THE Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) is calling on the government to develop a structured framework or curriculum to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to provide certification to students who were employed within their organisations.

"We call for the government to set up a body . . . to develop a structured framework or curriculum," said Asme on Thursday.

If schools and institutes recognise these certificates - which can take the form of graduate diplomas for workers based on training record and work experience - these can be translated into credits which can be given to these students should they choose to further their studies.


Indeed, the Business Sentiment Survey, conducted by Asme in December, found "initiatives to look for local staff and talent" was the top ranking SME expectation (58.3 per cent) for Budget 2015, tying with "initiatives to reduce rental costs". A further 57.4 per cent of respondents said that they would like to see more initiatives to increase productivity.

Internationalisation is another key area where the government can step up their support, through, for instance, a greater array of assistance schemes, given that local SMEs (68.2 per cent) are considering overseas expansion to further their growth.

When asked their reasons for choosing to expand into overseas markets, 83.1 per cent of respondents indicated new market opportunities. Low labour costs came in as the second reason (49.3 per cent), followed by proximity of market (40.9 per cent).

For those keen to expand overseas in the next two years, Indonesia (16.4 per cent) was the most popular choice followed by Malaysia (13.2 per cent) and Thailand (11.2 per cent).

Practical measures that could be rolled out to further support SMEs include a more broad-based support for SMEs to penetrate larger markets within Asia; raising the in-market turnover ceiling on grant availability for in-market sales support, and allowing multiple claims for new businesses within the same country.

Over the past 12 months, 40.7 per cent of respondents indicated that they experienced a decrease in turnover, with 16.8 per cent of respondents seeing their turnover drop by over 20 per cent.

This was largely due to an inability to increase business activities (43.6 per cent, a slight increase from 40.6 per cent a year ago); followed by local economic conditions (40.9 per cent, more than double the figure a year ago).

Looking ahead, 41 per cent of respondents are expecting their turnover to increase while 29.5 per cent of respondents are expecting a decrease in turnover over the next six months. This compares with 55.3 per cent of respondents who expected their turnover to increase and 19.1 per cent who expected their turnover to decrease in 2013.

In terms of business costs, 84.6 per cent of respondents predict that their operational costs will increase in the next six months.

To help SMEs, the government can consider building more low-cost no-frills industrial spaces designated for SMEs; provide more flexibility in office use for SMEs; and urge institutional landlords to adopt the Fair Tenancy Framework, said Asme.

The Fair Tenancy Framework was launched earlier this week. It contains guidelines for transparency of rental data across all areas and types of commercial properties; offers the industry templates of the terms typical rental contracts should contain; and entails the promotion of mediation as a preferred channel for resolving disputes between landlords and tenants.