Singapore employers find agility to meet business challenges

In the second of a 2-part article, the spotlight is on how the Professional Conversion Programme has helped a local company overcome the challenges in today’s economic climate.
By: | June 19, 2020

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Under the Adapt and Grow Initiative, Workforce Singapore (WSG) offers Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) to help mid-career PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) undergo skills conversion and successfully transition to a new career.

In part 1 of the article, Norefa Binte Riffin, a manager at local F&B business, shared how PCP has helped her develop and grow in her new career. Here, her employer, Noor Hisham Bin Rahmat, highlights how PCP has helped his business gain footing in a world disrupted by COVID-19.

Can you tell us more about was incorporated on January 11th, 2018. We started off with a team of chefs from At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy where I had graduated from.

We started doing small catering for corporate meetings, lunch meetings and private events and specialised in creating custom-made menus depending on the theme of the event. Due to the shortage of manpower and a specialised team, we had to collaborate with other chefs from our circle of friends.

Hence, the name Chefco came up as it meant “Chef Collaboration”. We had to work and plan the business ourselves and it has been both challenging and painful. However, we managed to make it happen with our positive attitude. Although my original team broke up, I stayed with the company as the founder and owner because I could still reach out to the customer base that I had.

Why did you decided to tap on Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Professional Conversion Programme (PCP)? 

It is difficult to get staff with relevant F&B experience and the remuneration is very expensive for a new startup company like ourselves, as our cashflow is not strong.

Hence, while I was searching for an employee to step in as an assistant to manage customer service and take orders at the store, I got to know of WSG’s PCP and the funding support available. Thereafter, I made further enquiries and sought their advice and learnt how this is a meaningful programme that could benefit both the employer and the employee.

The programme allowed my employee, Norefa, to make a successful career conversion. The funding support through course fee grants and salary support really helped us financially as employers. 

What were some of the business challenges that you faced? 

The biggest challenge that we faced was adjusting to how the COVID-19 pandemic was drastically affecting our business. Plus, our lease was on the verge of expiring and we had to plan fast and proposed to change our services at the Alexandra Hospital Cafe.

However, it was not working as for two months, we were getting less and less customers. I recognised that I had to accommodate to Norefa’s pay regardless, and we never intended to terminate her services as her performance was very good.

We then made a drastic decision to end our contract and move from Alexandra Hospital Cafe to do event catering at an event space at Pasir Panjang. We were collaborating with another company managing the event space, but it was just a temporary measure.

Then, we had to move fast and decided to manage an all-kitchen concept, where we fine-tuned our services to making home deliveries islandwide. We also had to adjust the job scope for Norefa so as to make use of her talent and quick learning as she was a very adaptable person.

We empowered her with more duties, such as handling the company’s P&L, ordering of stocks, managing online customer services, taking online ordering, taking feedbacks from customers and assisting me on menu design and meeting clients virtually on Zoom.

How has the PCP helped you? 

WSG’s PCP has helped us in every part of the business as an employer and company. The funding support helps us in our finances, allowing us to better manage our cashflow and maintaining staff remuneration.

It will also help us find talents who may not have the relevant F&B experience but are passionate to enter this industry when we upgrade or start afresh on a new cafe or restaurant. We also feel heartened to be able to play an active role in helping those who are interested to make the career switch into the F&B industry. 

I am actually a mid-career switcher myself, having made the change from being a police and prison officer for 20 years, to working in a kitchen as a cook and then as a chef. Unfortunately, there were no such programmes then to ease this career transition!

How has the PCP helped your employee?

The PCP helps employees adapt to career changes and understand the job scope given to them, especially in a sector that may be totally new to them. The training allows them to study the various modules in class, with hands on exposure through on-the-job training and work duties given to them.

This allows us as employers to understand their strengths and weaknesses so that that we can mold Norefa into who she is today.

Do you plan to tap on the same programme in future? Or are there any other WSG programmes that you plan to tap on as well? 

We are considering tapping on WSG’s PCP for our back-of-house staff in the near future and will look at relevant programmes for our other departments once we expand our Tingkat (home delivery) services.

We see this as a service that benefits our customers during this COVID-19 situation and is also good for working mothers and family where they have no time to cook for themselves and their families. 

What is your advice to fellow employers? 

As an SME business employer, I believe that there are challenges with staffing and financing regardless of the situation, and especially during this COVD-19 pandemic.

My advice is to be open to all assistance that the Government is offering and look out for the relevant programmes offered by WSG to help businesses and our workers.

Such assistance can benefit businesses from the hiring perspective and also help Singaporeans better adapt to their career transition by providing a platform for them to reskill and upgrade themselves.