New internship and training programmes for jobs in sustainability sector

SINGAPORE - Job opportunities in the sustainability field are set to grow, amid a growing push for sustainable business practices globally.

Students and professionals keen to work in the field will be able to pick up skills and experience through two new programmes.

They were announced on Saturday (April 22) by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS), a trade association promoting corporate sustainability among companies here.

Corporate sustainability covers good practices with regards to the environment, human rights, labour and anti-corruption standards.

The Sustainability Internship Programme, which will take in about 60 young people over two runs, aims to interest students in careers in the field. It is a 12-week internship at companies with sustainability initiatives and includes three days of foundation training.

The Sustainability Professional Programme is targeted at professionals with at least two years of work experience and are looking to either upgrade their skills or make a career switch into the sector. It comprises 10 days of classroom training followed by a four-week mentorship or attachment to a company or consultancy firm, and will take in about 60 people over three runs.

Trainees will receive an allowance. Both programmes are expected to start in the second half of this year (2017).

With greater focus on sustainability, such as through the Singapore Exchange's new sustainability reporting rules introduced last year and the opening of a green bond market for investments into projects with environmental benefits, there will be increased demand for sustainability professionals, said GCNS executive director Wilson Ang.

"But people who want to start a career in the field usually don't know whether it suits them or don't know where to start," said Mr Ang, explaining the idea for the new internship programme.

"Companies who want to start sustainability programmes can also benefit from having interns help to look at how to put in place policies," he added.

GCNS signed a memorandum of understanding with NTUC on Saturday to join the labour movement as a U Associate partner, at a forum on sustainability attended by some 200 young people.

NTUC assistant director-general Vivek Kumar, who heads the NTUC's U Associate and U PME departments, said the partnership will help bring industry expertise to more working people.

"We hope our young will have access to these emerging jobs of the future, which could be not just within Singapore but also regional jobs or global jobs based here," he said.

"Consumers are now more interested in how companies create products, whether ethical labour relations are maintained or ingredients are sourced sustainability, so companies will need more people who can oversee these processes. And as companies become more conscious, it will be important for all working professionals to have these skills and knowledge," he said.

Several educational institutions such as the National University of Singapore and Ngee Ann Polytechnic have signed up for the new internship programme and Singtel and Sembcorp Industries have come onboard to offer internship places, while GCNS is in talks with 13 other companies.

Mr Chia Boon Chong, Singtel's director for group sustainability said the company has grown its sustainability department from two people in 2010 to five people now. They look at areas such as the environment, community work and social innovation.

"The internship is a good chance for us to support students interested in the field and expose them to the variety of things we do. We want to hep them think about how they can contribute to sustainability, whether as a sustainability professional or just bringing that mindset to whatever their job is," he said.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Marcus Chan, 19, said he is on the lookout for internship opportunities in the green sector. The third-year clean energy management student said he has been interested in environmental sustainability since he was in secondary school as a community service ambassador and geography student.

"We all live on this earth and we need to take steps to protect it. We all want to live in a cleaner, greener environment," he said.