President of the European Chamber of Commerce,
Members of EuroCham,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good morning to everyone. Thank you for joining us today. We appreciate EuroCham’s continued partnership with Singapore, and look forward to continue building on our long-standing business ties in the years ahead.
2. Federico and I last met in October during a dialogue that the Singapore Business Federation organised with representatives from 16 other business chambers. During the dialogue, quite a number of the representatives raised concerns about access to global talent and wanted to know whether Singapore would be changing its position on staying connected to the world.
3. It was a very fruitful discussion and I assured everyone of Singapore’s commitment of being open and connected in the way we do business. That has been the way we do business and that will be the way we do business. This will not change. I was also happy to hear from many of the chamber representatives, including Federico, that many of you who have been part of the Singapore story all these years are also committed to helping us upskill the locals and moving the local workforce to greater responsibilites so that they can contribute to both your local and global operations.
4. Having said that, while COVID-19 has changed the world in many ways, there are also many fundamental forces that have already started shaping the course of the global economic trajectory even prior to COVID-19. Perhaps COVID-19 has just accelerated many of these trends. One particular sector that has been deeply impacted by COVID-19 is the deep tech industry.
5. The deep tech industry and its companies are the linchpin for the future economy. Prior to COVID-19 and during COVID-19, the pace of digital solutions adoption will continue to accelerate. We see technology as being neutral, and where and how we adopt and embrace the technology will be crucial. Technology itself is neither good nor bad, create more jobs or less jobs. Rather, whichever society that can embrace this and use it well to come out stronger will be the best. That is our belief. Due to this belief, we want to continuously strengthen and expand our ecosystem of technology talent. This is not just about talent in Singapore but this is also about having access to global talent.
6. We have heard feedback from EuroCham members and many other businesses that talent is critical in this effort. We will all need to meet the surging demand for global talent. Let’s be very frank. Not even huge countries like the U.S. and China will claim that they have sufficient talent, much less a more diverse slate of talent that comprises people with different talent. We also have our work cut out for us, to meet the surging demand for skilled manpower from companies that are in Singapore, and companies that want to bring such people to Singapore. If we do not compete for these companies, we will lose them quickly to other locations. We rather the top talents be competing on the side of Team Singapore than competing against Singapore.
7. We have made deliberate efforts to widen our local tech talent pipeline by expanding our intake in our institutes of higher learning (IHLs) and investing in Continuing Education and Training (CET) programmes.
a. Over the next three years, our IHLs will train about 20,000 local tech talent supplemented by at least 6,250 locals from place-and-train CET programmes in functions such as Digital Marketing, Software Engineering, and Cybersecurity.
b. We have also introduced the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) programme to equip our workforce with in-demand skills such as coding, and software development.
c. Under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, the National Jobs Council has also curated around 19,000 jobs and skills opportunities in the Information & Communications sector – more than half of the opportunities are company-hosted opportunities and training places that allow local jobseekers to gain exposure to take on future job roles within the sector.
8. Businesses also have a shared responsibility to play their part and contribute to the development of this pipeline, by rolling out training and upskilling programmes for both entry-level and mid-career Singaporeans. We appreciate your efforts in helping us to do this.
a. SAP has launched SAP Skills University Singapore to benefit 1,000 participants with skills in artificial intelligence, data analytics and IOT. We understand that many of you here today are also preparing Singaporeans to take on global roles.
b. IBM’s i.am.vitalize programme will provide six months of training for ~800 mid-career professionals in areas such as AI and cybersecurity.
c. Google’s Skills Ignition SG will provide training for up to 3,000 local entry-level and mid-career jobseekers in digital marketing and cloud technology.
9. To provide more opportunities in our tech ecosystem, we recognise that more needs to be done to attract fast growing tech companies to operate out of Singapore.
a. We launched the Tech@SG programme in 2019 to help fast-growing tech companies access the critical talent they need to grow and scale their businesses in Singapore and the region.
10. However, that is just one part of the equation. Equally important are the successful tech founders, leaders and experts, who will bring their capital, networks and know-how’s to Singapore’s tech ecosystem. Once here, they not only add vibrancy to the overall ecosystem but will also create exciting new opportunities and collaborations with fellow Singaporeans.
11. Today, I am happy to announce the launch of the Tech.Pass, as an expansion of the Tech@SG programme. The programme will provide highly accomplished entrepreneurs, business leaders, or technical experts a visa to:
a. start and operate one or more tech companies
b. invest and serve as on the board of directors of Singapore companies;
c. lead teams in Singapore;
d. be a consultant or mentor for local start-ups, including working with our universities.
12. This is a scheme that we seek to draw in top-end global talents to come to Singapore to create new business opportunities either by themselves, in partnership with Singapore companies or in partnership with IHLs to morph the next generation of tech talent. We will begin accepting applications in Jan 2021 with 500 places upon launch, and applicants will be assessed based on their track record in founding or leading sizeable tech companies as well as in the development of tech products with mass adoption. More details of the Pass will be announced shortly by EDB who will be administering it with the support of MOM.
13. Some of you might be wondering what is the difference between this and the employment pass. Today, many or all employment pass holders will need the sponsorship of a particular company. This is not the nature of what the top tech talent is looking for. Many of them will need to have some flexibility to work across different companies. Many of them may not even have a company but they are coming here to start a company.
14. This is a programme where we will not just be looking at someone’s credentials in terms of qualifications but really on how they have contributed to the gobal tech ecosystem. This is not one whereby mid-tier people will come in and compete at a level of the employment pass. These are really the top talent that we are looking for. And we are not alone in this. We recognise that many countries also have similar schemes where they try to compete for top talents from around the world. I am confident that Tech.Pass will add to the critical mass of established tech talent in Singapore and create a flywheel effect to further strengthen our position as a leading tech hub for the region. This will generate many more exciting business and career opportunities for our local talent and companies.
15. That is the genesis of how we intend to continuously strengthen our ecosystem.
a. The first point has to do with the development of our local pipeline – of how our IHLs and CETs are training as many people as we can in Singapore’s ecosystem.
b. The second prong has to do with our global innovation alliance – where we tap into the talent from all across the world even though not all of them are physically in Singapore.
c. This is the third prong – whereby we attract the best in the industry from all across the globe to come and set up businesses in Singapore even though they may not be affiliated or bonded to a company at this point in time. Or they might have started businesses but sold off their businesses and are looking for new opportunities. These are the people at the very top who have the expertise to manage large teams of tech talent. This is what we intend to do and that is taking into feedback from many of you on how we can strengthen the tech ecosystem and further Singapore’s ambition being the tech hub of Southeast Asia.
16. Thank you very much for your ideas and for giving us this opportunity to share with you what we intend for our tech ecosystem.