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Keynote Address by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the International Trading Professional Conversion Programme Graduation Ceremony

Keynote Address by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the International Trading Professional Conversion Programme Graduation Ceremony

Professor Annie Koh, Vice-President, SMU

Distinguished Guests,


Ladies and Gentlemen,



Good morning. It is my pleasure to be here today at the International Trading Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) Graduation Ceremony. This is my second time presenting graduating certificates at this programme.

There are new opportunities amidst a changing operating environment

Today, Singapore is recognised as one of the world’s leading trading hubs. We have a strong network of over 34,500 global and local enterprises in the wholesale trade sector, contributing to about 16% of our Gross Domestic Product and 9% of Singapore’s workforce in 2017.  This sector is also a growth sector that can create good jobs for Singaporeans, and has overseen a net increase of about 1,700 jobs over the past year. However, to remain relevant and competitive as a global trading hub, we need to adapt to a changing operating environment. In particular, we are witnessing the advancement of digital technologies, which will disrupt companies’ business models and alter the nature of jobs in the future. Our companies and workers will have to continually adapt to stay ahead of the curve.


As part of ASEAN, which is an increasingly important market globally, wholesale trade companies in Singapore have access to multiple opportunities for growth. This combined market of 650 million people with a GDP of more than USD$2 trillion is currently the 6th largest single economic bloc in the world and is projected to grow at 5.2% from now till 2020. By 2030, ASEAN will become the fourth-largest economy in the world, after the United States, China and the European Union. With 60% of its population under 35 years old, coupled with a growing middle class and increasing urbanisation, ASEAN can be a key growth market for our wholesale trade companies. But this will require our businesses and individuals to adopt an open mindset and remain nimble to capture these new growth opportunities.


International Trading PCP helps to build a pipeline of industry-ready talent to support our companies’ transformation efforts


It is for these reasons that we started the International Trading PCP to better support our companies and workers in their transformation efforts. With the help of Singapore Management University (SMU), and with strong partnerships from Enterprise Singapore, Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Academy, we have put in place an on-the-job training programme that allows mid-career professionals to develop relevant technical skillsets and market experience in international trading.  Not only will we provide an avenue for our workers to deepen their skillsets, but at the same time, we will help create a pool of industry-ready talents that will support our companies’ transformation efforts.


Because the WST sector requires professionals serving in front office (sales and marketing), middle office (accounting, finance, IT) and back office roles (logistics, supply chain, warehousing), it offers diverse job opportunities for mid-career professionals from many other sectors to find fulfilling careers. Hence, we are happy to partner with SMU for this PCP that helps to prepare mid-career professionals for this switch. To date, the PCP has helped more than 140 mid-career professionals find successful employment in trading companies, through seven intakes of both the commodities and non-commodities tracks of the PCP here at the SMU. The 45 of you here today are the next batch to graduate from the programme, and I am pleased to be here with you to witness this milestone. Amongst the graduating participants today is Mr. Arno Bin Iman. Arno had more than 22 years of working experience in operations and manufacturing before he had to take a break from work due to family commitments. Through the PCP, Arno is now a Supply Chain Manager with Revo IT Systems Pte Ltd, a leading wholesaler of third-party Apple accessories. Arno picked up skillsets in online marketing and e-Commerce during his PCP training, which allowed him to help his company set up an e-commerce website to sell their products online.


I am heartened to know that there are currently more than 80 companies partnering us in the International Trading PCP, a significant increase from the 16 companies that first partnered us when we embarked on this endeavour. I would like to thank SMU and our industry partners for your strong support, and welcome more companies to partner us.

Importance of an active tripartite partnership

The Government is committed to support the industry’s development needs, but we need companies and individuals to work with us. This is why we have developed the Skills Framework for Wholesale Trade, which was announced last week, to encourage our companies and workers to play an active role in their own career development.

Developed by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), WSG and Enterprise Singapore, in consultation with our industry partners, education institutions and union, the Skills Framework provides key information on the wholesale trade sector, including career pathways, jobs roles as well as both existing and emerging technical skills and competencies required. It has identified four career tracks covering 42 job roles and 76 technical skills and competencies required in existing and emerging areas.

Individuals like you can refer to the Skills Framework to identify skillsets needed for your desired jobs, and the relevant training programmes that will further assist you in your career development.

Similarly, companies can also tap on the Skills Framework to formulate their talent management plans and skills development strategies. HR practitioners, in particular, must take on a more proactive role to develop the Human Capital of your companies, so as to develop the wings for the company to expand and soar. SMEs that are of smaller scale and who may not have a full-fledge HR function will also not be left behind. On this note, companies will be pleased to know that Enterprise Singapore is partnering U SME to help companies better understand and adopt the Skills Framework. Furthermore, under this partnership, Enterprise Singapore and U SME have brought together 18 companies to be part of the Wholesale Trade Leaders Circle, which will work together with the Government to advocate progressive HR practices through the Skills Framework, and proactive reskilling efforts for our workers. I urge our companies to be part of this community, and contribute to our manpower development efforts in the sector. Let us grow this sector together and strengthen the ecosystem of inter-linked trade flows so we can all benefit from a larger market of opportunities.


In closing, I would like to congratulate our graduands today for your achievements. We are here today because everyone of you has put in hard work and persevered through the journey. I am hopeful that you will contribute meaningfully in your new job roles, and I wish you all the best in your new phase of career.

I wish everyone a pleasant day ahead. Thank you.

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