SMALL and medium enterprises (SMEs) have given the thumbs-up to the government’s funding support to speed up the transfer of global expertise to local workers, describing the vehicle for the support – the Capability Transfer Programme (CTP) – as “useful”.

Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) said the co-funding support plan would be especially useful to small firms, which find cost a key obstacle in acquiring the much-needed capability in transforming and growing their businesses.

The CTP would help SMEs which have a big pool of local workers – particularly those in food manufacturing and engineering – to upgrade, according to the 44-year-old private equity manager who has been involved with the Asme since 2003.

There’s a lot of forward knowledge out there (in the global market) which SMEs can tap to upgrade and add value to their businesses,” Mr Wee told Business Times.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Singapore companies could leverage on the CTP to train their workers in specialised skills which Singapore lacks.

“For those smaller companies that do not know how to go about taking advantage of the CTP, their Trade Association can take the leadership to organise this effort,” it added.

Welcoming the government’s funding support to speed up the transfer of global expertise to local workers, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) said: “We appreciate the flexibility in support, which will enable more companies to benefit from hiring foreign specialists with unique expertise to pass on to local workers.”

SBF urged all companies big and small to fully tap this new programme to improve the skill set of their local workers.

CTP kicked off as a pilot project late last year. More details of the co-funding support plan were disclosed on Monday [Mar 5] in Parliament during the Budget debate on the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

To succeed in becoming “a pervasively innovative economy and society”, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said Singapore must speed up the development and transfer of new and better global capabilities to the local workforce.

The CTP is already helping firms in the local precision engineering and furniture industries as well as those in the transportation of pharmaceutical cargo and lift and car maintenance businesses.

Under the CTP, Mr Lim said his ministry is prepared to pick up 30, 50, and 70 percent of the tab for hiring foreign specialists who can pass on needed capabilities to local workers.This also includes sending local trainers overseas to acquire the expertise.

The minister said to achieve real transfer of capability takes not days and weeks, but months and years. Specialists have to do more than just training – they have to do coaching and work alongside local workers.

The government support covers salary of expert trainers (both local and foreign), cost of living allowance, airfare and training equipment. It is capped at $300,000 per project. Mr Lim said projects with higher impact at the industry level and those benefiting SMEs will get a higher level of support.

In exceptional cases where the cost of capability transfer is higher and “local expertise is much needed but lacking”, the funding support can increase to 90 percent and more than $300,000 per project. Mr Lim said this would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

This story was first published in The Business Times on Mar 6, 2018.