Recently my friend, Di, was offered to study full-time at a local university while continuing to draw part of her salary. Her employer will be paying for all her tuition fees and she will have her old job back when she graduates. Di has worked for this company for 3 years after graduating from Temasek Poly and her boss told her that she will get a chance to lead a small team 2 to 3 years after she graduates, subjected to good performance. Needless to say, knowing Di all since secondary days, she’s a responsible, humble and intelligent person. She might not get straight As but she is a kind soul and most importantly, a team player with a strong sense of justice (yeah NPCC rocks haha).
As the government continues to drum the PR channels with their messages of moving away from the focus of degrees, I think it’s only fair that we look at what possibly went wrong before, because in doing so we can see how we should move forward.
First, for me and many of my friends, we weren’t really sure of our future or our lives at the age of 17 after O levels. Yeah a Business diploma is cool but so is a Communications diploma. To help scatter brains make up their mind, I think more information could be provided regarding the jobs out there and their starting salaries. Now that government has started the Jobs Bank (www.jobsbank.gov.sg), they could possibly crunch more data, together with tax returns and come up with some information to help students.
Yes, current data doesn’t mean the same good job will be there 3 years later in our fast moving economy, but it is a start and students/teachers/parents should read this data with market and investment trends to help our youth make a more informed decision. Of course, first and foremost, one has to study what one enjoys, otherwise you would naturally end up doing badly!
Second, is our infatuation and dependence on foreign talent. We took the easy way to boost our economy for the past decade by importing in the skilled people that the economy needed. That in itself is not a fatal wound, but it could be depending on what we do thereafter. Like the policy of importing foreign players into national sports, if these foreign talent cannot nurture the next generation of local talent, then what’s the point?
This applies for skilled labourers as well. Yes, we can import them but the more crucial task at hand is to get locals to learn from them. That is why meaningful internships are important. Ask around and you will hear endless meaningless internships from poly and ITE students being used as cheap labour. Perhaps schools and employers might even consider longer internships for up to a year because companies are seldom incentivised to train students up if the internship is too short.
Third, if government invests so much in scholarships for top A level and IB students, would they do the same for poly and ITE students who have proven themselves at their jobs thru a direct scholarship or a form of subsidy to the company who would be sending the person for further training or tertiary education?
Lastly, there is this simple notion of communication which trumps everything out there. My friend Di was blessed to have an employer who constantly communicated with her. Telling her what they liked about her, what they didn’t, what schemes/courses were out there that were available to her and what she needed to achieve to get them. They showed her the path and briefed her about career progression.
We often get that if you join an organisation as a graduate, as someone “marked” for management. But do we do that with poly and ITE graduates? Why don’t we? That is one big question we have to answer before we can really move forward.