The Government pledged to create opportunities for all Singaporeans regardless of their age and improve the lives of Singaporean workers “at every stage of their careers”, said the Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing in his national broadcast on Sunday (14 June).
Mr Chan noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many businesses and consumers to embrace digitalisation, adding that the Government must enable Singaporeans of all ages, as well as all sizes of businesses to go digital and thrive.
“Our promise is this: We will create opportunities for all Singaporeans, no matter how old you are, to improve your lives at every stage of your careers. So long as you are able and willing, we will support you,” he said.
According to Mr Chan, the Government uplifted a generation through computerization and automation in the 1980s. In the 2020s, another generation will be transformed through digitalization and data.
“We will never be done upskilling our people. This is especially so for workers who have left school many years ago and did not benefit from the more recent improvements in our education and training system,” he remarked.
The former Major-General hinted that the transformation includes building “a thousand-strong digital ambassador corps” to help small and micro enterprises and assist senior citizens in learning the use of technology.
For instance, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is currently helping hospitality companies and event organisers to overcome the collapse in travel demand by using digital tools.
But helping businesses access new markets must go beyond the digitalization to establish a real partnership in the real world, he said.
“Many Singapore businesses have established regional and global presence in the past years, often in partnerships. The more established and larger companies help newcomers and smaller businesses,” said Mr Chan.
He pointed out how CapitaLand brings other Singapore companies in its overseas development projects, which help them to enter new markets.
Furthermore, the Government will facilitate more industry partnerships – including in the digital space – and better organise overseas Singapore business chapters and missions to guide newcomers venturing overseas.
“Our business leaders and workers will be key to these efforts. We must have the aptitude and attitude to serve global markets,” Mr Chan asserted.
The Minister stressed on Singaporeans’ entrepreneurial spirit to venture abroad to compete and that the people cannot be content with doing well just within the country.
“We introduced Scale-Up SG to groom promising local companies into global champions. So long as our companies have the ambition, we will find the resources to support them,” he noted.
In addition, Mr Chan noted that the Government will intensify Singaporeans’ overseas exposure through initiatives like the Global Ready Talent Programme, this is to enable them to gain fresh perspectives and networks.
He then shared how Carousell founders Quek Siu Rui, Marcus Tan and Lucas Ngoo spent a year in Silicon Valley as part of the National University of Singapore Overseas Colleges programme.
“This laid the foundation and gave them the confidence to later launch Carousell, which their team has grown beyond Singapore to eight markets across Southeast Asia today. We will scale up such opportunities for our people,” Mr Chan added.
This year, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced a ‘70-70’ target to enable local students from institutes of higher learning to gain overseas exposure.
“70 per cent of IHL students to have an overseas exposure, 70 per cent to focus on China, India and ASEAN,” he said. “We will press on with this once the COVID-19 situation allows.”
Netizens say such announcement only comes when the election is approaching
While many netizens are happy with Mr Chan’s announcement, some netizens penned under the comment section of The Straits Times Facebook post – covering the national broadcast – saying that the Minister only made such announcement to please Singaporeans following the upcoming general election (GE).
Others commented that Singaporeans have been competing with foreign workers for years, while some added that many of the foreign workers are earning higher salaries than the locals.
One netizen wrote that many retrenched Singaporean PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) are willing to be retrained but are not being offered any jobs.
He noted that the Government keep approving more employment pass (EP) holders to work in Singapore when the jobs could have been offered to the retrenched Singaporeans.
Another netizen commented that many retrenched Singaporean PMETs would not be working as taxi drivers or other low-paid jobs if there are good jobs made available for them. He went on to suggest Minister Chan list down the types of job available and the number of vacancies.