SINGAPORE - Former Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central student Steven Muthukumar, 19, comes from a family of 10, and his mother is the sole breadwinner after his father stopped working for health reasons.
Despite his difficult circumstances and the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Muthukumar was an active member of the Student Council and graduated with over 14,100 others at the ITE Graduation 2021 ceremony on Wednesday (July 28) afternoon.
When the pandemic forced a switch to home-based learning last year, ITE donated a laptop to Mr Muthukumar, which helped him participate effectively and maintain his strong academic performance.
The Tay Eng Soon Scholarship recipient, who also received a team award in the 2019 Aviation Innovation Competition organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, was among those who benefited from financial aid and other support schemes in place at ITE during the pandemic.
Last year, ITE gave $4.8 million as part of its monthly financial assistance scheme that helped more than 5,000 students. This was more than double the $2.8 million dispersed in 2019, to around 3,200 students.
Over 1,500 laptops or tablets were also given to students for home-based learning.
Mr Muthukumar was among the six students who got a special mention in the address of Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman at the graduation.
Dr Maliki said ITE students have adapted well to home-based learning, and commended two students, Mr Arthur Chong and Mr Ernest Antonio Ching, for their online teamwork, which helped them emerge as one of the top three winners in an international competition, the Global Finals of the Social Innovation Relay 2020.
He noted that the ongoing review of opportunities and pathways in applied education had found many industry stakeholders complimenting ITE graduates for their industry-relevant skills.
Dr Maliki, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, credited this to the Workplace @ Campus and Campus @ Workplace approach adopted by ITE to replicate workplaces on campus. This includes the setting up of the ITE-Surbana Jurong Living Lab at ITE Colleges equipped to facilitate experimentation.
In his speech, Dr Maliki also mentioned several programmes by ITE to equip students with skills and support lifelong learning, such as the work-study diploma that began in 2018.
Three out of four in the pioneer batch of 84 work-study diploma graduates stayed with their host companies, he said.
Those who enrol in this work-study programme receive practical training at the workplace from industry experts and benefit from full-time employment.
Nearly 70 per cent of the pioneer batch received an increment after graduating.
By 2025, the programme will be made available to 12 per cent of each age cohort, said Dr Maliki.
In his concluding remarks, he urged graduates to continue to pursue further skills upgrading.
He said: "You are talents that are valued and can compete globally, and we encourage you to dream big and compete in the global competition for talent."
Among the graduates was Tay Eng Soon Scholarship recipient Koh Yan Xi, 19, who never expected to do well in academics after often missing classes while in secondary school due to a medical condition.
The ITE College West student, who also received the Ngee Ann Kongsi Gold Medal in recognition of her achievements, juggled a part-time job at McDonald's with co-leading a class entrepreneurship project to sell vacuum-packed soup and using the proceeds to purchase food for school cleaners.
She said: "I like to prove to others that effort is what counts - if I work hard enough, I can surely do well and achieve good results."