SINGAPORE - Ms Aqilah Diyanah Parvin Ah, a 20-year-old Institute of Technical Education student, is worried about how she and her peers will find jobs, given the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
She and other young people voiced their concerns about finding employment during a virtual dialogue organised by the National Youth Council on Saturday afternoon (Sept 26).
The session was part of the Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations that have been convened by the Government since June to look at the impact of the pandemic and consider the actions to take for the future of Singapore.
About 120 young people discussed three topics: jobs and the future of work, support for vulnerable groups, as well as environment and sustainability.
The session was hosted by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong.
Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State for Education and Social and Family Development Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Home Affairs and Sustainability and the Environment Desmond Tan, and Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua also attended the dialogue.
In an interview after the session, Ms Aqilah said that it was worrying that despite the next generation entering the workforce armed with diplomas or degrees, it seemed that every company is looking for hires with experience.
"But it's really hard to get the experience that you need," she said.
Mr Mohamed Rudy Abdul Hamid, 31, a senior social service executive, said one of the participants in his small group discussion suggested having more opportunities for work exposure and internships earlier, such as in secondary school.
"I think that goes a long way. If I had such an opportunity back in school, I would definitely grab it," said Mr Rudy.
His personal experiences with internships opened his eyes to what he did and did not enjoy doing, and shaped him to be who he was, he said. Hence, he felt having such opportunities at a young age could be beneficial.
He noted that the dialogue was more than just raising issues, but also discussing what can be done. "Not just far-fetched ideas, but really practical and realistic ideas, and seeing how we can put them into action."
Ms Cheo Pei Rong, 31, a facilitator in the small group discussions, said it was very encouraging that the young had a strong desire to put things into action.
"Youths want to see things grow, they want to see things happen, and they want to be part of that," added Ms Cheo, a senior manager at the National Parks Board.
Her group had discussed how to increase local food production, and some participants suggested looking at how to market local produce to increase their popularity, so as to increase demand that would in turn drive the supply.
In his closing remarks, Mr Tong encouraged participants not to treat the dialogue as the end, but to exchange contacts, grow their ideas and think about how they can be developed.
"Then, come back and share your ideas with us," he said.
His call comes as the Youth Action Challenge, organised by the National Youth Council and MCCY, returns for its second edition starting this October.
The initiative invites young people to come up with projects along several themes, and kickstarts them by providing access to resources, funding and mentorship.