Undergraduates in Singapore turn internships into full-time jobs

Accountancy graduate Kenneth Kwek did three internships while at NTU.
Accountancy graduate Kenneth Kwek did three internships while at NTU.PHOTO: COURTESY OF KENNETH KWEK

SINGAPORE - University students are grabbing work stints in the hope of beefing up their portfolios and securing jobs after graduation.

In her three years in school, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) accountancy graduate Pek Jia Wei completed three internships. She received two full-time job offers after that.

"It's very common to take up more than one internship because you will lose out if you don't," she said. "I came from a junior college background, so it's really important to have work experiences otherwise it's hard to give employers examples of your strengths."

Ms Pek, 21, accepted a management trainee position with Nestle and started working full time with the food and beverage company in July last year.

She said: "I really enjoy the company culture; there's a lot of guidance given so I know this is a good place to learn.

"The internship also let me branch out of accountancy and try marketing, which turned out to be my passion."

From the new academic year in August, internships will be made compulsory for all new undergraduates enrolling in NTU.

Currently, only some schools in NTU have such mandatory internships. These are the six engineering schools, the School of Biological Science, Nanyang Business School, School of Art, Design and Media, and Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

NTU said about three in 10 of such stints - which vary from 10 to 20 weeks or longer - were converted into full-time job offers.

During Ms Pek's three-month internship with Nestle in 2019, she was tasked with conceptualising and bringing to market a promotional pack for Maggi's cup pasta product.

"There's a sense of satisfaction seeing your product and hard work in the market," said Ms Pek. "I also learnt project management like budgeting and timeline, which you can't really learn in school as it's a more controlled environment."

She added: "I count myself fortunate that I got my job from interning before Covid-19 hit. It's possible that if I didn't intern, I would still be out of a job."

Another accountancy graduate, Kenneth Kwek, 24, also did three internships while at NTU, with the last 10-week stint turning into a full-time job with PwC Singapore's deals strategy department.

In fact, he was offered the job by the firm in late 2019, even before graduating from university.

"I did consider other job opportunities, but I knew I wanted to come back to PwC for various reasons, including its strong coaching culture," he said. "I'm also being exposed to different industries and learning at a very fast pace."

Said Mr Kwek: "The job came at the right time and with the Covid-19 situation last year, I'm glad that the firm didn't rescind the offer."