Graduates remain cautiously upbeat as career fairs return in full force

Mr Loh Guo Ming said he expects a salary of $4,000 to $5,000, but will look for more than pay alone in his first job after graduating. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Graduate job fairs are in full swing for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, with around 10,000 students expected to throng Nanyang Technological University (NTU) next week to check out the gigs on offer and to push their claims for plum posts.

The face-to-face events will be held on Monday (Aug 29), Wednesday and Friday.

The School of Computing at the National University of Singapore (NUS) got the ball rolling on Aug 16 and 17, with 1,000 or so students and 66 employers attending the first full-scale career fair at the faculty in three years.

August marks the first season of large-scale graduate career fairs held physically since Covid-19 safe management measures were relaxed in April.

These events, which target first-time jobseekers and students, are usually held in two seasons - in January and February, and in August and September with smaller fairs. The latter season coincides with the start of the school year for most universities in Singapore.

Mr Loh Pui Wah, director of NTU's career and attachment office, said this week's fairs will be the first time a hybrid version has been held - a full-scale three-day physical event and a virtual fair for students who cannot attend in person.

The NTU attendance estimates are based on pre-pandemic figures.

A casual observer would not think that the fair at NUS, which attracted 66 employers ranging from the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) to e-payment giant Stripe, was small by any stretch of the imagination.

Associate Professor Ng Teck Khim, vice-dean of industry relations at the school, said: "A lot of companies that are not traditionally in tech are coming to us to say they need data analytics and artificial intelligence talent."

Students whom The Straits Times spoke to expressed optimism that sterling growth in the wages and benefits on offer would continue as employers sought to attract and retain staff.

"Maybe the competition won't be that much, but I feel the demand for technical workers will (remain high) because we are still advancing and trying to become a smart nation," said third-year computer science undergraduate Chen Hsiao Ting, 21.

Ms Chen, who completed an internship with GovTech from May to July this year, added that she hopes to receive about $5,000 for her starting salary, although she will consider lower pay in a start-up early in her career if she is able to get a more enriching experience.

"I feel that salaries are roughly the same, so I am leaning more towards employee benefits... because it is the experience, the benefits you gain and the relationship you make in that company that will stay with you for a long time," she said.

Fellow NUS student Lee Yat Bun, 23, said he hopes to receive $4,500, but added that he is flexible as he hopes to get a job in research or the public service.

"If I am going to get less than that in my job, I might as well extend my studies and do an internship," said Mr Lee, a third-year computer science undergraduate.

He added that "the pay that goes into someone's hours should also reflect the amount of time and effort" the person has invested to get his capability.

Meanwhile, the NTU fair, which is open to all 33,000 students at the university, will involve more than 240 employers with around 8,000 job opportunities on offer, said Mr Loh.

Semiconductor firm Micron Technology is among the employers keen to hire students at the fair.

Ms Joanne Kan, its director of talent acquisition, said the firm is looking to hire process engineers, product engineers, manufacturing engineers and data scientists for its Singapore facility.

She added: "Micron believes in the importance of physical career events, since face-to-face conversations enable better communication and interview experience.

"We have also invited fresh graduates and students to visit Micron on-site for company tours, which help them gain a deeper understanding of our company."

Technology giant Google held a career fair on Aug 23 that was meant for graduates of its career certificates continuous learning programme.

Many in tertiary education study for the certificates during their schooling or right after graduation. They include Mr Loh Guo Ming, 27, who works as a trainee technician at AsiaPac Technology as part of a 2½-year work-study diploma in cloud management and operations at the Institute of Technical Education.

Mr Loh said that he expects a pay of $4,000 to $5,000, but will look for more than salary alone in his first job after graduating.

He remains upbeat despite layoffs in the sector, noting that the tech industry is generally growing and the skills involved are transferable, adding that it is more about "the opportunity and learning" that he can get.

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