6 September 2017

IE Singapore unveils plan to help trading sector digitalise, IE Singapore to merge with SPRING

The Wholesale Trade Industry Transformation Map (ITM) has been unveiled by Minister S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) at International Enterprise (IE) Singapore’s event Digitalisation of Trade – New Mindsets, New Skillsets.

The ITM will help companies digitalise to enhance global growth and productivity, and targets to create 10,000 new jobs by 2020. Comprising over 34,000 firms, the wholesale trade industry provides livelihoods for more than 325,000, accounting for 9% of Singapore’s workforce in 20161. Wholesale trade will drive economic growth for Singapore

In 2016, wholesale trade contributed S$47.3 billion (12%) to the nation’s GDP2. The industry continues to grow strongly as Asia’s rising population, urbanisation and consumerism3 drive trade flows to meet the region’s increased demand for food, infrastructure materials, fuel and electronics, and more. However, wholesale trade is highly susceptible to global trends such as rising protectionism as it is an externally-oriented sector. Technological advancements are also transforming the global marketplace, business models and job functions.

Said Lee Ark Boon, CEO, IE Singapore, “Asia’s boom in urbanisation and consumerism presents new opportunities. ‘South-South’4 trade is also growing much faster and Singapore is well-positioned to play an important role. However, external volatility and digital technology are changing how trade is conducted. Companies need to transform business models and be equipped with new skillsets. A strong core of Singaporean talent and companies will underpin our sustainability and long-term success.”

The Wholesale Trade ITM has been developed in collaboration with a wide range of key stakeholders, covering industry players, trade unions, trade associations and government agencies. It charts out strategies to ensure the sector remains relevant by:

Building trade connectivity through digital marketplaces and platforms

Digital business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce transactions are expected to reach US$6.7 trillion by 20205. To overcome disruption and tap this growth, Singapore needs to build a conducive environment for digital marketplaces and platforms to flourish. The ITM includes plans to accelerate global trade connectivity, facilitating and capturing value from e-commerce trade flows, as well as increasing SMEs’ market access and productivity through digital marketplaces and platforms. Key initiatives include:

ASEAN Digital Trade Facilitation Platform: this is led by the Singapore Logistics Association (SLA) and in partnership with GeTS Global, and expected to be ready in Q417.

 Fosters collaboration among ASEAN logistics associations; facilitates customs clearance through a single window.

 Allows companies within the region to move goods across regional borders in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.

Cross Border Cognitive Supply Chain Solution: A digital trade platform by GeTS Global and IBM Asia Pacific, collaboration agreement signed at the ITM launch event.

 Enables 350,000 connected trading partners (such as Bridgestone, Goodyear, Olam and Toyota) on IBM's Supply Chain Business Network (SCBN) to do automated customs declaration at 18 customs nodes across the world, including Singapore, China, Indonesia, Thailand and the US.

 Equipped with cognitive capabilities and predictive analytics to help traders mitigate disruptions, risks and costs. E.g. in bad weather conditions, it will recommend an alternative source for the obtaining of goods and alternative routes for shipment to ensure timely delivery.

Work with trade associations and private enterprises to help SMEs list on digital marketplaces, enabling them to access new markets and enjoy economies of scale through shared services on these platforms.

Strengthening enterprise capabilities and growing a vibrant ecosystem of wholesale trading enterprises in Singapore;

A new government agency, named Enterprise Singapore, will be formed through the merger of IE Singapore and SPRING. This underscores the government’s commitment to adapt and strengthen its support for enterprises. Leveraging IE Singapore’s core strengths in internationalisation and SPRING’s expertise and levers in helping SMEs, the newly-formed agency will offer companies a holistic and integrated network to build capabilities and access overseas markets opportunities. Going forward, Enterprise Singapore will be the lead agency driving the transformation of the wholesale trade industry.

Developing industry-ready talent equipped with deep skills for digitalisation and internationalisation.

The transformation of the wholesale trade industry will create new opportunities for the workforce. Demand for specialised talent with digital skillsets such as digital marketing, global supply chain and data analytics will grow as companies address new business models. Companies will require talent with regional market exposure, connections and experience. The range of roles with greater demand include Digital Marketers, Data Analysts, Regional Business Development Managers, Risk & Compliance Officers and Supply Chain Specialists.

There are ongoing partnerships with Workforce Singapore (WSG), National Trade Union Congress, institutes of higher learning and industry players to identify job opportunities and prepare PMETs and students for careers in wholesale trade.

The Wholesale Trade ITM skills framework, to be completed by the second-half of 2018, will provide industry-validated insights into the skillsets required for the future of trade.

At the PMET level, relevant Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP) and tertiary programmes will provide local PMETs with opportunities to re-skill and move into new positions in wholesale trade. The PCP provides a structured pathway for more Singaporeans to be equipped with fundamentals of international trade with foundation skills and knowledge in supply chain management, trade finance, risk management, logistics and operations management. Importantly, it will prepare them with skills for the future, like trade analytics and e-payment systems.

New academic programmes have been added to existing ones with SMU and Nanyang Technological University to develop talent for the trading sector. Key initiatives include:

Certificate/ Minor Programme in International Trade

 IE Singapore and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop a Certificate/Minor Programme in International Trade.
 The programme is primarily targeted at PMETs looking to develop specialised skillsets in international trade. It covers areas such as digitalisation, analytics and regional cultural intelligence.

PCP - South East Asia Ready Talent

 IE Singapore, WSG and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) signed an MOU at the ITM launch to develop a PCP to nurture a pipeline of talent with regional market knowledge.
 The structured programme includes a training curriculum for financial savviness, business and language, with participants having opportunities to network with industry leaders and learn on the job.
 It includes market experience through overseas attachments and projects, preparing them for regional positions in Southeast Asia.

PCP - International Trading Executives

 IE Singapore, WSG, the Singapore Management University (SMU) and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Academy launched this in 2016.
 To date, 65 mid-careerists have successfully found employment in trading companies. SMU is working towards a target of 100 PMET placements per year and will incorporate more digitalisation relevant modules for future runs.

Diploma in International Trade & Business

 IE Singapore and Ngee Ann Polytechnic signed an MOU at the ITM launch to jointly develop a Diploma programme in International Trade & Business.
 The first wholesale trade-related diploma programme in Singapore, it will incorporate modules on digital business solutions and analytics.
 First intake, estimated to enrol 120 students, will begin in April 2018.

1 Source: Ministry of Manpower

2 Source: Department of Statistics

3 The United Nations projects that the population in Southeast Asia−the world’s third largest growth region behind China and India−will grow from 616 million in 2013 to 760 million in 2040, an increase of almost 25%.

4 Refers to countries in the southern hemisphere, namely in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

5 https://ww2.frost.com/news/press-releases/global-b2b-e-commerce-market-will-reach-67-trillion-usd- 2020-finds-frost-sullivan/