Speeches/Interviews

August 28, 2015

Opening Address by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the Singapore-Industry Scholarship (SgIS) Award Ceremony on 28 Aug 2015, 6.30pm, at Concorde Hotel

Dear friends from our Sponsoring Organisations and Government agencies,

Colleagues, Parents and Scholarship recipients,

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. A very good evening to all of you.

SgIS - A Growing Scholarship

2. This is special year.

  • Today, we appoint fourth batch of 92 Singapore-Industry Scholarship (SgIS) awardees.
  • By year-end, the first batch of 34 graduating scholars will have started work. Actually, some have already started work.
  • My heartiest congratulations to all of you.

3. Personally, there’s another reason to celebrate: the SgIS itself has grown - modestly since it is only a few years, but certainly from strength to strength.

  • SgIS started in 2012, only three years ago.
  • Including today’s awardees, 375 students have been awarded the scholarship.

    • From 2013, we started having mid-term scholars. We now have 53 mid-term scholars.
  • We started with 28 sponsoring organisations in 2012; we now have 47. Why?

    • Because companies see the value of this talent development programme.
    • Thank you for creating opportunities for young Singaporeans.

4. As Education Minister, I attend many scholarships and other award ceremonies. This is the fourth year that I am attending this scholarship ceremony, so I have been doing this year after year since it started because it holds a special meaning for me.

  • You may not know this - this is the first new scholarship I started since becoming Education Minister in 2011.

5. Starting out, it wasn’t easy.

  • We started with nothing other than a vision. We were committed to this vision.
  • But to run a scholarship, you need sponsoring organisations, you need the scholars themselves, and you need a certain spirit to bond them all together!

6. So how do you find sponsoring organisations?

  • We pulled together Economic Agencies from different sectors to find partners to form a Taskforce.
  • We held many meetings between the Economic Agencies and potential Sponsoring Organisations to convince them to join us in this new venture.
  • Some were hesitant at first, but they came on board as they saw how this scholarship can attract top talent to help drive their companies forward.

7. How do we find the talent?

  • We were entering a crowded scholarship market with many, much more established players.
  • Students were not aware of SgIS at all.
  • We had to promote this scholarship.
    • The team actively reached out to different stakeholders - parents, schools, students.
    • We are thankful to our schools and institutions for allowing us to join in their career fairs at short notice, and parents for supporting your children to take up this scholarship.

8. And finally, we needed a defining, bonding spirit of this scholarship - as captured in its name.

  • It’s not every day you get to name a new scholarship, so the team took it seriously.
    • The team brainstormed and came up with many ideas for the name of the scholarship -
      • Singapore-Industry Pioneer Scholarship
      • Singapore-Industry Trailblazer Scholarship
      • Opportunities Singapore Scholarship.
    • Pioneer, Trailblazer, Opportunities - these capture very well what we seek to do with the SgIS.
    • I still like all of them. Maybe you would have liked these names better.
    • Well, we went for the most direct name - just tell it straight - Singapore-Industry Scholarship, SgIS - and it works.

9. I am glad SgIS is doing well and growing.

  • Last week, I was at a dialogue where I asked, how many of you have heard of the Singapore-Industry Scholarship?

    • Quite a few voices piped up, Of course!
    • I felt quite proud, because I see this scholarship getting born, and I am watching it grow.
  • I was told that SgIS was ranked amongst the top 10 scholarships in a scholarship survey last year, which is quite an achievement for a young scholarship.

  • Can we give a round of applause to thank all the committed Economic Agencies, Sponsoring Organisations and public officers here who got SgIS started.

SgIS: Growing a Committed Singaporean Core

10. Why is this scholarship so important to me? It is about commitment.

  • PM Lee said at Sunday’s National Day Rally: we are a small city, vulnerable to changes in the world. We need to stay special to stay relevant to the world.
  • It is all the more important because of on-going economic turbulence around the world.

