Attracting global talent with ONE Pass and grooming local talent for leadership positions

In the race to compete for global talent, Singapore is coming from a position of strength, but we cannot stand still, Manpower Minister Dr Tan See Leng said in a ministerial statement in Parliament (12 September 2022).

Creating a virtuous cycle

What the Singapore Government wants to do with its global talent quest is to create a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone in the workforce. 

At its core, economic development is human capital development – the skills, the knowledge and the ingenuity of a country’s people that generate economic prosperity, Dr Tan said. 

Businesses attract talent, both local and global. And talent and the teams they develop around them in turn attract more businesses and encourages them to grow higher value activities.

A virtuous cycle is thus created which benefits everyone in the workforce.

Countries that fail to do this will stagnate and worse, fall behind, said Dr Tan.

Competing for global talent is an offensive game

Countries like Germany and UK, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and more recently, Malaysia and Thailand, have all launched talent visas of their own. 

These are countries with populations much larger than ours. They are going out of their way to court global talent in this offensive game. What more Singapore?

“Getting this right is all the more critical for Singapore, where people are our only real resource,” Dr Tan said. 

When it comes to talent, you can never have enough – because of the virtuous cycle, said Dr Tan.

Tapping the networks of rainmakers

There are many opportunities for us to capture, be it in the green sector, AI, or FinTech, as we move to create a high value, inclusive and more sustainable economy.

To do that, we need to attract the best from around the world.

“These are the rainmakers of the world, whom we hope to bring to Singapore, so that we can tap on their networks, grow teams around them and learn from their expertise, and through this efforts, we can level up our industries as well as our workforce,” said Dr Tan.

“We are building a rich network of markets, people and ideas, that over time, will show up in the dynamism of our economy.”

Helping locals succeed and compete strongly

Dr Tan said, “Our policies to attract global talent are also meant to accelerate the development of our own local talent pool.”

One key priority is to increase the global and regional exposure of our local talent, so that they can take up leadership positions in global firms, Dr Tan said. 

Dr Tan gave the example of Mr Tan Wern-Yuen, a Singaporean who has ventured abroad to gain valuable experience. He started his first overseas stint as Managing Director of McDonald’s Taiwan. He then became the CEO of Walmart China, where he led a team of 100,000 associates responsible for over US$10 billion in annual revenue. Now, he is back in Singapore, as CEO of PepsiCo APAC, helming the global firm’s operations across Asia-Pacific, Australia, China and New Zealand.

There are good support programmes to support Singaporeans to venture overseas for global exposure. For instance, MAS has the Asian Financial Leaders Scheme that co-funds and sends promising Singaporeans in the Financial Sector on leadership programmes. Other similar schemes include the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative, and Enterprise Singapore’s Global Ready Talent Programme.

At this year’s budget, Dr Tan also announced a new Singapore Global Executive Programme that will help local enterprises build a pipeline of young local talent with potential to take on regional or global leadership positions. 

“Leadership development must fundamentally be driven by our businesses,” Dr Tan said. 

To this end, the Singapore Business Federation is doing its part. It has taken the lead to form an Alliance for Action (AfA) on Business Leadership Development. This AfA brings together businesses and local leaders to look into ways to cultivate conducive conditions for Singapore talent to strengthen regional exposure and assume key leadership roles in enterprises. The AfA will also draw upon the diverse experiences from business and academia to help Singaporeans broaden their networks and learn progressive leadership practices. I look forward to the ideas and initiatives that the AfA will propose.

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