Ngee Ann Poly a draw for budding entrepreneurs

To help wannabe entrepreneurs, Ngee Ann Polytechnic has a state-of-the-art maker space for students to build 3D prototypes of products.
To help wannabe entrepreneurs, Ngee Ann Polytechnic has a state-of-the-art maker space for students to build 3D prototypes of products.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

New scheme matches all fresh poly grads with jobs at start-ups

Polytechnic graduates interested in learning the nuts and bolts of starting a business can from this month apply for an Earn and Learn programme that will match them with jobs at start-ups.

Called the Start-up Talent Factory, the programme launched by Ngee Ann Polytechnic is open to diploma holders in any field and promises nine-month to one-year job stints with a monthly salary of $2,500.

The programme is just one of several being offered by Ngee Ann Polytechnic which is making a name for itself as the polytechnic to go to for wannabe entrepreneurs.

In the last three years, the 55-year-old institution, which has produced several well known entrepreneurs including Creative Technology's Sim Wong Hoo and Carousell co-founders Quek Siu Rui and Marcus Tan, has rolled out a slew of programmes to nurture entrepreneurship. It has also put in place facilities such as a state-of-the-art maker space for students to build 3D prototypes of products.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic principal Clarence Ti said that three years ago, the university surveyed its students and found that one in five had entrepreneurial ambitions with 6 per cent of them actually having had the experience of starting a business.

Mr Ti said: "One in five is a promising figure. So we thought, why not target this group - to build another peak in the mountain range of talents that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has talked about - in entrepreneurship."

Following the survey, the polytechnic started an entrepreneurship module where students can start their own businesses and get support from the school. The course is personalised to each student - be it to launch a new business or grow an existing business to a certain size.

SUPPORT FOR START-UPS

Let's say a student wants to raise funds to expand his existing business, then we will find an entrepreneurship mentor who can help him with that.

NGEE ANN POLYTECHNIC PRINCIPAL CLARENCE TI, on the polytechnic's entrepreneurship module where students can start their own businesses and get support from the school.

"Let's say a student wants to raise funds to expand his existing business, then we will find an entrepreneurship mentor who can help him with that," said Mr Ti.

On top of that, the polytechnic also provides funds to students with promising ideas. To date, 41 projects have received funding under the Kickstart Fund. Ngee Ann funds up to $5,000 per project proposal, or 90 per cent of the project cost.

The polytechnic has also tapped into its pool of alumni, inviting those who have business experience to help mentor their students. The entrepreneurs-in-residence take turns to "hold office hours" every Wednesday for students seeking advice on their business ideas.

The school also started a global internship scheme two years ago which immerses students in start-ups overseas that last from six months to a year .

Said Mr Ti: "Last year, we sent 100 students to one of the world's leading innovation hubs, Silicon Valley, as well as Shanghai, Jakarta, Helsinki, Beijing and Ho Chi Minh City. In a few years, we hope to double the number to about 200 students a year in 10 hubs around the world."

The polytechnic, which sees about 4,500 students graduating each year, also initiated an idea to offer incubator space to its alumni who are doing start-ups.

Last year, along with Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic, it started an incubator called Pollinate in Block 71, JTC LaunchPad @ one-north, targeted at growth-stage start-ups with products or services that are ready to be commercialised or those poised for market expansion.

The incubator already hosts 15 start-ups by polytechnic alumni, of which nine were founded or co-founded by Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduates.

Mr Ti says the "proof of the pudding" will only be evident in about 10 or 15 years.

Mr Muhammad Adam Ihsan Boon Jia Sheng, 19, a Year 3 biomedical science student at Ngee Ann, said an entrepreneurship module that he took in his second year got him hooked on starting a business.

He manufactured a plastic cone that allows phone users to display holograms on their smartphones. He sold enough to make a small profit. More importantly, the experience taught him many aspects of creating a business.

"Now I hope to go to university to study biology and business in the hope of one day creating a start-up in the medical tech field," he said.

Ms Angeline Tan, 21, who spent six months in Silicon Valley on attachment to a software company, took on multiple roles including marketing and sales.

She came back all fired up to rebrand and expand her fashion business, Aeipathy, which she started in her second year in polytechnic.

"I learnt a lot, including digital marketing, but more importantly, it inspired me to think bigger and be more creative with my fashion business."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2018, with the headline 'Ngee Ann Poly a draw for budding entrepreneurs'. Print Edition | Subscribe