Students entering the National University of Singapore (NUS) from August this year will start planning for their careers from the first year.
Previously, students would use the services of the university's career centre only on an ad-hoc basis, and take up workshops on resume writing or how to conduct themselves at job interviews usually in their third or final year.
NUS vice-provost Chan Eng Soon, who oversees career preparation programmes for students, said that now, in the first two years, the focus will be on helping students discover where their strengths and aptitude lie.
At the NUS career centre, now called the Centre for Future- ready Graduates, students can sit for psychometric tests to evaluate their personality, aptitude, interests and motivations.
The career coaches at the centre will help them interpret the results of the tests and guide them in discovering the kind of jobs that would suit them.
The coaches will work with the academic mentors assigned to each student at NUS to help him or her set goals and build a portfolio with the appropriate mix of courses and internships.
From the third year onwards, students will be encouraged to gain exposure and experience in the industries and jobs they may be interested in.
Professor Chan said: "Besides internships, NUS offers a range of other programmes to suit a student's interest, both locally and overseas. One of them is the NUS Overseas Colleges Programme, where students get to go to some of the most entrepreneurial places in the world like Silicon Valley to gain experience."
NUS provost Tan Eng Chye said internships will be a key part of getting NUS students ready to join the workforce.
Internships are already compulsory for the 1,800 students who enter the engineering and computing faculties every year. But NUS is looking into extending them to other faculties, including science and arts, and social sciences.
Professor Tan said: "Social work students already do internships, so why not for those studying economics or sociology?"
He added that NUS will work closely with companies to ensure that the internships will be more structured, with clear learning outcomes, so that students get the most out of the stint. For their honours year, students can undertake a capstone project related to the company they interned with.
Prof Tan noted that the nature of work is changing fast, pushed along by shorter business cycles and disruptive technological changes.
"The focus will not be on helping them to get a job upon graduation. Instead, it will be to instil in them the right skills and mindset where they will be prepared to switch careers several times in their lifetime. We aim to make them adaptable and nimble. They must be willing to reskill and upgrade themselves when the need arises," he said.
Ms Audrey Li Yingxuan, 23, a third-year student majoring in economics, agreed that internships are the way. She took a six-month leave from her studies to work as an intern at a bank, and hopes to go on another internship before she completes her studies.
She said: "It doesn't matter if I have to take another year to complete my degree studies. It is important that I figure out where I fit in in terms of a career. Right now, I am still undecided...
"No point just chalking up good grades. University education is also about figuring out the careers you want to pursue."