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Singapore must step up to global competition for talent: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE must do more to attract global talent, in the face of other markets' moves such as fast-track visa schemes, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Monday at the annual A*Star scholarship awards ceremony.

Citing Hong Kong's Technology Talent Admission Scheme to attract STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) talent, and France's revamped French Tech Visa that makes it easier for startups to get skilled manpower, Mr Chan added: "We will need to step up to the competition."

Strong, dynamic, fast-growing companies - both local and foreign - must be assured that they have access to highly skilled global talent, both Singaporean and non-Singaporean, he said. When such companies set up and grow here, they create more opportunities for Singaporean businesses and workers.

Welcoming global talent is one of five prongs in Singapore's talent strategy, as laid out by the minister in his speech.

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Having the right talent mix is important for Singapore to face three global trends, said Mr Chan: an increasingly fragmented world, the rise of intellectual property as a competitive advantage, and the need for multi-sectoral, cross-discipline, cross-cultural teams.

To meet these trends, Singapore must strengthen its fundamentals, continue restructuring efforts and seize new opportunities - with technology and talent required for all of the above, he added.

Most important is to cultivate and grow the Singaporean talent pool, he said. Two prongs of Singapore's talent strategy are lifting the average through training and upskilling workers, and stretching the top through schemes such as A*Star scholarships, which help local talent excel.

A fourth prong is to be well-connected with the world, through programmes such as the Global Innovation Alliance which links Singapore with innovation ecosystems and markets around the world.

Finally, Singapore will continue strengthening itself as a regional safe harbour for talent, attracting overseas Singaporeans back and welcoming talent from Asean.

At Monday's event, almost 100 successful applicants were awarded scholarships. These included 11 recipients of the A*Star Computing and Information Science Scholarship, who will pursue PhDs in artificial intelligence (AI) and computer science.

"This is really to meet the demands of the industry," said A*Star Graduate Academy executive director Lisa Ng. The 11 recipients include existing A*Star scholars, students who were not previously scholars, and individuals with prior work experience.

While AI is a current hot topic, scholars are encouraged to think beyond computer science and look at the "big picture" of where AI could be applied, from biology to mathematics and engineering, said Prof Ng.

To date, about 1,600 Singaporeans have taken up various A*Star scholarships to pursue PhDs.