Speech by Senior Minister of State for Education, Mr Chee Hong Tat, Guest-Of-Honour at the Singapore Institute of Technology's Graduation Ceremony, Mediacorp Theatre

Published Date: 18 October 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Professor Tan Thiam Soon, President, SIT

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice Chancellor, University of Glasgow (UofG)

Distinguished guests, faculty members, grandparents, parents, graduands

Ladies and gentlemen

1. Good afternoon. Today, we celebrate the achievement of around 400 graduands who will be conferred joint-degrees by both SIT and the University of Glasgow (UofG), as well as degrees by UofG. I am very happy to see many excited graduands and proud family members amongst us. Some of you might be aware, this location at Mediacorp is the same location as the Star Awards ceremony. Today, our graduands are our stars.

2. UofG has been a partner of SIT since 2011, and it has supported SIT's suite of Engineering programmes, and programme offerings in Nursing and Computing. Today, we have an additional recipient for our ceremony. He is none other than President of SIT, Prof Tan Thiam Soon, who will be receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from UofG. This is in recognition of Prof Tan's achievements and the key role he has played in fostering a strong partnership between SIT and UofG. A round of applause for Prof Tan!

3. Graduands, on this special day marking a significant milestone in your education journey, I would like to encourage you to think about the following three areas as you embark on your career and the next phase of your life. First, the need to innovate to differentiate yourself from the competition. Second, how you can continually grow through having lifelong learning as part of your mind-set, culture, and personal mastery. You should continue to refresh your skills, rejuvenate your mind, and stay relevant. And third, the importance of finding purpose and self-fulfilment in what you do by making a positive difference to others in society. Allow me to touch on each of these areas.

Innovate to differentiate yourself

4. My first message for you is to innovate to differentiate yourself from the competition. This can be done by finding new ways to tackle common problems – even very traditional problems. I met a third generation business owner, John Cheng of Cheng Yew Heng Candy Factory Pte Ltd. Cheng Yew Heng is Singapore's oldest rock sugar manufacturer. When John came on board his grandfather's business, he helped the company adapt to the tastes of the younger generation, by creating trendy lifestyle products using rock sugar. You might have seen JEWELS Rock Sugar Sticks around before. They are colourful rock sugar crystals on stirrers that can be used to sweeten your drink, or just consumed as candy. In fact, John's company had worked with SIT faculty and students to conduct research on improving rock sugar crystallisation growth. JEWELS Rock Sugar Sticks are sold in departmental stores and online today.

5. John recently took part in a food fair in Tokyo, as part of a business delegation to promote Singapore food products to the Japanese market. I met him and the other food producers in Tokyo last Friday, just before Typhoon Hagibis reached the city. They told me that their products have been well received by Japanese consumers, and they hope to reach a total of 2 million consumers in the Japanese market, bringing Singapore food products into Japan.

6. Graduands, you too can innovate and take calculated risks in your own way. One of your seniors, Mr Jesal Goh, co-founded One Third Technologies Pte Ltd back in 2013, after graduating from Temasek Polytechnic. His company works on coming up with innovative ideas on how software can improve business productivity. Jesal joined SIT in 2015, where he picked up new skills, including in cybersecurity. This allowed him to further differentiate himself from his business competitors. What he learnt at SIT was put to good use. Today, One Third Technologies assists SMEs in Singapore to adopt technology for office security, and helps security companies transform and adopt technology in their work processes.

7. However, Jesal's entrepreneurship route wasn't always easy. His company made a loss in 2015, but he never gave up and worked at turning things around by the next year. In 2018, his company grew to have a turnover of half a million dollars for the first time. Jesal continues to be on the lookout for new opportunities, and has plans to expand overseas and tap the region's growing markets. This is an area that Singapore, and Singapore companies have an edge in. When we compete on the basis of product quality and on the basis of trust, this is where our products and services can differentiate themselves from the rest of the competition. I hope we can all learn from Jesal's can-do spirit, his resilience, and his continued desire to grow.

8. So, don't be afraid to choose the path less taken, and do not be afraid of facing some failure and setbacks. If we have zero tolerance for failure, there will be zero chance of innovation. I urge all of you to have the confidence to build on your strengths to innovate and create value. That's the first message – the need to innovate and differentiate yourself from the competition.

Embrace lifelong learning

9. My second message to encourage you to embrace lifelong learning. Doing so will help you continually refresh your skills and rejuvenate your mind.

