A taskforce has been set up to help Singapore's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) become export-ready and build networks overseas.

This Global Immersion Programme panel will plan its curriculum, which may include understanding the culture and labour laws of other countries. It is likely to be launched next year, Mr David Ang, a director at Human Capital Singapore, co-organiser of a masterclass to help SMEs boost productivity, said yesterday.

Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Minister- in-charge of Entrepreneurship, is the honorary adviser of the taskforce, whose members include former senior minister of state Zainul Abidin Rasheed and Mr Ron Sim, founder and head honcho of Osim International.

No further details are available as the taskforce has yet to hold its first meeting. At a dialogue last night on ways local companies can become more productive, SMEs lamented that they struggle to attract fresh talent as graduates of even polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) eschew working for them.

"Some look down on SMEs" and prefer to work in bigger firms, said Mr Lim Kee Choon, director of partyware and food packaging retailer SKP. "They don't really understand the business of SMEs." He was among SME bosses who highlighted the problem to Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

For Mr Neo Kok Beng, president and chief executive of medical technology firm Awak Technologies, the lack of readily-available skills and training in IT in Singapore is a major headache. The question is whether the education system can catch up fast enough in terms of technology trends, he said.

They were responding to Mr Heng's suggestion that SMEs hire more students from polytechnics and the ITE to overcome Singapore's tight labour situation.

While Mr Heng acknowledged their woes, he said one way to change graduates' mindset is to offer them good career prospects, and the Government plans to discuss with firms how to provide an attractive career structure.

"Confidence to train staff is a very important attribute to being an attractive employer," he added.

Mr Heng also noted a new committee, led by Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah, which is reviewing studies at polys and the ITE to better connect classroom lessons to the working world.