Singapore Budget 2014: First run of volunteer youth corps in June

The first intake of the new volunteer youth corps will start their training in June, after recruitment started last month.

The one-year programme, now known as Youth Corps Singapore (YCS), will see the youth embarking on a local and overseas volunteering stint, lasting three to six months each.

Another component will include a structured residential training programme to equip youths with knowledge and leadership skills, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said in Parliament on Wednesday.

The Youth Corps is the first national-level programme of its kind, and also "a first in many steps towards more impactful youth development and engagement," he added.

The first cohort will comprise 200 young people - aged 15 to 35, with the intake drawn primarily from nominations by youth sector organisations and institutes of higher learning.

The initiative, first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last year's National Day Rally, is meant to spur young Singaporeans to take up community work, and continue to do so beyond their school years. The target is to have 6,000 volunteers each year.

Volunteerism among young adults tends to dip after they start working. National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre figures showed that only 28 per cent of those aged between 25 and 34 volunteer, compared to 43 per cent for those aged 15 to 24.

The YCS will be funded by the $100 million National Youth Fund announced in last year's Budget.

The volunteers will receive allowances if they want to take time out from their studies to volunteer full-time. They will also receive training and mentoring, government funding for projects and networking opportunities.

Members will either develop their own projects - to care for the elderly with dementia or fight global warming, for instance - after doing research on the ground, or be matched to projects based on critical local needs.

To enable social mixing, team members will comprise students from different schools or organisations.

Calling for those passionate about the community to apply, Mr Wong said: "There is a rigorous selection process, but we are not looking at academic qualifications.

"We are looking for youths with strong leadership qualities, commitment to serve the community, and a desire to learn."

Mr Wong also revealed that his ministry has formed an advisory committee, chaired by Minister of State for National Development and National Youth Council board member Desmond Lee, to oversee the YCS.

The panel will be made up of representatives from the people, public and private sectors, and includes Ms Serene Goh, the editor of The Straits Times' publications for schools, IN and Little Red Dot.