SMEs set for a boost from budget 2015 schemes

THE host of support schemes proposed in Budget 2015, if effectively leveraged, can level the playing field for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), startups and large corporations in talent recruitment and retention.

This was among the key takeaways from Wednesday’s Impact & Possibilities talk, organised by The Business Times and The SME Magazine, that aimed to fill business owners and entrepreneurs in on how to make the most of this year’s Budget.

SkillsFuture, for one thing, allows SMEs to tap an enlarged pool of talent – including fresh ITE (Institute of Technical Education) and polytechnic graduates – via placements and on-the-job training, said Leslie Loh, entrepreneur and founder of professional training academy LithanHall.

“Training is almost free (now),” he added, citing the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme and various other employer grants such as Workforce Development Authority’s Course Fee Funding and Absentee Payroll Funding. Not only does employee training drive business performance, that SMEs and startups can provide more training opportunities allows them to compete better with large corporations in talent recruitment and retention, said Mr Loh.

The perceived lack of training benefits and uncompetitive remuneration have been reasons why employees traditionally preferred large corporations, he said. But SMEs and startups in fact make attractive employers, as they offer multi-disciplinary jobs, unlimited learning and growth opportunities, a dynamic working environment and a helicopter view to the entire business. “Employees in SMEs and startups are more likely and equipped to become entrepreneurs themselves too.”

That said, as long as companies are willing to rethink their work processes and invest in productivity improvement, there are no lack of grant options, said Mr Loh.

The Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC), for instance, is one that cuts across many sectors, said Ng Hian Meng, head of small and medium businesses sales at StarHub.

Labour-intensive companies that want to improve payroll processes, logistics companies that plan to establish fleet management systems, and even childcare centres that wish to automate attendance-taking can apply for PIC, he said.

For the more proactive SMEs and startups that want to venture overseas, there are various internationalisation schemes available too, added Victor Tay, chief operating officer of the Singapore Business Federation.

But grants – which cover a fraction of business costs – should only be a catalyst to do more, said Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises. Companies should leverage grants to transform work processes and do more with less.

“If SMEs don’t do that, they will be at risk,” he said.


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