10. I am glad to know that SIT supports its alumni's lifelong learning journey by providing $2,000 worth of 'SITizens Learning Credits'. You may use these credits to take up courses at SIT, even after you graduate, to upskill and reskill yourself. We are living in an age where industries are being transformed, and new technologies are emerging. You have to be ready. You can prepare yourself to seize new opportunities coming your way by continually refreshing your skills.

11. I am very happy to know that some of your seniors have already made good use of the credits provided. Soh Boon Keong and Daemian Koh, who graduated with Computing Science degrees back in 2015, recently came back to SIT for a two-day boot camp on implementing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Boon Keong is currently working as a Systems Analyst at Resorts World Sentosa, while Daemian is working as a software developer at Avanade. Both of them signed up to improve their skillsets and due to personal interest. They found the course useful and current.

12. Esmond Lim, who graduated with an Aeronautical Engineering degree in 2016, is another SIT alumni who sought to upskill himself. He currently works in a bank, and took up an SIT course on Data Analytics as he was also motivated to gain new skills. He said – I quote – "Learning does not end after graduating. It is a constant throughout life. I like to seize opportunities to learn new skills, to stay relevant."

13. Graduands, your SIT education has given you a strong foundation, and skills relevant to and in demand by industry. You must build on them by continually seeking to acquire new skills, deepening the ones that you already have, and also be open to new domains of knowledge. Doing so will help you further differentiate yourself by always bringing something new to the organisation. It is also something that nourishes your soul. This is the second area – lifelong learning, constant skills upgrading, never stop learning.

Make a difference to others

14. My third and final message for you today is to think about how you can make a positive difference to others in society. You can do so by applying what you have learnt, and improving the lives of those around you through new and innovative ways.

15. I would like to share two stories of how SIT graduands here today have made a difference to others. The first is a team of Nursing graduands who designed a device to help patients who have undergone a tracheotomy. This is a medical procedure where an opening is introduced in a patient's windpipe to help them breathe. Secretions from the opening can be a problem, and the team from SIT were able to work closely in collaboration with Bright Vision Hospital to design a device to help patients to better manage this condition. The device improved the quality of life for patients, and the hospital has since adapted the team's prototype for use. The team members were led by Ms V Nanthiniy, and comprised Ms Chen Guixiang, Ms Siti Nadiah binte Mohamed Ghazalie, Ms Ang Wee Nah, Ms Shih Kai Lee, and Ms Nuratiqah binte Mohd Chik. Well done to the team!

16. My second story is of Mr Hilsann Yong. Hilsann is graduating with a Mechanical Design Engineering degree today. Hilsann developed a personal mobility device shopping trolley for the elderly. He named it "Troll-E". Hilsann was motivated by the experience of his 64-year-old mother, who often had to carry heavy groceries home. His invention won a gold award at the 7th National Assistive & Rehabilitation Technologies Student Innovation Challenge in April this year. Well done, Hilsann!

17. These examples showed that SIT students have applied what you learnt in the university to solve practical problems and improve lives. Your teachers and professors have indeed taught you well. I am impressed by what you have achieved so far, and am confident that there are many more interesting challenges and problems that you can tackle, as you grow in your career and become leaders in your respective fields. Never stop learning, always look for opportunities to innovate, always look for ways to improve lives.

18. Today, Nanthiny and her team work at various public healthcare institutions, and Hilsann has joined Dyson as a design engineer. I hope that they, as well as all of our graduands here today, continue to think of new ways to help their patients and customers, and in so doing, make society a better place.


19. Last night, I was at the Spirit of Enterprise award ceremony. It was a ceremony that was started more than ten years ago, to recognise entrepreneurs who have made a difference to society. When you hear their stories, none of them say that they started a company to make a lot of money. Instead, they started their companies because they were passionate in a particular area – and because they wanted to solve problems and help others, so as to improve society. That was their initial motivation. Along the way, when they do well, they make money, which many of them donate to help others. This could be in the form of scholarships, bursaries, and opportunities for internships to the next generation.

20. One of these opportunities involved students at polytechnics and universities interviewing the entrepreneurs. And I met, amongst the students doing the interviews, two SIT students, who shared with me how their education at the university has given them the confidence to apply what they have learnt. They were also inspired by the entrepreneurs' stories to do something with what they have learnt. I hope the examples and stories of your seniors, your cohort mates, and your fellow graduands will encourage you to give some thought on the three areas I mentioned – to constantly innovate, make learning a lifelong endeavour, and always look for ways to help others to make society a better place.

21. To the SIT class of 2019, my heartiest congratulations to all of you. I believe your SIT education has prepared you well for the future, and I wish you all the very best! Thank you.

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