Moving Towards a Leaner and More Sustainable Workforce

Minister Lim started off with the IT history of Singapore

Manpower should not be a hurdle stumbling the growth of the ICT industry. It needs to continue developing a strong pool of professionals and manpower, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say. 

Recognising that manpower is critical for the ICT industry since it is an innovation-driven sector, he stressed that there is a need to ensure that there are enough people to fuel its growth, said Mr Lim who was speaking at CXO Breakfast Talk called Transforming and Growing in a Manpower Lean Economy, held at Hotel Fort Canning on 27 November, 2015.

To get more people to enter the industry, he suggests the SiTF and industry make ICT careers more attractive. One way is to provide better training especially looking at ways to re-tool and improve the skills of mid-career executives and mature workers. 

More internship programmes should also be offered to introduce potential workers to the excitement in the industry and the various career opportunities available.

The event was well received and was attended by more than 100 senior executives

Mr Lim is no stranger to the ICT industry having been the general manager of the National Computer Board - IDA’s predecessor - from 1986 to 1991.  

He said Singapore’s IT industry started in 1980 with only 800 IT professionals and within eight years had multiplied the number by 10 times.  By 19, Singapore was ranked amongst the top 3 leading nations in the world for the use of ICT in the public sector, and lauded for becoming an “intelligent island”. 

“We are proud of our achievements in IT. We started with nothing in 1980 and within 10 years we got somewhere. Singapore became quite well recognised.”

He assured the attendees at the event that the government remains committed to working closely with the industry to ensure growth continues. 

At a national manpower planning level, Mr Lim said the government is re-examining policies to ensure four outcomes – lean manpower, strengthening the Singaporean core, ensuring quality of foreign manpower and enabling the latter three to successfully come together and provide the fourth outcome of making Singapore future-ready.

The Ministry of Manpower is currently developing a Sectorial Manpower Plan (SMP) for each of the 25 industry sectors so that all workers are equipped with relevant skills for the future. It will also look at better use of foreign manpower to complement the SkillsFuture movement, which was introduced earlier this year to provide Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop to their fullest potential. 

 The SMP will be a tripartite partnership, he explained, between the industry, government and the workers to look after every party’s interests.

At another level, he urged the  ICT companies many of which are SMEs, to tap the Lean Enterprise Development (LED) scheme which helps SMEs’ transformation into digital enterprises. During this transformation journey, the LED can provide support for new employees to develop new capabilities and expansion into new markets. The ultimate result is refreshed SMEs with new growth strategies employing fewer people. 

SMEs can submit proposals regarding the future operations of their businesses to agencies such as IDA and Spring Singapore, who in turn will evaluate how they can use their existing schemes to support SMEs in their transition towards manpower-lean business practices. 

To date, 20 proposals from 60 companies have already been submitted, he added.

Dialogue session with Minister Lim

In his 40-minute speech, Mr Lim also touched on Singapore’s manpower model which will be kept stable and maintained at the current 2:1 ratio between the number of Singaporeans and foreigners in the workforce.

Over the years, the local and foreign manpower ratio had progressively declined from 4 : 1, to 3 : 1 and to the present 2 : 1 ratio. 

If left unchecked, this ratio may even worsen to 1:1 in the upcoming years, he stressed. 

Continuing the previous  “3 + 1” growth model of the last decade – where a 3% growth in the workforce, added with a 1% productivity improvement, results in a 4% total GDP growth potential – will lead to stagnant manpower growth by 2020. 

Going forward, the government will move to a new “1+2” model, which is more productivity-driven and sustainable. The Government will help facilitate the success of evolving businesses into the “1 + 2” model whilst mitigating the challenges of increasing productivity.

After his talk, the attendees asked Mr Lim questions on topics such as the skill sets needed to grow in a labour-tight economy, how companies can stay relevant despite changing trends and how they can use innovation to grow. 

Attendees found the discussion useful.  Foo Chek Wee, group human resource director of Zalora, said: “The biggest takeaway was the assurance that the government will always be there to render help and support companies in the ICT industry.”

Another participant Rekhansh Chopra, Asia Pacific human resource manager of Mindtree, said: “We are currently developing our internship and mid-career employee programmes and the insights offered by Mr Lim are invaluable. It helps us to align and finetune our manpower plans and to map out the future skill sets we need.”

More than 100 senior HR professionals and company executives attended the SiTF breakfast dialogue. 

Minister Lim with our sponsors and VIP guests (From left: Mr Kenneth Wong of WDA, Ms Sharon Teo of Inspire-Tech Pte Ltd, Ms Jen Nie Kwok of Xcellink Pte Ltd, Mr Benjamin Mah of V-Key Pte Ltd, Mr Andrew Chow of SiTF, Ms Shirley Wong of SiTF, Minister Lim Swee Say, Mr Chua Ah Leng of CrimsonLogic Pte Ltd, Mr Francis Koh of Capita Pte Ltd, Mr Jeremy Tan of Korvac Holdings Pte Ltd and Mr Khoong Hock Yun of IDA)