Opening Address by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) at the Singapore-Industry Scholarship (SgIS) Award Ceremony, at MES Theatre at Mediacorp

Published Date: 04 August 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Friends, colleagues,

Parents and scholarship recipients,

1. Good evening. Congratulations to our latest batch of SgIS award recipients. This marks the start of an exciting journey for you, and I am very happy to join you as you mark this significant milestone in your lives.

2. We first established the SgIS five years ago to nurture the next generation of industry leaders. During this period, the SgIS has cemented its position as a unique talent development partnership between industries and the government. I am happy to see the scheme grow from strength to strength – we now have 62 Sponsoring Organisations spanning 16 industries, and our 117-strong cohort of award recipients this year is the largest to date.

3. Through the SgIS, we are supporting our industries to identify and recruit bright young students early, and build up their pipeline of young talent, who have the potential to blossom into future leaders to lead the charge in our key economic sectors. That way, we can build a strong Singaporean core in all our key industries.

Talent Spanning Across Different Pathways

4. There are various prospects for our economy, and plenty of headroom to push for innovation and development of different capabilities. The Government is working on promoting innovation and R&D, through research and enterprise programmes. At the same time, we are also working to promote lifelong learning to deepen skills mastery. On top of developing such capabilities and innovation, it is important for our people to have entrepreneurial zeal, so that all Singaporean products and services can move into the foreign markets. We are living in the most exciting region of the world. If you ask which region in the world is growing the fastest, it is Asia, particularly East Asia. Where in East Asia, or in Asia, would you want to expand your business? Singapore is one of the prime candidates. We are a global cosmopolitan city, connected with the rest of the world, and with good infrastructure, good talents and stable environment. Singapore is the best place to do business. We remain open to the world, which is why today, both local companies and MNCs are participating as Sponsoring Organisations.

5. The private sector, of course, looks at talent somewhat differently from public sector. I have worked in both, and can vouch that the qualities required can be different. The public sector places emphasis on sound analysis, institutional memory, and consistency in the application of policies. The private sector values those with gungho spirits and who are able to deliver results on time and on target. Having said that, the public sector is also driving innovation and needs talent who can manage and take risks, while the private sector also needs to answer to shareholders and ensure institutional robustness.

6. The truth is while different sectors and industries may put different weights on varied qualities, we all need people of different talents – thinkers, doers, risk takers, institution builders, even mavericks. This is why our education system also offers varied pathways – academic, applied, hands on, and exposure to many different disciplines and training experiences of different natures.

7. To illustrate generally, a JC education emphasizes more on academic training and analytical thinking. Polytechnics provide an education with stronger technical grounding, and practical hands-on experience. I do not think either pathway is innately superior – it is simply a matter of which learning method is more effective for the student.

8. In fact, knowledge and skills must go hand-in-hand. A strong academic foundation remains important, as it provides the theoretical grounding necessary for the pursuit of skills mastery. Conversely, practical skills are more meaningful and effective if the underlying theory is well-understood.

9. I am therefore glad that that over the years, there has been a good spread of SgIS recipients across various education pathways. For example, 30%-40% of our award recipients each year come from the Polytechnics. Today, 1 in 5 polytechnic students go on to further their studies at our Autonomous Universities, and they account for a third of the universities’ intake. As applied learning options such as those at the Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore University of Social Sciences expand and become more pervasive, I expect to see these proportions grow.

Inspiring Recipients

10. We have a group of very promising award recipients this evening who exemplify qualities in both thinking and doing. Cheong Cheng Hao, has been working part-time since the age of 14, juggling the demands of school and work. Despite such trying circumstances, Cheng Hao never lost sight of his passion for engineering. He completed his N-levels, obtained a Higher Nitec in Electronics Engineering, went on to study Engineering with Business at Singapore Polytechnic. With the support of STMicroelectronics, Cheng Hao will be further pursuing his interest through the Bachelor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering programme at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). We wish him all the best!

11. Indeed, one’s passion can serve as a compass in life, guiding your decisions and directions. Along the way, you may encounter obstacles and setbacks, but they can surely be overcome, even if it means doing so with some detours or taking paths less travelled. Congratulations to Cheng Hao!

12. Another of our award recipients, Gayathiri Sivaraj, is a self-proclaimed people-oriented person. She was curious about the early childhood sector, where her mother had built her career. Having completed her Polytechnic studies, she took on various jobs as a teacher aide in a pre-school, and a teaching specialist conducting speech and drama lessons to pre-school children. From these experiences, she discovered her passion – to contribute towards the growth and development of people. Supported by the National Council of Social Service, Gayathiri will be pursuing a Bachelor’s in Business Administration at the National University of Singapore, where she plans to specialize in Human Resource Management.

Commitment to Talent Development

13. Cheng Hao and Gayathiri may not fit the profile of the typical scholarship holder. But why should there be a typical scholarship holder? All of us are different in our talents, aspirations, weaknesses and character. To do well, the only common denominator necessary is understanding our strengths and leveraging them by working hard.

14. At this point, let me register my deep appreciation for the strong support and commitment shown by our Sponsoring Organisations over the years. Your progressive approach towards talent development is instrumental to the success of the SgIS, as we work together to build a strong core of local talent in our key economic sectors.

15. To our SgIS award recipients, in the days to come, you will have access to valuable learning and development opportunities under the SgIS Scholars’ Development and Engagement Programme, including internships with your respective Sponsoring Organisations. Your Sponsoring Organisations have committed substantial time and effort towards the planning of these internships, as well as other developmental programmes tailored for your needs. Many even provide multiple internships so that you can reaffirm your career aspirations through broader opportunities for exposure. They are committed to undertaking this journey with you, so I hope you will treasure these opportunities to enrich your learning and start becoming a valuable contributing member of your organization.

16. Thank you.

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