No pressure to enter new growth sectors, DPM Heng tells young job seekers

Young job seekers should not feel pressured to join a new sector solely for fear of missing out, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - While the Covid-19 pandemic has helped to kick off a wave of opportunities in new and emerging industries, young job seekers should not feel pressured to join a new sector solely for fear of missing out, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (July 27).

Dishing out some advice at a career symposium organised by the youth wing of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Mr Heng said that with a mindset of lifelong learning, there is sometimes the "joy of missing out", as one can develop true mastery over the skills in a chosen field.

"Whether it is in new sectors or existing sectors, there are always exciting opportunities. It is how you create it," he told a mix of physical and virtual attendees.

"You should explore areas where you have the interest and inclination. This way, you are more likely to continue learning throughout your career, and more likely to succeed as you build deeper expertise and experience.

"I believe you will blossom or, as some of you like to say, 'glow up'. I'm not a millennial or a zoomer, but I learn something each time," he quipped.

In its third edition, this year's symposium is a hybrid event held over four days.

It is expected to draw more than 2,000 young people, who will be able to access more than 300 job opportunities in growth sectors such as fintech and green technology.

Said NTUC assistant secretary-general Desmond Choo: "(It) is all about helping our young workers look far and look ahead in their careers. It might seem scary to be starting out in the workforce in such times, but I encourage our young workers to grab opportunities that come their way and keep their options open."

In his opening address at the event, Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, said Covid-19 will eventually fade, but the pandemic has accelerated structural shifts that will stay for a long time.

The digital economy, for example, is projected to grow three times by 2025, while green growth in the South-east Asian region could provide up to $1.3 trillion in annual economic benefits by 2030.

Singapore is well placed to tap these opportunities, he said.

"Ultimately, the future is in the hands of our youths to shape... If you remain nimble, and are willing to learn new things along the way, you will be able to shape your own future. We are here to fully support you - NTUC, the Government, working together with your employers."

In a panel discussion on the post-pandemic future, NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said the opportunities created by Covid-19 are "quite stupendous".

Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, noted how Singapore payments firm Nium became a unicorn - a start-up with a $1 billion valuation - on Tuesday, and said there are four more start-ups slated to become unicorns early next year.

"The pandemic has not affected the (fintech) sector. In fact, it has grown faster," he said, added that joining the sector is not just about having technology skills.

Mr Ng agreed: "Even a historian or an anthropologist actually has many relevant skill sets that would add to a fintech company."

Surbana Jurong's group chief executive Wong Heang Fine said even traditional brick-and-mortar businesses like his are undergoing rapid transformation.

He gave examples of how the infrastructure consulting firm has been designing and constructing buildings virtually, using drones to monitor the progress of a reclamation site here, and how it is working with a blockchain company to certify carbon emission reduction efforts.

Asked what youths today need to do to take advantage of these future opportunities, Mr Ng urged them to stay curious.

"Stay curious, ask questions, be humble, learn from other people... You are not limited by what you have learnt today, you are limited by what you are able to learn and apply going forward."

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