MEMBERS of the business community met for the first time under the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord) Employer and Business (E&B) Council, and have committed to forming three working groups to look into three broad areas concerning National Service (NS).

These three areas are: identifying the challenges that small and medium enterprises face in supporting NS; recognising NS training, skills and personal development; and the possible areas of collaboration between the business community, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Accord had been restructured this year to deepen its engagement with the larger community. Three councils were created following the move. In addition to the E&B Council, the Educational Institutions Council and the Family and Community Council were also established.

The E&B Council will work to bring the business community and the SAF closer together. Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing and executive chairman of Asia Resource Corporation Tony Chew will serve as co-chairs of the 20-member body.

In each work cycle lasting a year, the council is expected to collate feedback and submit a set of recommendations. These recommendations will then be taken up by the main Accord for further deliberation.

Said Mr Chew: "In recent years, due to manpower shortage, there exists an opportunity for greater collaboration between Mindef and the business community."

Thomas Chua, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, agreed: "Many SMEs face challenges in resources amidst this period of economic restructuring."

"There exist immense opportunities for the business community to work with Mindef and the SAF to train NSmen with the right skills, and match them with the companies to plug SME capabilities gap and manpower needs," he added.