Work stint gives students a taste of life on the job

Spectra Secondary student Asad Ali Zainol Abidin during his two-week-long work attachment at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where he did room-service functions such as delivering fruit to guests as well as clearing plates and utensils. St Joseph's Inst
Spectra Secondary student Asad Ali Zainol Abidin during his two-week-long work attachment at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where he did room-service functions such as delivering fruit to guests as well as clearing plates and utensils. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SPECTRA SECONDARY SCHOOL
Spectra Secondary student Asad Ali Zainol Abidin during his two-week-long work attachment at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where he did room-service functions such as delivering fruit to guests as well as clearing plates and utensils. St Joseph's Inst
St Joseph’s Institution student Dylan Goh is among some 120 Secondary 4 students taking on work attachments or job-shadowing stints this year as part of a school programme. ST PHOTO: CALVIN YANG

Such schemes help them make informed career choices in future

Dylan Goh attended a couple of court hearings, sat in on meetings with clients, and mingled with a few top legal eagles.

He is no lawyer, but a 16-year-old who went on a three-day work stint at a boutique law firm here.

For three days, the Secondary 4 student in the Integrated Programme (IP) at St Joseph's Institution (SJI) swopped his school uniform for a crisp white shirt, a smart tie and well-pressed black trousers.

The experience, he said, was an eye-opener. "You hear and read about the crimes and the sentences, but you don't usually see the other side of things. When you are in court, you see the people up close."

Before this, Dylan, who is interested in a career in law, had only a vague idea of what a lawyer does through movies and articles.

"The stint gave me a glimpse of what lawyers do, as well as the realities."

Students - some as young as 12 - are going on these stints during the school holidays to help them learn about their interests and explore their career options early.

NEW PERSPECTIVE

You hear and read about the crimes and the sentences, but you don't usually see the other side of things. When you are in court, you see the people up close.

DYLAN GOH, 16, a Secondary 4 student in the Integrated Programme at St Joseph's Institution, on his three-day work stint at a law firm.

Dylan is one of a growing number of young students who took on short-term work attachments or job-shadowing stints during the June school holidays.

This comes as schools here beef up their education and career guidance programmes. From career talks to industry visits, schools have been putting in place initiatives to help students make sensible education and career choices.

A 2009 study by the Ministry of Education (MOE) found that close to half of young people here chose their courses or careers without sufficient exploration.

Schools have been taking bold steps to make the transition between study and work as seamless as possible by sending their students on brief work attachments during the school breaks. And more students may be able to do so in the future, say schools here.

At SJI, Secondary 4 IP students take on job-shadowing stints during the mid-year or year-end school holidays, as part of a school programme started about two years ago. Some 120 students will be doing such work attachments this year.

Students at SJI are encouraged to source their own job opportunities, and some have landed stints at clinics, law firms and architectural companies, among others.

Ms Christina Leong, head of International Education and Partnership at SJI, said this usually involves crafting e-mail or making cold calls to firms, allowing her charges to "experience how difficult it is to get a job".

While students are required to do only 20 hours of job shadowing, some have extended their stints to two weeks to better understand certain professions.

Ms Leong said: "They spend time getting to know more about a job, and find out early if it is what they want to get into."

Specialised schools Spectra Secondary and Crest Secondary also have work-attachment programmes, where students are exposed to various careers, such as in retail and hospitality services, and also gain valuable job experience.

Last month, Spectra Secondary student Asad Ali Zainol Abidin, 15, went on a two-week-long attachment at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where he did room-service functions such as delivering fruit to guests and clearing plates and utensils. While the stint was physically taxing, he said it allowed him to apply the skills he learnt in school.

For young students, the strategy is to encourage them to discover their interests and learn about the occupations out there.

Mr Sam Ho, vice-principal (vocational education) at Crest Secondary, said work attachments allow students to "continue their learning in a real-world scenario".

"It is an added advantage to our students, as they are a step ahead of their peers in terms of work exposure," he said.

National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah said: "When students try their hand at specific jobs and experience life in specific companies, they will be able to better evaluate whether these jobs and companies are suitable, and therefore make more informed career decisions.

"This way, the likelihood of switching between jobs due to job mismatches is reduced in the future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Work stint gives students a taste of life on the job'. Print Edition | Subscribe