better understanding of her own strengths and weaknesses when operating in the F&B industry.
  • The workshop boosted her confidence and helped her to further develop her communication skills.
  • As a result, she was more effective at her job and has even been able to take on other responsibilities such as troubleshooting workplace problems for her company.

    About P-Max
  • We received positive feedback about the Max Talent programme from both companies and participants.
  • So, in partnership with ASME and SNEF, WDA has enhanced Max Talent to provide stronger career development components to PMEs.
  • This enhanced programme will be named P-Max and will be open to all PMEs at various stages of their careers, including those who are currently unemployed.
  • Our enhancements to P-Max are two-fold:

    - First, an SME Workshop will be introduced to enable SME supervisors and managers to implement progressive HR best practices within their companies.

    - Second, the existing PME Workshop will be enhanced to equip our PMEs with work-skills such as work ethics, joint targets setting and performance reviews. This will better help PMEs transit and excel in the SME work environment.
  • Two Programme Managers, ASME and SNEF, have been appointed to run the Place-and-Train programmes under P-Max, with the intent of collectively, placing over 3,000 PMEs in SMEs over the next three years.

  • The success of this programme is important because going forward, we know that PMEs will be a significant part of our workforce and the foundation laid by Max Talent and now with P-Max is a good foundation block for us.
  • Let me end off here by reiterating what I started off saying.
  • We need to recognise and understand that there is a slower workforce growth situation in Singapore as this is a new reality that will confront us. To prepare for this new reality, we must train our minds to think about developing better jobs, not just more jobs, so that we maximise the potential of every Singaporean.
  • The Government is fully prepared and committed to invest in SMEs which push ahead with their efforts to develop in-house capabilities and strengthen their productivity drive. P-Max is but one way in which we are building the HR capabilities of SMEs to allow PMEs to access better jobs.
  • SMEs form not just an important pillar of our economy, but that of our society as well. They provide not just jobs but opportunities for Singaporeans to earn a livelihood and to provide for their family.
  • We are all in the same team, whether the businesses or Singaporean workers and it is important for all of us to figure how best to work together to go forward.
  • I am very positive about our future. Yes there are constraints, but as one society, we can pull together the resources.
  • At the same time, we need to rally around the tripartite partnerships where the unions, Singaporean workers and businesses can come together and forge out a win-win situation.
  • We have done so in the past and we will continue to do it in the future as well.
  • With that, thank you very much and all the best.