Singapore companies looking to expand overseas may face challenges in having the right pool of talent to do so as they face competition from multinationals in this regard.

To overcome this challenge though, eight local companies have partnered International Enterprise (IE) Singapore to develop a pipeline of talent for their internationalisation plans through the Young Talent Programme (YTP) scholarship scheme for undergraduates.

With more Singapore companies venturing abroad for opportunities, the need for Singapore manpower to go along with them on this journey becomes greater. As many as 45 per cent of staff hired by larger Singapore companies in their overseas operations are Singaporeans or permanent residents (PRs) with this number swelling to 72 per cent among SMEs, S Iswaran, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry, said in his speech at the YTP scholarship ceremony yesterday.

However, such talent may not always be available, especially when it comes to industries such as engineering. Advanced Holdings MD Kar Wong, who hired two students under the YTP, said younger Singaporeans may not find a career in engineering as appealing as more popular professions like law and investment banking. Thus, companies like his have a much smaller pool of talent to choose from.

Moreover, he added that one of the challenges in getting manpower for international operations is the need to hire candidates who not only have the technical ability and understand the business, but also those who know the market intimately. Such a skill-set combination is difficult to come by.

The challenge in attracting talent for overseas postings is also prominent among large and well-known Singapore brands. Richard Eu, group CEO of Eu Yan Sang International, which also participated in the YTP, explained that he supports the scheme as it helps his company gain access to as wide a talent pool as possible. When it comes to international markets, even large and branded Singapore companies have to compete with MNCs and thus it often boils down to offering competitive hiring terms.

Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation (T&T) CEO Pang Hee Hon said that the challenge for many companies is that middle-aged employees, who may have the right experience to be sent overseas for leadership positions, may be more reluctant to shift due to family commitments. Hence, participating in the YTP allows his company to attract younger talent and groom them for international leadership positions internally.

The YTP scholarship, co-funded by IE Singapore and participating Singapore companies, was awarded to 12 undergraduates yesterday. The recipients, chosen from about 100 applicants, will complete a course of undergraduate study in a relevant field before they join their respective employers.