Future City programme launched to give poly students exposure to urban challenges

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung delivering a speech at the Education and Career Guidance Symposium at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, on April 3, 2019.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung delivering a speech at the Education and Career Guidance Symposium at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, on April 3, 2019. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - More polytechnic students will get the chance to explore career opportunities in the urban sector and find out what they are passionate about.

The Future City Programme, launched by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Wednesday (April 3), will bring together students from the five polytechnics here, academia, industry partners and government agencies to work on projects involving infrastructure, improving communities and more.

While the polytechnics have existing internship programmes in place, the Future City Programme focuses on the fields of engineering, information technology (IT) and design.

Mr Russell Chan, senior director at Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) which is heading the programme, told The Straits Times: "This initiative is an opportunity for the polytechnics to work together in a concerted manner to raise awareness about new opportunities... ultimately encouraging more students to consider career opportunities in these fields.

"It aims to give students a stake in shaping their home of tomorrow, when they interact with the industry on future city projects through mentorships, learning journeys and internships."

For example, on April 18, a group of students will get to visit Gardens By The Bay to observe the back-of-house facilities and equipment, such as the biomass generator and the advanced cooling systems used for the domes.

Mr Ong, who spoke during the Education and Career Guidance Symposium held at NP, said: "This (programme) is interesting, because it enables students to understand how different skill sets in engineering, data analytics, IT, and design can be applied in a multi-disciplinary project.


"It brings home the point that in (getting education and career guidance), we should be more focused on the purpose of our work, what we seek to achieve and the difference we want to make - as opposed to just answering the question of what I enjoy studying the most."

Highlighting the importance of proper education and career guidance, he said: "In life, we all need a compass which points us in the right direction that means most to us and best fulfils our aspirations and dreams.

"Once we know what we love to do, the career we pursue and the skills we need to acquire or deepen, naturally sort themselves out."

To illustrate this point, Mr Ong shared a personal story about how he discovered his passion for public service in his early 40s. "I don't think it's late - Confucius' prescription is that one knows your purpose in life only at 50," he added, referring to a Chinese saying.

As a teenager, he had told himself his passion was mathematics because it was his strongest subject.

"All those years... that was not real passion. It was what it was - my strongest academic subject.

"In hindsight, as a student and young working adult, I was actually quite lost. It was only when I had enough career experience - having worked in ministries, statutory board... and in the private sector, that I discovered what kind of work appeals to me most."

He added: "For many years, straight As (have been) the holy grail of many parents and students.

"But I think in this new era of SkillsFuture and lifelong learning, knowing one's passion may, in time, be the new straight As because it is our passion and inner motivations that guide us through a lifelong journey of learning, skills mastery and contributing to society."

Mr Ong brought up the Education and Career Guidance Centres at the Ministry of Education and the secondary schools, polys and Institute of Technical Education colleges. Last year, the counsellors at these centres saw more than 14,000 students, a 40 per cent increase from 2017.

"It is difficult for a student to discover their passion and career purpose at a young age, but hopefully education and career guidance can get them to start thinking about it," Mr Ong said.

While it is unrealistic to expect every student to be able to discover their passion during their formative education years, it is possible to raise their level of self-awareness and recognise their strengths, he added. "Not quite a compass yet, but we would have at least magnetised the needle."

Mr Raymond Moh, chief executive of artificial intelligence start-up Hanalytics which has joined the programme, said it would "open up a gateway of opportunities to engage, excite and and inspire young talents in shaping the future together".

Ms Abigail Du, a 17-year-old aerospace technology student at NP, said: "While my dreams and aspirations may change in time to come... I hope this programme helps me to develop skills to tackle any problems I may face."