Speech by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education, at Republic Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony 2019 Session 1, at Republic Polytechnic

Published Date: 02 May 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you here today.

2. First, allow me to extend my heartiest congratulations to the 228 graduands from the School of Hospitality, who will be receiving the Diploma in Hotel and Hospitality Management, and the Diploma in Restaurant and Culinary Operations today.

3. Do remember to show your appreciation to the people who have supported your education journey in the past few years, especially your family, your friends and your lecturers.

Exciting opportunities in the hospitality sector

4. As you embark on your careers in the hospitality industry, you can have the confidence that you will be entering a vibrant and growing sector.

5. Singapore’s hospitality sector has performed well in recent years. Tourist arrivals reached new highs for a third consecutive year in 2018, and so far the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) statistics show that this year it is also going strong. And this is due to strong Asia-Pacific travel demand, increased flight connectivity to Singapore, and various high-profile events that have further strengthened our position as an attractive business and tourism destination. Last year, hotel room revenue increased by around 7.4% to reach $4 billion.

6. But we are not done building and growing Singapore’s tourism and hospitality sector. There is still scope for further growth which will lead to more exciting developments and many job opportunities for our people. For example, the expansion of the two integrated resorts will create up to 5,000 jobs directly, with many more in supporting industries like construction and services. The range of jobs would include those in the hospitality sector, given the introduction of over 2,000 new hotel rooms, additional theme parks with the expansion of Universal Studios Singapore, and the new 15,000-seater entertainment arena by Marina Bay Sands.

7. The Mandai precinct also has much in store. The three iconic nature attractions at Mandai – the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and River Safari – will be re-developed. There will be a new Rainforest Park, the Jurong Bird Park will move over from Jurong, and Banyan Tree will be opening a new eco-friendly resort there too. The Jurong Lake District will also be transformed into a key attraction from 2026, complemented with lifestyle offerings such as F&B and retail. We are rejuvenating Orchard Road and transforming the Greater Southern Waterfront area including Sentosa and Brani into an attractive lifestyle destination for tourists and locals. These are just some projects that the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and STB are working on.

8. The development of the sector will require Government, companies and our workers in the sector to work closely together to stay ahead of the competition. We will need to take advantage of emerging trends, such as new technologies and business models, and changes in tourist offerings both at home and abroad. There is competition, but I am confident that if we work together we can rise above the competition. It is like a boat in fast-flowing waters, if we don’t move forward, we will be swept behind by the rapid currents. This is a never-ending journey, just like lifelong learning is a lifelong journey.

9. I encourage all of you to seek out opportunities, to innovate and create new ideas. You have an important mission to shape the experience of our visitors, and further strengthen Singapore’s brand name on the world stage.

10. Your education in RP has prepared you well to seize these opportunities, through the Polytechnic’s long-standing emphasis on workplace learning and industry partnerships. The School of Hospitality has over 300 industry partners. Your internship with these industry partners has given you valuable on-the-job experience beyond what is taught in the classroom. It also provided the employers with an opportunity to know you better, which is helpful when you apply for jobs or work-learn programmes after your graduation from RP.

11. One of your seniors, Parameswaran Nadaraja, graduated from RP in 2013. He interned at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), and subsequently landed a job with them as a management trainee. Today, Parameswaran is a Concierge Supervisor with MBS, and credits much of his success to the valuable on-the-job learning that he gained during his internship.

12. I would also like to congratulate RP’s School of Hospitality on another strong showing at the WorldSkills competition. This is yet another example of RP’s continuing emphasis on industry-relevant skills, and is testament to the depth and rigour of RP’s training, as well as the passion and dedication of the RP team.

13. One of your fellow graduands, Jerome Lim, was a Silver medallist in Cooking at the 2018 WorldSkills Singapore competition, during which he prepared his deconstructed take on herb-encrusted loin of lamb. He also clinched a Medallion of Excellence at WorldSkills ASEAN the same year. Vanesia Tan, another graduand, has also done RP proud. She was a Gold medallist in Restaurant Service at the 2018 WorldSkills Singapore competition, where she excelled in barista work, fruit carving, and fine dining service.

