Address by Second Minister for Education Dr Maliki Osman at the ITE Graduation Ceremony

Published Date: 28 July 2021 08:00 PM

News Speeches

Mr Andrew Chong, Chairman, ITE Board of Governors

Ms Low Khah Gek, CEO / ITE

Members of the ITE Board of Governors and ITE Staff

Parents, Graduands,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon

1. Thank you for inviting me to join you in today's joyous occasion. To the Class of 2021, congratulations on achieving a significant milestone in your education. This year, we celebrate the achievements of 7,467 Nitec and 6,497 Higher Nitec graduates, as well as 89 Technical Engineer Diploma and 84 Work-Study Diploma graduates. The current COVID-19 situation still limits our ability to have a fully physical graduation ceremony. However, it should not stop us from celebrating your achievements. You have successfully overcome many challenges, including those that have arisen from the COVID-19 situation. It would not have been easy, and I applaud your resilience and efforts. You are now moving on to the next phase of your lives, be it entering the work force or upgrading further. I am confident ITE has prepared you well for both. As you stand at the precipice of your next adventure, let us take the time to express gratitude to all those who have helped you along the way, including the lecturers and staff in ITE, and your family members. Please join me in putting our hands together to thank your families and the ITE family for all their support.

CHALLENGES OF COVID-19

2. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for all of us. In these trying times, however, we have witnessed the resilience and adaptability of our ITE students. Tough as the situation was, ITE students have adapted well to Home-Based Learning (HBL), and continued their learning online in various forms.

3. For instance, Arthur Chong and Ernest Antonio Ching, recent graduates from the Higher Nitec in IT Applications Development and Higher Nitec in Mechatronics Engineering respectively, they collaborated online, conducted research and developed a prototype of an emoji chatbot application. They also presented their idea of a social enterprise that helps youths with autism gain employment, but more importantly, gives them hope for their future. For their life-changing proposal, the duo emerged as one of the top three winners in the Global Finals of the Social Innovation Relay 2020. Well done!

4. As a community, ITE students have stepped up to support their peers too. For example, Ms Nur Ezra Qistina Binte Rosli, a current Nitec in Fitness Training student, is a Peer Supporter and mentor to two classmates of hers. Despite the pandemic, Ezra attended peer support training by ITE and the Health Promotion Board online, which taught her how to detect early signs of distress and equip herself with the skills to motivate others. Ezra put these critical skills to good use when she supported her anxious mentee during the exam period by sharing notes and study tips. Ezra also supported another mentee over the phone and created study notes together while affirming her mentee's efforts.

5. Peer support is one of the key components of a strong student support ecosystem that ITE is committed to strengthening, and this will continue beyond COVID-19. Among the various support measures put in place are financial assistance schemes – such as the emergency fund, the ITE monthly financial assistance scheme, as well as the loaning of laptops and internet dongles. The ITE monthly financial assistance scheme disbursed about 4.8 million dollars which benefitted over 5,000 students in 2020. More than 1,500 laptops or tablets were also loaned or given to ITE students to facilitate their learning during HBL. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the numerous organisations and individuals who have donated generously to support ITE.

6. Mr Steven Muthukumar is an example of a student who has benefitted from this strong network of support. Steven comes from a family of ten. His mother is the sole breadwinner for the family, as his father had to stop work due to health issues.

7. Despite his circumstances, Steven was an active student leader in the Student Council and also received a team award in the 2019 Aviation Innovation Competition organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

8. During the pandemic, ITE facilitated a laptop donation that enabled Steven to participate effectively in HBL. Due to his strong academic performance and contributions to the community and society, Steven received the Howe Yoon Chong (HYC)-PSA Scholarship. Steven graduated from his Nitec in Aerospace Technology course with flying colours and is currently pursuing a Diploma in Aerospace Engineering at Temasek Polytechnic.

9. Steven's story embodies not only the strong community spirit and close industry-partnerships in ITE that provide strong support for our students, but also the grit and determination that our ITE students display in overcoming setbacks and progressing further. There are many Stevens who are graduating today and we are proud of each and everyone of you.

ITE as an Imparter of Work-Ready Skills Through Strong Industry Partnerships

10. ITE's partnerships extend beyond supporting students in need. The economic landscape will be very different post-COVID-19 with new opportunities and growth areas. Our industry partners will continue to play a critical role in working with ITE to support our ITE students and graduates with the best learning experiences, including critical industry relevant skills, and employment opportunities. In particular, I urge the small and medium-sized enterprises to further strengthen their partnerships with ITE, and to recognise the skills and talents of our ITE graduates.

11. During the many engagement sessions which were organised as part of the ongoing Review of Opportunities and Pathways in Applied Education, I heard many stakeholders compliment the strong industry-relevant skills that our ITE graduates possess. This is the result of ITE's unique skills-focused and hands-on pedagogy, which has cultivated many generations of work-ready graduates. ITE operates a 'Workplace@Campus' and 'Campus@Workplace' approach where they replicate the workplace on campus through authentic learning settings and help students learn through real-work experiences with employers.

12. ITE's industry partners are key to this endeavour. One example of 'Workplace@Campus' is the ITE-Surbana Jurong partnership to boost future-ready skills and digital capabilities in the Built Environment sector, including the setting up of the ITE-Surbana Jurong Living Learning Lab or L3 at ITE Colleges. L3 is a microcosm of a Smart Digital Campus, equipped with smart technologies to facilitate experimentation and application in various operating environments by students and staff. We encourage more industry partners to come forward and develop more such spaces in our colleges.

