Nod for firms to employ foreign talent temporarily

Trade associations will encourage companies to temporarily engage skilled foreign workers to help them in areas like automation and computerisation as a way of lifting productivity.

An initiative called the Lean Enterprise Development (LED) Scheme allows companies to employ more skilled labour from overseas for up to two years to structurally improve their operations.

Nine trade associations, chambers and industry partners were given the go-ahead to promote LED yesterday at a forum organised by the Singapore National Employers Federation in partnership with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck told the forum that with workforce growth projected to decline to around 1 per cent per year in 2020, the need for firms to transform is "more urgent than ever".

The associations will spread awareness of the scheme and help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) develop proposals for LED projects, Mr Teo said on the sidelines of the event.

The associations could also bring together a group of small companies to make a collective proposal, he added. Hiring more foreign skilled labour for a fixed period of time may be necessary in cases where Singaporeans lack the skills required to transform a company's operations.

During the two-year allowance period, foreign skilled labour can help the company restructure operations and then train Singaporeans to sustain these operations after that period is up. Companies from a broad range of sectors, such as those requiring engineering processes or automation, could leverage on this scheme, Mr Teo said.

The LED scheme was unveiled in October last year and the Government hopes to have 400 companies under it over the next two years.

Ms Sherine Toh, senior vice-president for human resource and training at the restaurant chain TungLok Group, said the company is considering leveraging on the LED scheme to improve operations.

For instance, it could employ a skilled dim sum chef from China to help develop food items that are tastier but less time consuming to make, she said.

This article was first published on January 16, 2016.
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