14. Both Jerome and Vanesia will be representing Singapore at WorldSkills Kazan 2019, where competitors from more than 60 countries will be competing in 56 skills areas. Congratulations once again to Jerome and Vanesia, and we wish both of you all the very best.

Meeting the challenges of the future

15. While we have every reason to be optimistic, we also need to be aware and be well-prepared to deal with the challenges facing our society.

16. One key driving force that will impact the future of our economy and jobs is technological change. It is an unstoppable development in a globalised environment - trying to prevent technology is like trying to reverse the tide, you can try but the tide will eventually win. What we can do is to learn how to harness the power of technology, while being aware of its downsides so that we can take proactive steps to prepare our society for the changes.

17. Technology brings both opportunities and challenges. For example, online food delivery services like Deliveroo and Foodpanda may have disrupted traditional food services companies, but they have also expanded the potential customer base for eateries, especially smaller ones, and given consumers a much wider range of dining choices at home. Digital service solutions such as automated reservation and digital payments can help companies streamline many repetitive processes, freeing up time for staff to focus on guests, and provide better service to meet customer needs. The key is how we use technology appropriately and smartly to enhance operations, to improve our products and services and to raise productivity and competitiveness.

18. And importantly, how we prepare our workforce to use the new technologies effectively, as the man-machine combination of using technology to augment human workers is often the most powerful combination, especially in service industries like tourism and hospitality. Customers still want human touch, and high tech needs to go hand in hand with high touch and high trust. Appropriate use of technology also allows companies to re-design jobs and work processes, to better attract younger workers and enable older workers to continue working and contributing, if they wish to do so.

Lifelong learning to stay relevant

19. An important initiative to prepare our people for the future is lifelong learning. This is our main focus under the SkillsFuture movement - how to learn, unlearn and relearn to stay relevant throughout our careers and to keep ourselves active after retirement. It is a lifelong journey. RP is well positioned to support you in meeting these challenges, and has made strides in recent years to enhance its suite of Continuing Education and Training (CET) offerings. I hope all of you can make good use of these courses and the many SkillsFuture schemes to continue learning and picking up new skills. Learning does not stop after you leave school; it needs to be a lifelong endeavour, something you keep at, regularly come back to refresh your knowledge and skills, pick up new ones, learn more about new industries and opportunities, and keep yourself relevant and up-to-date.

20. Let me share an example of one of your seniors who has come back to RP to upgrade her skills. Vanni Tan graduated from the Diploma in Hotel & Hospitality Management in 2017, and embarked on the SkillsFuture ELP for Specialist Diploma in Hospitality Business Management that same year, while working at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. I had the opportunity to meet Vanni last year, and am delighted to know that she will be receiving her Specialist Diploma later today, and she has also recently been offered a promotion to Management Trainee, in recognition of the deeper skills and experience she has gained through the course.

21. Like Vanni, Nur Khairunnisa Binte Abdul Rahman will also be graduating later today. Khairunnisa graduated from a Higher Nitec in Hospitality Operations at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE College West) in 2016. As she was interested to learn more about hotel operations, she took up the SkillsFuture ELP Leading to Diploma in Business Practice (Hospitality Management) while working at Peninsula Excelsior Hotel. She has also been offered a promotion to Food & Beverage Coordinator, where she facilitates operations across the food & beverage outlets within the hotel. Congratulations to both Vanni and Khairunnisa!

22. I hope these examples will inspire some of our graduates today to consider taking up ELP. It is a good combination of work and study. You can bring what you learn in school to your workplace, and your experiences in the workplace back to school. It is a good way of combining both work and learn.

