Speech by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Education at the Launch of the iTalent Solutions Map and iSkills Talent Development Programme, at Singapore Management University

Published Date: 26 July 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Professor Timothy Clark,

Professor Annie Koh,

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Good afternoon. I am happy to join you today for the launch of the iTalent Solutions Map and iSkills Talent Development Programme. I would like to congratulate the International Trading Institute at Singapore Management University (ITI@SMU), SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on the launch of this very important initiative.

Helping the broad tier of SMEs internationalise

2. Internationalisation is an important enabler for our companies to scale up and grow. As Asian economies develop, we will see a rise in the number of wealthy and middle-class consumers who will look for quality products and services. Being a trusted and connected hub in the region, Singapore is well-positioned to benefit from this trend. In particular, ASEAN is one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world, as well as a hub for manufacturing and trade. Expanding abroad will help our companies to widen their customer base, and provide them with access to resources, technology and talent.

3. Our SMEs can go beyond making their products in Singapore and selling them overseas. We can go from “made in Singapore” to “made by Singapore” by setting up production facilities and service branches in overseas markets, bringing our trusted brand name to more markets. We can also collaborate with overseas partners to enter new markets or offer new products and services. In other words, we move from “made in Singapore” to “made with Singapore”.

4. Many local companies have already started to expand their businesses overseas. In 2018, seven in 10 Singapore businesses surveyed by the Singapore Business Federation have expanded overseas. The same survey also showed that ASEAN continues to be a popular region with more than 80% of companies active in at least one ASEAN country outside of Singapore1.

5. However, we know venturing overseas is not an easy task, especially for SMEs. There are risks and there are challenges. When entering new markets, companies may lack the competitive advantage and know-how when their products and services are pitted against established local brands. They may also be constrained by limited business resources and inadequate knowledge of internationalisation strategies and modes of market entry. A key success factor is having the right talent to support their business and operations. And this is where a programme like this will come in very useful.

6. To help companies overcome these challenges, ITI@SMU, with support from ESG and SSG, has studied the critical talent, jobs and skills needed across the different stages of internationalisation. And this was conducted through the involvement of 60 representatives and experts from more than 30 companies across retail, wholesale trade, healthcare, engineering and other industries. Many of these companies are here with us today. Three of them, Commune Lifestyle Pte Ltd, Health Management International and Commonwealth Capital will be sharing more about their experiences during the panel discussion later.

7. The 12-month study has enabled ITI@SMU to develop the Internationalisation Talent Solutions Map (or iTalent Solutions Map for short), which we will be launching today. This maps out the different stages of enterprise internationalisation and what are the critical skills needed at each stage. These include skills across 10 domain areas, such as cultural and business language skills, relational skills and business development skills, and they cut across different sectors. It will benefit our enterprises, especially our SMEs, by providing information about skills development and more importantly, equipping their employees with the right skills to take their business overseas.

8. We will amplify the use of this skills maps via training programmes. ITI@SMU has been working with Ngee Ann Polytechnic to roll out an iSkills Talent Development programme. This includes overseas immersion modules, sharing and mentoring by industry leaders, and real-life projects to equip fresh graduates and existing employees with the necessary skills for internationalisation. The iSkills Talent Development programme will be piloted in September this year. 18 companies, including Health Management International, FoodXervices and Bynd Artisan have expressed interest to participate in the programme. SSG will work with our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and intermediaries, which will include consultants, enterprises and other industry partners, to scale up the programme. Other internationalisation programmes will also be progressively mapped to the iTalent Solution Map.

9. I want to be quite clear, that when we come up with a map, it does not mean it is a secret recipe or formula for success. But the map represents, at this point in time, our collective best effort to identify the skills that are needed, the opportunities available and the areas which we can prepare our companies and our workers. And this will increase the chances of success for our companies when they venture overseas.

Building an Asia-capable workforce

10. Cross-cultural understanding and strong language competencies are key skillsets for internationalisation and creating a workforce capable of operating across countries. We will expand the range of training courses in these competencies. SMU is working with industry partners such as Singapore Press Holdings and Han Culture & Education Group (HCEG), to provide business language and cultural programmes for enterprises going to China. For example, the Pin Zhong Guo
(品中国) Programme leverages SPH’s knowledge on China’s business culture to help SMEs venture into the Chinese market. Going forward, we hope to develop more of such partnerships between our IHLs, industry partners, trade associations and chambers and other intermediaries.

11. Other programmes will also be available to build up global-ready, Asia-capable talent. For example, ESG’s Global Ready Talent Programme (GRT), which will be launched in the third quarter of this year, will support companies in building their pipeline of young talent to drive internationalisation efforts. Companies participating in the GRT can benefit from both the iTalent Solutions Map and iSkills Talent Development programme, and they will have access to a pool of pre-skilled talent who can take part in internships and overseas work opportunities under the GRT. I believe these initiatives will help build a strong pipeline of talent to support our local enterprises with their overseas expansion plans.


12. The development of iTalent Solutions Map and iSkills Talent Development programme represents a key milestone in our efforts to help our companies access international business opportunities. If we try and we prepare ourselves well, we will increase our chances of expanding the Singapore brand name overseas. For example, one company which did not realise there was a market for their products was a company that manufactured soya sauce. Today, Mexico is one of their largest overseas market. I am sharing this example to show how you can discover unexpected opportunities along the way. What is important is that we do what we can, working together with our partners within Singapore, our trade associations, our government agencies, and together with our workers, to prepare ourselves to maximise our chances of success when the opportunities come our way.

13. The Government will continue to work closely with our industry partners and Institutes of Higher Learning to strengthen the capabilities of our enterprises and workforce, so that we can be well-equipped to capitalise on these growth opportunities as they emerge, both locally and abroad.

14. I wish ITI@SMU every success in their upcoming pilot of the iSkills Talent Development programme. I look forward to this programme benefitting more enterprises, industries and workers as we embark on their internationalisation journeys.

15. Thank you.

  1. National Business Survey 2018 / 2019 Summary Report by the Singapore Business Federation.
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