    • Global financial markets have been volatile in recent weeks, and this will persist. Take for instance, the People’s Bank of China’s recent devaluation of the RMB by 1.9% against the US dollar - the largest devaluation in twenty years. In its wake, Asian currencies have weakened, with the Malaysian ringgit and the Indonesian rupiah falling to levels not seen since the Asian Financial Crisis.
    • As a small open economy, we need to remain vigilant to these external developments.
  • Ultimately, the economy’s fundamentals matter the most in providing a robust defence against financial volatility.

    • This in turn, comes from good governance, macroeconomic stability, and prudent fiscal and monetary policies — principles that we practise in Singapore — will go a long way to underwrite our economic and financial resilience.
  • At the societal level, what will keep Singapore strong and resilient ultimately is the commitment of our people and commitment of our leadership.

    • We therefore need a Singaporean core - not just talented and skilled, but fundamentally committed.

11. I said before that we are committed to building a Singaporean core in our industries.

  • We are nurturing future leaders in a wide-range of different sectors and industries, including healthcare, social sectors, engineering, power and tourism.
  • It is not just about channelling talent to our companies. It is about making sure that our scholars continue to grow once you start work, through continual learning opportunities and exciting career pathways.
  • More importantly, it is about nurturing a certain commitment, to your personal mission, to your company and industry, to your community.
  • For each of us - government, industry, you - this scholarship marks our commitment. Our commitment to grow together, to learn, to mentor, to nurture, to give our best to one another.
  • In this way, working together with commitment, government and companies doing their part, I can say with satisfaction that we have created new opportunities, new pathways. And year by year, we add to this.
  • We are building a strong, committed Singaporean core. It took us only a few years. To be exact, only three years. I am committed to this and hope to keep this growing.

12. I am glad that SgIS is actively creating these opportunities for our Singaporean core to develop into leaders. We hope that you will take on, and prove yourselves, in leadership roles in the coming years.

13. Let me share some suggestions to our scholars for making the most of the SgIS. I was talking to leaders of the Sponsoring Organisations as to what they were looking for and how they hoped to grow our scholars. I am glad to say that many of the things they said are also many of the things I believe strongly in. So what are some of the things you can do to really develop yourselves and to excel to be leaders of the future?

  • Develop a strategic view, see the big picture.

    • SgIS gives exposure to broader issues and networks beyond one’s job, beyond one’s industry.
    • E.g. Industry dialogues/visits to learn about developments in other industries and organisations.
    • E.g. Companies invite their scholars to annual business meetings, CEO dialogues, expose you to different parts of the organisation.
  • Grow your ability to inspire and lead a team towards a bigger purpose

    • You can network broadly through the SgIS Scholars’ Network.
    • Make friends from other industries, organisations and universities, and build these ties over time.
  • Keep a sincere and open attitude to views from different perspectives, backgrounds, generations.

    • Mentorships are a great chance to learn from someone with much more experience.
    • But as you get to know an organisation better, I urge you to see everyone as your teacher. Learn, humbly and respectfully, from people of all different backgrounds. Everyone has something to teach you if you have a heart to learn.
  • And of course, be fully committed.

    • When I ask the Sponsoring Organisations what they look for when selecting scholars, two words come up frequently: Passion, Resilience.
    • They want people who are self-driven, can overcome obstacles.
    • Face challenges early on, especially during your internships. Be grateful for each challenge, as each offers a learning opportunity, each is a lesson.
    • You can be resilient when you commit to something or someone. When you commit to serving your organisation with all your best, or commit to making things better for others, you will find that it gives you reserves of steel.
  • Finally, be humble.

    • We are all happy to celebrate your success today.
    • But do bear in mind that SgIS offers you the opportunity to pursue one out of many different learning pathways.
    • My personal commitment is to keep broadening and expanding pathways so that more Singaporeans can excel and develop to their fullest.
    • As you embark on this pathway, remember to learn anywhere, anytime, from anyone. And treat everyone with respect.

14. I hope to see these qualities grow and become defining qualities of SgIS scholars. I look forward to seeing you grow, seeing you reaching new heights and going on to mentor and groom many others.

Conclusion

15. Once again, my heartiest congratulations.