Young Singaporeans need hard and soft skills to thrive in Asean: Grace Fu

(From left) Young NTUC chairman Andy Ang, Temasek Foundation Connects chief executive Lim Hock Chuan, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, NTUC central committee member Tan Richard, and Young NTUC executive secretary Wendy Tan at the launch of a mentorship programme that aims to help young Singaporeans learn more about working in the region. PHOTO: NTUC

SINGAPORE - Young Singaporeans will need a blend of hard and soft skills to make the most out of the flourishing Asean economy, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

Hard skills include data evaluation, information synthesis and critical thinking - which schools and workplace attachments have honed in many young Singaporeans, she said.

But to thrive in Asean, they will also need to pick up soft skills such as leadership, project management and the ability to work well with people from different cultures, she added.

Ms Fu was speaking on Saturday (Oct 5) at the launch of a mentorship programme that aims to help young Singaporeans learn more about working in the region.

Set up by Temasek Foundation and Young NTUC, the programme matches 400 young people with 36 mentors - from different fields and of different nationalities - who have worked in regional countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Young NTUC is the youth wing of the National Trades Union Congress.

The initiative supports recommendations made by the Future Economy Council in 2017 to deepen and diversify international and regional connections of young Singaporeans, among other strategies.

The council is chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Ms Fu urged young Singaporeans to adopt a mindset of lifelong learning as more companies set their sights on Asean, a region poised to become the world's fourth largest economy by 2030 - after the United States, China and the European Union.

Their pivot has created jobs for youth here, she added. "Our Singaporean youths can capitalise on these exciting opportunities."

One way is to make use of SkillsFuture - the national initiative to cultivate lifelong learning - to pick up specialist skills and learn more about technology and regional business, she said.

Ms Fu pointed out that technology is taking the region by storm. For example, Gojek in Indonesia has grown to become one of Asia's first superapps, despite starting out as a motorcycle-taxi call centre.

Strong government support and a digitally savvy young workforce have also boosted Vietnam to become one of Asia's largest start-up eco-systems, housing more than 3,000 start-ups in e-commerce, fintech and online services.

Young people can also study regional languages to deepen their understanding of the people and culture in neighbouring countries, she said.

"Many of you have benefited from exchanges, internships, and service learning programmes in your schools," she said, urging them to continue seeking out such opportunities at their workplace.

"As you immerse yourself in Asean and experience living and working with friends from diverse cultures, you are gaining valuable cultural competencies," she said. "As you venture out of your comfort zone, you will find having a support network helpful for encouragement and advice."

More than half of some 1,200 youths in a Young NTUC survey in June this year said they were willing to take up a two-year opportunity to be based in an Asean country.

They cited key reasons such as better job prospects with overseas work experience and interest in understanding another country's culture and work environment.

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