Speech by Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry, Guest of Honour at the Opening Session of the 45th Ngee Ann Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony

Published Date: 06 May 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Parents and graduands

Members of the Ngee Ann Polytechnic Council, Faculty and Alumni,

Mr Clarence Ti, Principal, Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Introduction

1. Good morning and thank you to Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) for inviting me to join you on this special day. Let me first extend my heartiest congratulations to the 314 graduands who will be receiving their diplomas in Aerospace Technology and Marine & Offshore Technology in a short while. Let us put our hands together to congratulate them. Graduands, as you get ready to embark on the next chapter of your lives, I think, like what Clarence has mentioned earlier, it is a good time to also acknowledge those who have supported you in your journey – your family, your parents, your grandparents, siblings, lecturers, mentors as well as your friends. Graduands, let us thank them.

2. Now I must tell you that I did not coordinate my message this morning with Clarence. But, similar to him, I want to share three main messages about the pursuit of your passions, the first point that Clarence had talked about earlier.

You are ready to pursue your passion

3. First, you are ready to pursue your passions. As graduates of the School of Engineering, you are really well prepared to seize opportunities presented in Singapore’s on-going economic transformation. I am confident that each and every one of you would play an important role in shaping the future of Singapore’s Aerospace and Offshore Marine Engineering (OME) industries.

4. I say that because, like Clarence, I also am an EDB alumni. EDB is the Economic Development Board, a government agency that promotes clusters that are important to Singapore in terms of our economy and jobs creation. The Aerospace and Offshore & Marine sectors have always been key pillars for Singapore. Indeed, much effort has gone into preparing each and every one of you for your future. At NP, the School of Engineering has in place a one-week industry induction programme at the start of each academic year, where you and other students will go on industry visits and interact with industry practitioners. I understand that most of you after going through the one-week programme, would have gained valuable insights into the various sectors, and heard first-hand from practitioners, the diverse experiences and also the challenges related to the engineering profession. Some of you would have also gone on overseas study trips and immersion programmes to gain global exposure. I think global exposure and global ambition is a very important element for each and every one of you, particularly in industries that are related to your field of study. All these, together, with the robust curriculum rolled out by NP, as well as industry-relevant training and immersive learning experience will undoubtedly give you a head start in your careers.

5. Your learning, however, if I can say this again without belabouring the point, does not end at the start of your careers. It does not mean that your learning will stop at the point of your graduation. In fact, this is the first step of lifelong learning. Each of us will have to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn. Even though you are very well prepared to start your careers, I want to echo what Clarence has mentioned earlier, keep your minds open and be willing to adapt to the changing times ahead, regardless of the industry that you may first choose to join. That willingness to continually acquire new knowledge and deepen your skills sets throughout life, will keep you moving even if the path that you take initially changes its course later on, due to globalisation or technological advancement.

The pathways to pursue individual passions will differ

6. So this leads me to my second message – the pathway that each individual will pursue will differ, and there is no singular route for the pursuit of your passions, and the pathway that you choose will likely be different from those of your peers. Now, in my own constituency during the annual bursary awards, I will have the chance to speak to 1,200 students in a very cosy manner over 50 sessions. I will always say to the students – no matter how young they are – I will try to share with them that there are many mountains in this world. You do not need to climb the mountain that your friend is trying to scale. Choose your own mountain to climb. Some of you may choose to further your studies, and some may start work immediately to gain hands-on experience. For example, one of your seniors, Chia See Yi, opted to start work straightaway after graduation in 2013 to gain the work experience that is so valued in the industry. She landed her first job as a trainee in Singapore Airline’s (SIA) Engineering company. See Yi went through the company’s rigorous training programme for a year, which provided job-specific training on top of what she had learnt in NP. You can see that her company is very willing to devote resources and time to put her through a year of training. She is currently part of a team responsible for servicing SIA’s fleet of aircraft, something that she enjoys doing. This relates to the point that Clarence talked about, if you are passionate about what you are doing, it does not feel like a job, but like a hobby. You also get paid for it.

7. Some of you may also decide to adopt a combination of starting your career while furthering your studies. A possible pathway for this is the Earn-and-Learn Programme (ELP). The Earn and Learn Programme was created to help you master your skills and to provide you with an edge in careers related to your discipline of study. It is essentially a work-study programme, designed to match employers to fresh polytechnic graduates like you in related fields. Under the Earn and Learn programme, participants will undergo structured on-the-job training and mentorship, leading to industry-recognised certifications at the end of the programme.

