SINGAPORE - Young talent wanted. That was the appeal made by five major maritime companies here at lunchtime on Thursday (Aug 4) to students at Singapore Polytechnic (SP).
For about 10 to 20 minutes each, pitches highlighting opportunities in a sector often seen as niche and less attractive were given to students by representatives from PSA Corporation, Jurong Port, A.P. Moller-Maersk, Pacific International Lines (PIL) and Ocean Network Express.
They are among the more than 30 companies that will be taking part in a roving exhibition commemorating 50 years since Singapore received its first shipping containers at Tanjong Pagar Terminal - the first container terminal in South-east Asia.
Company talks will also be held at ITE College Central, Singapore Management University, National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University as part of the exhibition.
For the next two months, booths will be set up in the schools to allow students to interact with the different maritime companies.
There will also be three shipping containers on show at the exhibition, with displays that chart the history of Singapore's maritime sector.
Speaking on Thursday at the launch of the exhibition, Transport Minister S. Iswaran drew parallels between the decision to build Tanjong Pagar Terminal in 1966, before any container ships had sailed in the region, and the building of Tuas Port today.
Opening in stages, Tuas Port will be the world's largest automated port when it is completed in 2040, with an annual handling capacity of 65 million 20-foot equivalent units of cargo.
"We must have the courage and adaptability to embrace change and invest for the future," Mr Iswaran said, noting that digitalisation and decarbonisation are gaining momentum globally.
He cited opportunities in new areas such as green finance and carbon accounting, and the demand for new careers in software engineering, supply chain management and data analytics.
"Even as we set our sights on the next bound of growth, we want our young people to join us with their energy, creativity, knowledge and passion to take us to the next level," the minister added.
PIL's general manager for operations and procurement Abhishek Chawla, said events like the one on Thursday are important for companies like his to engage with students face to face and make shipping and maritime more relatable to them.
"We are here not only to educate people from marine backgrounds but also the entire polytechnic crowd in general," he added.
Jurong Port's chief strategy officer Desmond Lim, said the exhibition is a chance to show students that the ports here have a lot more to offer, especially in terms of a career in logistics services and supply chain solutions.
There is also fierce competition for digital talent, which the maritime sector is in need of as it undergoes its next phase of transformation, said Mr Lim. He added that companies have to start with schools in order to change perceptions about the industry.
Said Jurong Port's head of digitalisation Cynthia Mark: "Trying to change the face of a 150-year-old industry is something that could be new, could be as exciting, but it is not well known out there in the market. So that is where a lot of awareness needs to be raised and we need to step up in terms of outreach."
For third-year maritime business students Sandhya Shamugavel, 19, and Tan Xuan Chan, 20, the exhibition gave them insights into the skillsets in demand.
"The maritime sector is not as digitalised as compared with other industries, so they are really looking for youth to break the barrier," said Ms Sandhya, who is now considering learning the programming language Python to boost her resume.
For Ms Jade Neo, 20, a first-year nautical studies student at SP, the exhibition is a chance to get other young women interested in joining what has traditionally been a male-dominated sector.
"I feel that with more outreach to schools, especially secondary schools, I am confident that there will be more women who are interested in joining me," added the MaritimeSG Youth Ambassador, whose role is to get peers interested in the maritime sector.