How SMEs Can Get Help from Budget 2020 to Transform Businesses

Dr Phua Chee Teck, Director
National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (NACE), led by Nanyang Polytechnic


It’s been called a “Unity Budget” and indeed, it been unprecedented in its emphasis on near-term support for companies feeling the immediate effects of the economic slowdown.  Among the most significant themes in Singapore Budget 2020 is the clarion call for companies to use the opportunity to transform – redesign jobs, reskill workers and introduce technology. SMEs would have read about the budget with relief: It was clear that the authorities understood the anxiety on the ground, and this Unity, as well as the recent Resilience Budget, include measures to stabilise our economy while supporting wages and enterprises.

A very salient message that DPM had for businesses was to prepare now, so that we can jump on the upturn when it happens. For companies wishing to transform, reskill and apply new technology, the government has rolled out the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit to help companies kick start the process. For individuals to upgrade and remain relevant, the SkillsFuture Credit has been topped up and enhanced.

In my line of work, I have met many SME owners who are in a familiar situation: uncertain, undecided or are adopting a wait-and-see stance when it comes to transformation.

There could be many reasons for this:

1. While technologies and solutions are available, their workforce may not be altogether ready to grasp those opportunities. Changing operations may impact the bottom-line and be potentially met with resistance from staff. And, the rate of return of investment is discussed along with revenue growth. However, equally crucial are benefits like job satisfaction and manpower retention.

2. And, while companies understand that reskilling and job redesign are key, they may be unsure about which skills to start with, where to get the training, and how to apply the new skills within the company. Afterall, companies want to redesign jobs to retain the staff they’ve spent resources and money on to develop.

Both budgets aim to help SMEs take that first step, which can be most challenging. Change can feel and sound hard to SMEs, and stepping out of the comfort zone is never easy.

But the key message shouldn’t be ignored: Get help and get transformed, shift your workforce, reskill and redesign jobs where needed. Then, when the uptick happens, your company can be ready to leap for opportunities. We can think of this as an opportunity. 

Here are a few steps that I can immediately recommend:

1. Take a look at the Industry Transformation Map, and consider how your business model can be transformed using technology and / or job redesign – for the company to remain competitive.

2. Stocktake your company’s bank of competencies and make reference to the Skills Framework to identify solutions and skills needed to support your company’s transformation.

3. Develop a plan for staff training, coupled with job redesign to support your company’s transformation. Identify staff capabilities and strengths, and put in HR processes to recognise staff’s commitments in job redesign.

The National Wages Council (NWC), in its latest recommendations, is urging employers who have yet to develop training plans to seek help from various organisations and associations, among which is the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (NACE). You can reach NACE for help on how move forward at You can also get more information about NACE here.

first published 13 March 2020

updated 31 March 2020