Longer work attachments pay off for Singapore Institute of Technology graduates

Longer work attachments paid off in terms of better job prospects for SIT graduates Olivia Chan Jiawen, 23, and Edwin See, 24. PHOTO: SINGAPORE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

SINGAPORE - Longer and more substantive work attachments are translating into permanent job offers and higher salaries for Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) graduates.

The university, which requires its students to take up eight-month to year-long internships, reported that of its second batch of 96 accountancy students who graduated this month, 83 of them received job offers from the companies that they had interned with for eight months.

Six of them who interned with accounting firm Ernst & Young (EY) were even offered positions that were one level higher than those generally offered to fresh graduates.

Of the 19 hospitality students who took on jobs for eight months in the tourism industry, hotels and event management companies, 12 of them received job offers upon completing their work attachments.

Internships generally last six months for university students and three for polytechnic ones.

SIT president Tan Thiam Soon is heartened that the work attachments have translated into job offers. He said the work-study programme is structured in a unique and distinct way for each degree programme, catering to the specific needs of the industry.

Students are asked to treat it as real work. They have to apply for the positions, as they would for any job. SIT also has a team that monitors the students' progress weekly.

By the end of the internship, students are encouraged to identify a problem in the companies that they can use as a case study for their final-year project and come up with solutions.

Professor Tan said: "The real work undertaken through our programme has enabled our students to understand the challenges faced in the current fast-changing economy, and develop skills of adaptability, creativity and innovation. It also has the potential to lead to full-time employment after graduation, as evidenced by the SIT graduating cohorts."

Accountancy graduate Olivia Chan Jiawen, 23, who was one of the six offered higher positions at Ernst & Young, said she was assigned tasks similar to those of regular staff.

"It was challenging, but I picked up valuable skills - such as how to communicate with clients and, more importantly, how to work in a team."

She was pleasantly surprised to be offered a higher position than her peers and said the extended internship allowed her to be job-ready and "hit the ground running".

Hospitality business graduate Edwin See, 24, who interned at Messe Berlin, one of the world's 10 leading trade fair companies, found the internship so valuable that he continued working with the company on a part-time basis after his work attachment ended.

Now on a permanent position as assistant project manager at Messe Berlin, he said: "I would not have landed the job with such a prestigious company if not for the work-study programme.

"I felt that I learnt so much during the attachment, especially being involved in ITB Asia, the biggest travel trade show for this region."

Messe Berlin (Singapore) executive director Katrina Leung said the firm strongly believes in getting students to be involved in the different parts of organising a large-scale international event such as ITB Asia - from the planning stages to execution and post-event.

She added that while technology has disrupted the travel and hospitality industry, there is no replacing competent customer service and the human touch.

"The collaboration with SIT is a great way for us to help nurture talent as a way to ensure the sustainable strategic transformation of the industry."

Mr Christopher Wong, head of assurance at Ernst & Young Singapore, said it is good that students have substantive on-the-job training over a longer period of time, so they have the opportunity to observe and work through an entire audit cycle.

"This allows students to gain relevant work experience, and deeper insights into the accounting profession... The programme allows EY to introduce and promote the profession more convincingly, and we have the opportunity to reach out to and hire promising interns. It is a win-win arrangement for SIT, the students and us," he said.

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