SINGAPORE - Training and mentorship opportunities are being expanded for Singapore’s youth as part of a wider drive to encourage greater civic participation and more self-started initiatives.
To help young people who want a greater say in policymaking, the Government is also looking to institutionalise their involvement and have their proposals considered at a national level.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong told Parliament on Monday that the National Youth Council (NYC) will extend its Our Singapore Leadership Programme (OSLP) to Secondary 4 student leaders from all Ministry of Education schools and madrasahs.
From its previous focus on leaders between 25 and 35 years old, NYC’s flagship leadership programme will be extended to those aged 16 to 24.
He was replying to questions from Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) and Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) on youth leadership development and their role in policy formulation.
Started in 2017, OSLP helps young people to develop their leadership potential, deepen their understanding of national issues, and brainstorm and lead ground-up actions with their peers.
In December, a four-day OSLP pilot for 53 Secondary 4 and madrasah students included workshops and visits to places such as the Sembcorp Floating Solar Farm. The second edition of the programme is planned for December 2023.
While the student leaders were nominated by their schools, the term “leader” is defined broadly, said Mr Tong.
“Some were heads of student councils, some participants in their dance groups, and others captains of their sports teams or members of uniformed groups,” he said.
“They came together to reflect on and discuss issues which confront Singapore, they grappled with trade-offs and the complexities of policy designs, and they also expanded on their network of friends.”
Mr Tong said the NYC will develop a new leadership programme for students from institutes of higher learning, and that more details will be shared when ready. The programme is slated for launch in mid-2023, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
Mr Tong noted that the Forward Singapore engagement exercise has uncovered a healthy and sustained interest among Singaporean youth in policymaking work.
“MCCY and NYC are exploring ways to create more policy space, and also work on how to institutionalise the involvement of more (young people), and elevate their proposals for consideration onto a national platform,” he said. “We will share more details when this is ready.”
Separately, the Mentoring SG office, set up in December, will work with schools, companies and other organisations to drive mentorship of the young. The office connects youth with mentors through an online platform.
The office continues the work of the Mentoring Alliance for Action, which was set up in 2021 to strengthen the mentoring culture in Singapore and help young people find mentors. It will implement the alliance’s recommendations, such as fostering partnerships to increase mentoring opportunities for youth.
Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan encouraged company leaders to offer young people a taste of working life through NYC, and called on employees to sign up as mentors on the Mentoring.sg website.
He noted that consumers are increasingly choosing to support businesses that generate value for the wider community, while workers are more motivated, productive and loyal to their firm when they know their employer is invested in their growth.
“This is especially when senior staff care and look out for their younger colleagues as part of the company’s mentoring culture,” he said.
To strengthen mutual support across the ethnic communities, self-help groups will jointly hold a new series of dialogues for youth from July.
The dialogues will gather youth volunteers from different self-help groups to work on ground-up initiatives that address key themes of Forward Singapore, as well as to serve in joint volunteer training initiatives.
The four self-help groups – Chinese Development Assistance Council, Yayasan Mendaki, Singapore Indian Development Association and Eurasian Association – will hold the dialogues twice a year, with each group hosting on a rotating basis.
Meanwhile, urban and natural spaces, such as the Somerset Belt and Outward Bound Singapore’s (OBS) campus on Coney Island, will be renewed, after the Covid-19 pandemic confined young people to their homes, said Mr Tan.
OBS@Coney, which will be completed in 2024, will expand OBS’ capacity to serve the entire cohort of up to 40,000 Secondary 3 students and 5,000 post-secondary young people every year.
The Somerset area, long designated a youth area, will be refreshed to spur greater youth participation in its programmes, including a relaunch of *Scape in early 2024.
Youth will be invited to share their ideas on how the precinct will operate in the future and have a hand in developing and running future programmes, said Mr Tan.
MCCY said infrastructure works in the Somerset Belt will begin this year and be completed in phases over the next two years. The revamped area will have multi-purpose spaces with flexible modular structures that can be used to realise young people’s ideas, it added.