Speaking at The Future Economy Conference and Exhibition, held yesterday at the NTUC Centre, Minister Chan Chun Sing took stock of how 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) laid out in 2016. Meant to address issues within each industry and deepen partnerships between Government, firms, industries, trade associations and chambers, ITMs address constraints across sectors.
Thus far, banking and finance, and the supply chain and logistics industries have performed well in their transformation journey. A lot of new technologies have been deployed in their businesses and have virtually transformed the way business is carried out in their organisations. Pointing to the example of the Singapore Bus Academy (SGBA), Mr Chan also applauded the transport industry’s efforts to retrain current workers. Although not a sector of its own, the Minister highlighted various initiatives such as the SMEs Go Digital program and TechSkills Accelerator initiative which have done well.
Labour Driven Innovation
The commonality between these sectors and initiatives is the strong Trade Association and Chamber (TAC), posited Minister Chan. A strong TAC took the lead to bring relevant players together and hatch solutions.
The relative strength of the TAC is important to promulgate sector specific change. For example, the banking and finance industry is backed by a strong TAC-equivalent and have the Monetary Authority of Singapore for support. Individuals could come together to demand for training. Moreover, by coming together the level of competition is enhanced, thus driving innovation. Even in the supply chain and logistics industry, players aggregated to define industry specific challenges and buzzed solutions together in partnership with technology providers like A*STAR. SGBA too was the result of public bus operators coming together and finding synergy in training.
Strong labour-management relations are also important. Management should be able to translate business plans into actions and training for workers and the middle-management in order to effect change. Intermediaries like the Labour Movement, for example, are important in executing the plans for upskilling. Citing the example of the DBS Staff Union, the Minister pointed out that their purpose was not to lobby the government or banks, but to prepare workers to gain from the industry’s transformation and not be unknowingly disrupted.
Thirdly, initiatives to upskill individuals should be cross-sectoral instead of sector specific. The SMEs Go Digital program receives good traction since the program itself has clear problem definitions. Products and services which can help SMEs ride the disruption regardless of sector are useful because they are function-specific. In turn, SMEs are more informed about the kind of technology which is on offer and what they could possibly apply across various functions like human resource, invoicing and accounting. Services which are common to any organisation.
Although these ae simple upgrades to how a business operates, they all add up to the benefit to the system as whole and not just the individual companies, said the Minister for Trade and Industry. “When everyone uses the same system, there will be synergies and we are able to aggregate the information and further improve the system for the next generation of businesses.”
Teamwork for Change
There are a multitude of changes within and pressures surrounding Singapore. Nevertheless, the Minister underscored the pragmatic need to get Singapore’s act together and work collaboratively across sectors and sector growth rates.
The Government on their part will work to overlay broad-based economic policies with sector-based economic strategies to help companies overcome their challenges. The three aforementioned strategies will be key in doing this well.
Ending off, the Minister said, “The next step of Singapore’s economic transformation is not about broad-based policies coupled with specific strategies in respective sectors. If each company can become a “little champion” in their own sectors, then collectively, we can become an economy of champions.”