Adapt to stay ahead, Shanmugam tells youth

K. Shanmugam.
K. Shanmugam.

Keep up with global changes, minister says at student seminar

Be aware of changes in the world and be competitive, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday at a dialogue with about 700 local and overseas students aged 15 to 17, when asked for his advice to young people.

"Too many people are in a comfort zone, just doing the things they like and thinking that nothing will change... Things are changing all the time," he said.

"Technology is a great disrupter," he added, noting that robots have replaced some jobs and work such as analysis of X-ray diagrams can now be outsourced to people overseas at lower costs and at similar or better standards.

"What is it that you think you can do in your country that cannot be done somewhere else?... You have to be adaptable. If you sit back and say, 'Why is this happening?', you lose. You are out of the game. You'll be finished," he said.

He was the guest of honour at River Valley High School's annual Youth.Leverage Educate Actuate Develop (Y.Lead) seminar, which aims to empower the youth to be future leaders who effect positive changes in society. The theme this year was "Leading Change in the Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous (Vuca) World". Some 200 participants were from schools overseas, including those in China, Thailand, Japan and the United States.

STAYING IN THE GAME

What is it that you think you can do in your country that cannot be done somewhere else?... You have to be adaptable. If you sit back and say, 'Why is this happening?', you lose. You are out of the game. You'll be finished.

HOME AFFAIRS AND LAW MINISTER K. SHANMUGAM

Said Mr Shanmugam: "The purpose of our education system has got to be to train you to be adaptable, flexible, tough and to anticipate a changing world... Seminars like this should explore how things are changing."

Student Kenneth Kwan, 15, from River Valley High, agreed on the importance of adapting to change.

"As young leaders, we should step up our game and keep ourselves updated with the newest technologies and skills that will better prepare us for the future," he said.

Mr Shanmugam's wide-ranging speech covered challenges faced by Singapore, such as its ageing population and terrorism.

About half the questions in the hour-long question-and-answer session were related to terrorism, being prepared for emergencies and maintaining social harmony.

Mr Shanmugam said Singapore's counter-terrorism strategy is multi-pronged and includes decentralising emergency response troops so they can respond more quickly to terror attacks, and training the wider community to be more prepared for emergencies through public education efforts.

River Valley High student Chian Xin Tong, 15, said: "We often think that terrorist attacks won't happen here as we're a safe country, but after the minister's talk, I'm reminded that we should not take things for granted."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2016, with the headline 'Adapt to stay ahead, Shanmugam tells youth'. Print Edition | Subscribe