Scheme to draw graduates to manufacturing SMEs

Scheme to draw graduates to manufacturing SMEs
Mr Jonathan Phoon (left), executive director of Freshening Holdings, is happy with the work of the two students who became permanent staff under the scheme, marketing executive Shermaine Tay (centre) and product development executive Lin Qiu Ping.

SINGAPORE - A programme launched last year is helping to dispel the notion among graduates that smaller manufacturing firms do not offer satisfying careers.

The scheme aims to attract Institute of Technical Education, polytechnic and university students to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through study grants and job opportunities.

More than 740 students have been matched to 320 SMEs under the scheme so far.

The Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), one of the organisations appointed by enterprise agency Spring Singapore to offer the programme, said it is achieving concrete results.

SMF secretary-general Lam Joon Khoi told The Straits Times that the SMF has reached the halfway mark of its goal to achieve 100 successful matches for employers and prospective young hires by early next year.

He added that SMF plans to "expand the target", to offer its assistance to "as many of the SMEs that need help in securing suitable talent".

SMF is among the seven trade associations and chambers involved in the programme.

"There is often the misperception that jobs in manufacturing SMEs are boring and unglamorous, which may deter young talent from entering this sector," said Mr Lam.

"But there are many manufacturing companies in Singapore that have a state-of-the-art working environment, and, as SMEs, they can provide young graduates with the perfect runway for their careers to take off."

He noted that SMEs typically come with "excellent conditions for young graduates to achieve their fullest potential", such as a more hands-on learning process, where they can "test and hone their skills through diverse job tasks".

But these companies must first have the resources, such as a sound human resource system, and be able to provide young talent with a proper training plan as well as learning and development opportunities, he added.

"We hope that the programme can instil interest and passion among young talent by giving them an opportunity to gain a better understanding of SMEs in the industry," said Mr Lam.

SMEs back the scheme, saying it has helped them find talent of the right calibre and fit. Mr Han Chee Kwong, business manager of OE Manufacturing, which produces hydraulic cylinders, noted that the programme was a good initiative by the Government to "retain talent" in sectors pressed for young hires, such as engineering.

"Students sign up for the programme because it comes with a scholarship for their tuition and, at the same time, they can also experience for themselves the potential of working in a manufacturing SME."

Mr Jonathan Phoon, executive director of wet wipe-maker Freshening Holdings, said that the programme gave him "the luxury to choose (prospective hires) from a wide array of education backgrounds".

He added that he has been "happy" with the contributions of the two students who have joined the company as permanent staff under the programme.

"As an SME, employees are usually expected to be more of an all-rounder," said Mr Phoon. "They are sometimes required to roll up their sleeves for work outside their own job scope in order to make sure that all tasks for the day are completed, but it's not always easy to find people who are suitable for that."

For Ms Shermaine Tay, 23, the potential exposure to different job roles was what drew her to sign up for the programme. "Being engaged in a challenging, fast-paced environment that emphasises practical work has allowed me to gain a wide spectrum of skill sets, knowledge and capabilities," said the marketing executive, who has been with Freshening Holdings for more than a year.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg

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