S MEs are a key pillar of Singapore’s economy. Making up 99 per cent of enterprises in Singapore, SMEs employ 70 per cent of the workforce and contribute nearly half of Singapore’s GDP. It is important that our local SMEs constantly seek ways to transform their business models to stay sustainable and grow, and continue to create good jobs for Singaporeans.
As the enterprise development agency under the Ministry of Trade and industry, SPRING’s mission is to help Singapore enterprises grow and to build trust in Singapore’s products and services. This dedication to helping local enterprises succeed is evident amongst its employees including its Executive Development Scholarship (EDS) scholars Duan Tianzhi and Lim Yen Yee. Both scholars have a passion for helping entrepreneurs and businesses thrive. “I wanted to not only help an individual business but benefit a community of businesses through the course of my work. It was SPRING Singapore’s mandate of helping SMEs achieve growth and business improvements that captivated me,” Yen Yee shares.
Raising Business Capabilities
Today, Tianzhi and Yen Yee are fulfilling their dreams in their respective departments in SPRING. Tianzhi is a Senior Officer in the Engineering Services department, where he assists SMEs in the Process Construction and Maintenance (PCM) sub-sector. This includes companies that provide construction and maintenance services to petrochemical plants on Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom.
Having majored in chemical engineering, Tianzhi tells us that this background knowledge has helped him to better appreciate the discussions with PCM companies. “One of the first few companies I visited was a fabricator of heat exchangers. Even though I was fairly new, I was able to initiate a fruitful discussion with the business owner regarding the types of heat exchangers he was making, their different applications and corresponding market segments.”
SPRING EDS Scholar
Senior Officer, Engineering Services
While Tianzhi tends to companies from a specific sector, Yen Yee in contrast interacts with SMEs from multiple industries. As a Manager in the Business Capabilities department, she supports the growth and development of enterprises by providing them with advice on their grant applications.
Part of Yen Yee’s job is to also administer a national-level initiative in order to establish quality, assurance, trust and professionalism in the management consultancy industry. “Local businesses embark on projects with consultants for capability upgrading purposes. There is a need to raise the standards of the consultancy industry to ensure that management consultants can adequately meet the needs of our enterprises.”
Opportunities Beyond School
With SPRING’s support and emphasis on business exposure, both Tianzhi and Yen Yee have gained tremendous knowledge beyond what they have learnt in school. During the early stages of Tianzhi’s career in SPRING, he was given the opportunity to cover three sub-sectors under the Engineering Services umbrella. He shares, “Plunged into a pile of pending applications across different sectors, I had to quickly acquaint myself with relevant industry knowledge, as well as learn how to handle the grant evaluation process.”
Thanks to this opportunity, Tianzhi has gained a broader perspective – to look at challenges and issues that SMEs face from a macro level. “Through the many conversations I’ve had with SMEs, I am able to better understand their difficulties, find the most suitable form of support to aid their needs, and yet keep the nation’s economic interests at heart,” he says.
Lim Yen Yee
SPRING EDS Scholar
Manager, Business Capabilities
As for Yen Yee, she has learnt to handle both internal and external stakeholders. This includes her superiors, external partners and SMEs. “Various stakeholders have their respective concerns and perspectives on different subject matters and I am sometimes faced with conflicting options with no straightforward answers. But I’ve learnt to keep a positive mind-set, to recognise the stakeholders’ concerns and understand their different point of views.”
Through interactions with her colleagues, bosses and SMEs, Yen Yee has gained confidence in handling any difficult situation that comes her way. “This new-found confidence, coupled with the knowledge I have gained about enterprise development, has empowered me to contribute back to the team and company,” Yen Yee shares with contentment.
A Supportive Culture
For both Tianzhi and Yen Yee, they are thankful for the supportive culture in SPRING. “The support of my colleagues was vital at the early stage of my career. They were patient in guiding me and bringing me up-to-speed as they joined me for company visits,” Tianzhi shares.
As SPRING’s EDS scholars, both Tianzhi and Yen Yee are well aware of what individuals seeking scholarships should pay attention to. Passing on a piece of advice, Tianzhi tells us, “The scholarship’s sponsoring organisation should be an organisation where you see yourself enjoying its work. This is more important than monetary rewards or the duration of the bond.”
As for Yen Yee, she highlights that aspiring scholars should be clear about what they want before committing to any scholarship. “Don’t jump into important decisions before you are ready for it,” she concludes humbly.