23. RP has also been investing in its training infrastructure, to make CET more accessible to working adults. Last November, I witnessed the launch of RP’s new CET facility at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar. This is the Republic Polytechnic Academy for Continuing Education @ Paya Lebar, or RP ACE @ Paya Lebar for short. The facility complements RP’s Woodlands campus in providing adult learners with an additional location to access RP’s range of exciting CET courses.

24. RP ACE @ Paya Lebar is off to a good start. There are now five Specialist Diploma courses running out of this location, of which two are in Applied Artificial Intelligence, and Business Analytics. The remaining three are in Applied Learning and Teaching, Healthy Ageing and Community Care for Seniors, as well as Integrated Care Management. RP is also rolling out an exciting range of SkillsFuture Series short courses in emerging areas such as Robotics Process Automation, Design Thinking and Augmented Reality.

25. Before I close, I would like to share two examples of two amazing ladies - one Singaporean, one Thai. I hope their experiences will provide some inspiration for our graduands as you embark on the next lap in your education journey or your career. The first lady is Ms Joanna Dong. Some of you may be familiar with her. She is a singer, who finished in the Top 3 in Sing! China recently. One of her trademarks of her performances is to infuse elements of jazz music into traditional songs. This is how Joanna differentiates herself; this is her innovation. This is how she stands out from other singers who also have beautiful voices. Another thing about Joanna is that she did not just succeed at Sing! China immediately. In fact, when she first started, she failed a few times, including when she did not make it to the finals in the first run of Singapore Idol in 2004, but she never gave up. She kept on trying, and participated in different activities to hone her skills. She released an album in 2008, went into TV, film, musical theatre, and finally she caught her big break in Sing! China. And her trademark combination of jazz and traditional music has allowed her to bring much joy to many people who enjoy her singing and her songs.

26. The next lady is a Thai lady who owns a restaurant in Bangkok - Jay Fai. She is a 70-year-old grandmother, who cooks with goggles to protect her eyes from the chili and smoke. She runs a small restaurant, with tables along the streets, and started as a seamstress. When she was in her twenties, there was a huge fire that burnt down everything, and she lost everything. She decided to help her mother to run a pad thai stall. But she did not just stop there. She looked at how to make pad thai, a common Thai dish, better, to make her stand out. So she bought big prawns instead of chicken. Because of that higher quality, she was able to charge higher prices, and earn higher margins. Because her food was good, people were willing to pay for this special pad thai. Through her dedication for love and cooking, she went on to innovate and invent other special dishes - dry tom yum and crab omelette done in a Japanese omelette style. Her special dishes allow her to stand out. So even though she still runs a small restaurant and calls herself a street food cook, she won a Michelin star. She was recognised for her contribution to the F&B industry. More importantly, she was able to bring a lot of joy to her customers through her food.

27. I share these two examples with you because I think they have a common theme. And that is – if you want to stand out, you have to think about how to do things a bit differently. If you want to rise above the competition, you have to consider what innovation to inject, how you want to provide better service or products, so that you can differentiate yourself from the competition. And don’t be afraid to try, even if you have some initial setbacks. Even if the journey is not smooth sailing, if you keep trying, and keep on improving and innovating, like these two ladies, you will succeed.


28. As you reflect upon your time in RP, I think you will agree with me that you have had a fruitful time learning from others and learning about yourself through the skills honed and experiences gained. Treasure the friends you have made and the networks you have built, because they will be the foundation on which you will build your future successes.

29. As future leaders in the hospitality industry, I also hope that you will find opportunities to give back and contribute to society, as you pursue your personal goals and dreams. This includes helping to mentor or coach your juniors, and when you become industry leaders, offer career and learning opportunities for your juniors. Allow them to also benefit from this rich and diverse range of industry partnerships and internship opportunities that RP can provide. This is an important ingredient for developing a caring and inclusive society, and to help our fellow Singaporeans to stay together so that we move ahead with confidence as one united people.

30. Thank you for allowing me to celebrate this significant occasion with you today. Congratulations once again to all our graduands!

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