8. Currently, Marine and Offshore Engineering diploma graduates may sign up for the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme. One of your seniors, Muhammad Syafiq bin Nazrin, has gone through the Earn and Learn programme. Now let me give you an update on this. Syafiq graduated from NP with a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering in 2013, and signed up for the Earn and Learn Programme in Marine and Offshore Engineering in 2015, as he wanted to gain insights and make inroads into the marine industry. He was successfully matched with SembCorp Marine, where he works as an Assistant Engineer today. So the Earn and Learn Programme has helped to enhance Syafiq’s knowledge of the industry and also in a way affirmed his career decision. By working and studying at the same time, it helps him to apply what he has learnt in the lecture hall and the classroom, to the work environment. This iterative process also helped Syafiq to confirm that this is the path that he wants to take. With continual learning and opportunities for development, Syafiq’s career prospects look promising.

9. Like Syafiq, throughout your career, there will be other opportunities for you to acquire new skills, or to upgrade specific skills, depending on your interest, your passion, your strength, as well as your career needs, such as through skills-based modular courses being rolled out by the polytechnics and universities. So really, I encourage you to make the most of the skills training opportunities made available to you through the different pathways in the pursuit of your passion. Continual education should not develop into a paper chase, it is not about getting that certificate, but should be a gradual process of developing and honing valuable skills, bit by bit, deepening our skillsets and eventually mastering it. I truly believe that it is not the pathway one takes that matters. Like what I had mentioned about the mountain analogy, not everyone has to scale Mount Everest; there are different mountains that you can choose to scale. What is more important are the attitudes and values held on the pathway that will define you as a person; these will determine what you will gain from career and training opportunities along the way.

Making meaningful contributions with your skills

10. My third message to you today, is that you can make a meaningful contribution to those around you while pursuing your passion. I think it is important for us to look beyond ourselves. Look beyond yourself, and realise that more than just achieving career or academic success, what truly withstands the test of time is the positive impact that you have made in the lives of others – people around you, however small it may be. That positive energy that you release, the smile that you bring to someone is something that is priceless. I believe that most of you will know the phrase “It is in giving, that we receive”. I know that many of you, other than studying hard in NP, also volunteer to certain causes that matter to you.

11. In pursuing your passions, some of you may not even be aware that you are inspiring others. By pursuing your passion, you would really exude a lot of positive energy and attributes that will rub off on others. Among us today are graduates who have followed their hearts in deciding what they want in their careers, and have inspired others to follow their examples. For example, it is well known that the Aerospace and Offshore and Marine sectors are generally very male dominated. Let me ask, out of the 314 graduands, how many female graduands do we have with us today? I always ask this when I go to the IHLs. Raise your hands, ladies! I know there are quite a few female graduands in our midst today, and I have asked NP for some statistics.

12Five years ago, 8% of our Aerospace Technology graduates were female. Make a guess, what do you think is this percentage today? Today, this number has risen to 17% – an encouraging two-fold increase in the female representation in this course. Way to go! Now this trend is also observed in our Marine and Offshore Technology diploma, where the proportion of female graduates increased from 15% five years ago to 22% today. I would like to commend our young ladies who have chosen to enter these courses – your open-mindedness and courage in a way will blaze the trail for other young ladies down the road. Your courage will also put you in good stead for your careers, and will inspire future batches of graduands. Let us put our hands together to congratulate our ladies.

13. All of you have, in your own way, inspired many others and made a difference in their lives. I know many of you are looking forward to receiving your diplomas, and will not belabour this point further. But the last point about stepping out of our comfort zones, identifying a cause – a community or social cause that matters to you, is important. Look around, navigate this world and figure out what matters to you. It will most likely be related to your interest, your passion, and your strength. When you find that, you will find tremendous energy. That alone can fuel your passion to go the extra mile to rally more people to contribute to this cause. Continue to make the pursuit of your passion count by using the skills you have learnt in Ngee Ann Polytechnic to tackle real-world problems, and through that, make lives better for others.

Conclusion

14. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and success in the years ahead, whether you choose to join the industry or further your studies. In today’s world, a fast-changing one, often plagued by uncertainties, I think the only way forward, is to constantly learn, unlearn and relearn to stay relevant. All of you will face challenges in the future, but as a passionate learner, one that stays abreast of changes, and has a thirst for lifelong learning, I am confident that you will do well.

15. Once again, congratulations to all of you. I wish you a wonderful day ahead. Thank you very much.

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