SINGAPORE - Businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), will have more support to take the next leap in their transformation journey, with a slew of initiatives outlined by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat in Parliament on Tuesday (March 3).

Chief among the measures is the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit, which provides each eligible employer $10,000 in credits, valid for three years from April 1 this year, to cover up to 90 per cent of out-of-pocket expenses for enterprise and workforce transformation programmes.

Companies can use the credits for transformation projects and to redesign jobs and redeploy workers to more productive roles, as well as send workers for approved training courses, said Mr Chee during the debate on his ministry's budget.

This will benefit over 35,000 enterprises, which hire more than 1.5 million local workers.

Besides funding, firms can also get more assistance from the enhanced SME Centres.

A two-year pilot will see these centres take on the role as growth partners for promising micro and small enterprises. Business advisers at the centre can provide help such as business coaching and the implementation of growth initiatives.

Promising SME leaders will also be groomed in a new three-year pilot programme, called the Enterprise Leadership for Transformation.

The programme, which will start in the third quarter of this year, includes practical-focused modular training, business coaching, networking activities and support for the implementation of business growth plans.

Enterprise Singapore aims to involve 900 SME business leaders over the next three years. Participating local enterprises can receive up to 90 per cent co-funding support from Enterprise Singapore and SkillsFuture Singapore.

Specific sectors will also get a boost. The GoBusiness Licensing portal, which provides a fast way for food service businesses to apply for licences, will be further developed to include sectors like retail. An e-adviser will also be introduced to recommend suitable schemes based on a company's needs.

Mr Chee said: "It is not just about using information technology but, more importantly, to re-engineer our rules and procedures, make them more efficient and pro-business and save businesses time and money."

He was replying to Mr Charles Chong (Punggol East), who had asked how SMEs can be made more aware of the schemes available.

The design industry can also get a pipeline of talent, through a new Design Education Advisory Committee that will be formed on April 1. The committee will strengthen education and industry links to develop manpower with the relevant design skills needed by the industry and wider economy.

Said Mr Chee: "We believe enterprise transformation must start with what the business wants to achieve, what problems it wants to solve, and what capabilities it needs to build to reach its goals. The assistance to companies is enterprise-centric and transformation-focused, based on their needs."

Enterprise Singapore supported more than 13,000 projects from over 11,000 enterprises last year. These will generate $17.3 billion in added value and 21,700 new jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians.

Mr Chee added: "Productivity improvement, innovation and internationalisation remain important pillars of our economy; we must press on with these efforts.

"We are also committed to support businesses at different stages of growth to transform and prepare for the future, so that our companies and workers will emerge stronger when the economy recovers."