Today's world is uncertain but it also offers many opportunities: Ng Chee Meng

Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress, told graduates at the Sikh Graduates Tea Reception that they needed to seize the opportunities that lay ahead.
Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress, told graduates at the Sikh Graduates Tea Reception that they needed to seize the opportunities that lay ahead.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - While we live in an uncertain world today, it is also exciting and offers many opportunities, said Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

He reassured young graduates at the Sikh Graduates Tea Reception on Saturday (Oct 13), telling them that they just need to seize the opportunities ahead.

To do this, they need to keep the drive to learn, said Mr Ng.

"In Singapore culture, we have that built into many of us, but keep that drive going. Don't lose that spark of joy that drives us to want to learn," he said. "Learn not because we want to score As, but learn to quench that thirst of knowledge, build on that curiosity so that with each passing year, you can build on your successes and build upon even your failures."

Having competencies in technical skills and soft skills is also important, said Mr Ng.

"Our school system has equipped you all very well with basic competencies… As you embark in life, it is no longer quite the same structures that you have learnt. In the business world, in whatever careers you choose to be in, you will have to find your own learning methods in a very unstructured world."

Some of the skills that he hoped Singaporeans would pick up are leadership, collaborative work and the ability to adapt. He also spoke about the technological skills needed in the present world.

"Build upon the technology skills ... that might not have direct relevance to your immediate goals," he said, as he urged the students to look to blockchain technologies and data analytics to stay relevant in the current economy.

Most importantly, Mr Ng wanted young Singaporeans to have strong character.

He said: "What is in your character that will spur you on? For young people in Singapore, and actually most Singaporeans... we have a 'kiasu' attitude."

"But if there's one thing I would like to inject into our learning, it's the entrepreneurial dare."

He explained that this dare is the attitude to want to make good out of circumstances and the willingness to try new things, even failing in the process.

At the ceremony held at the Singapore Khalsa Association, some 50 Sikh graduates received plaques for their academic achievements. The annual event, now in its 11th year, was organised by the Young Sikh Association.

Speaking to The Straits Times, some graduates agreed that they needed the attributes laid out by Mr Ng.

Bank data analyst Sharanjeet Kaur Dhaliwal, 27, said: "We need more skills like people skills. It's not about the paper qualifications anymore, but about putting your knowledge into application."

Ms Kaur, who had recently switched from marketing to data analysis, said that graduates must also be willing to take risks. 

"I didn't know if it would work out, but I think it is important to be willing to try and make the change even with uncertainty. We have to be willing to adapt, which comes easily once we can take risks," she said.

Ms Jasveen Kaur, 23, who works in public relations, said that the job market is very competitive for young graduates.

"I think it's about networking and how you market yourself. We also have to be open to learning new technical skills and picking things up... There is a lot to learn all at once for us," she added.