13. Another key area of close collaboration is internships, where students can apply skills learnt in work settings. This 'Campus@Workplace' allows students to gain useful and realistic insights from the experience.

14. Ms Zeng Zi is an excellent example. After completing her GCE 'O' Levels, Zeng Zi enrolled in the Higher Nitec in Event Management course and interned at a company named Shock Entertainment. Impressed by Zeng Zi's ability to learn fast and her strong sense of responsibility, Shock Entertainment signed up as a sponsoring company for Zeng Zi for the Work-Study Diploma programme (WSDip), after she graduated from her Higher Nitec. As part of the WSDip, Zeng Zi will also have the opportunity to build on live events management skills acquired during her Higher Nitec course and learn more about hybrid events planning – skills that will be useful in her current role as an Assistant Producer at Shock Entertainment.

15. In addition, ITE's WSDips demonstrate the close nexus ITE has with industry to equip students with work-ready skills. The WSDips are especially attractive for students who need the financial assurance while pursuing upgrading opportunities. It also suits the learning style of this group of students and upgraders. In my engagements with ITE alumni and students as part of the Review of Opportunities and Pathways in Applied Education, I am heartened that many ITE graduates see the value in the ITE Work-Study Diploma programme – with its unique practice-oriented workplace training model, industry-relevant curriculum developed in collaboration with industry, and valuable work experience gained during the programme.

16. Mr Norheesham B Rahmat is one such student who progressed to the WSDip programme after graduating in 2014 from the Higher Nitec in Marine & Offshore Technology course. During his second year of Higher Nitec study, Norheesham obtained a course sponsorship from Keppel FELS Ltd and completed a 3-month internship with Keppel.

17. While working with Keppel after his National Service, Norheesham realised the importance of deepening his skills in order to progress further in his career. He enrolled into the WSDip in Marine & Offshore Engineering course in 2018. He found the exposure to diverse aspects of the shipyard's processes and activities, and the experience gained, critical to his personal and career growth.

18. Norheesham is valued highly by his employer. During the Work-from-Home period, Norheesham demonstrated leadership qualities by taking on additional tasks. In recognition of his outstanding performance, he will be awarded the SNEF Gold Medal Award today.

19. The skills of our ITE students have been recognised on the world stage as well. At the last WorldSkills ASEAN competition held in Bangkok in 2018, ITE students put up a strong performance for Team Singapore, winning one Gold Medal, two Silver Medals, one Bronze Medal, and one Medallion for Excellence. ITE's strong international performance is testament to the technical competencies that ITE students and graduates possess.

20. Under the Next Bound of SkillsFuture, we aim for the work-study modality to be made available to 12% of each age cohort by 2025. ITE will continue to expand the places and course offerings for WSDips.The pioneer batch of 84 WSDip graduates who enrolled in 2018 has done well. 75% of them have stayed on with their host companies after graduation. Among them, nearly 70% received an increment post-graduation.

21. I encourage employers to continue to recognise the strong passion, commitment, and industry-relevant skills that our ITE graduates possess, by hiring, training and rewarding them appropriately, and to continue to work with ITE to maintain the strong partnerships.

ITE – a Place for Lifelong Learning

22. To our ITE graduands, the stories of Steven, Zeng Zi and Norheesham show that the future is indeed bright for all of you. You are well-placed for whichever path that you choose, be it further upgrading or meaningful employment in diverse sectors and organisations. I am sure many of you will thrive at your workplaces. But learning does not stop after you leave ITE. To remain adaptable to industry changes, we must embrace lifelong learning and learn for life. In my engagements, I have also met many ITE graduates who returned to ITE to upgrade their skills for career switches or acquire new skillsets to broaden their current job scope, or pivot to an adjacent sector. ITE offers many lifelong learning programmes and will continue to expand its range of course offerings for adult learners. Recent graduates can even tap on ITE's offer of two free Continuing Education and Training (CET) modules to broaden your skillsets and access more opportunities in the job market. I would like to encourage all graduands from the Class of 2021 to take the opportunity to pursue further skills upgrading.

Conclusion

23. ITE remains a cornerstone in Singapore's education system that has benefited many generations of students. Through ITE, students pick up skills to propel them to the next stage of their lives, either in work or further upgrading. In April this year, ITE announced a new enhanced three-year curricular structure which allows all students to aspire towards attaining a Higher Nitec qualification that provides them a stronger foundation for further education and skills upgrading. ITE will launch eight of these new courses next year, and progressively extend the enhanced three-year curricular structure to more courses. I mentioned internships earlier. Under the revised curricular structure, ITE will continue to enhance students' internship experiences. Students can look forward to two Industrial Attachments (IA) over the course of the three-year curriculum, with the second IA building upon the experiences, competencies and skills acquired in the first IA. Through the Review that I am leading, we will also study how we can strengthen partnerships with industry, and expand upgrading pathways such as the WSDips.

24. In closing, I would like to encourage all ITE graduands to use the skills that you have gained to contribute meaningfully to Singapore's workforce and the economic progress of our nation. Every one of you are talents that are valued and can compete globally, and we encourage you to dream big and compete in the global competition for talent. Continue to be positive, agile, curious and never stop learning. With optimism and resilience, all of you can continue to discover and create new opportunities. Congratulations, and all the very best for all the new adventures that life has in store for you!

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