Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Prepare to ride change, be part of it: DPM Tharman at post-National Day Rally 2016 dialogue

Young Singaporeans must have diverse experiences and develop soft skills, he tells youth at dialogue
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 26 Sep 2016

Singaporeans must prepare for one wave of change after another, so as to ride them and stay ahead, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.

Each wave will disrupt and displace jobs, but people can make up for this by being part of the new opportunities created, he added.

This will involve significant changes in education and culture: Singaporeans must have diverse experiences when young, which will help them develop soft skills needed to embrace change.

"Young Singaporeans must have the chance to have very different experiences as they grow up. Outside of studies, what do they do? Is it sports, three or four times a week, dance, is it expeditions, a chance to go to Cambodia?" he said at a dialogue with around 100 young people.

People should embrace the mindset that they must keep growing throughout life, he added.

The young should also be encouraged to have more free play, which gives birth to "a sense of dare and ambition", to foster entrepreneurs.

And Singapore has an advantage - it is a system that does not have big problems or gaps, he said.

"We are starting from a position where we don't have big problems. We... have a legacy of a strong education system," he added. "More diverse experiences, growing through life and more free play when young are not going to wreck the system. We can only improve."

The dialogue at Bukit Batok Community Club with residents aged between 17 and 35 was organised by the People's Association youth executive committees in Jurong GRC, Yuhua and Bukit Batok.

Participants discussed issues raised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last month's National Day Rally with all five Jurong GRC MPs and Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai.

They had questions on the impact of disruptive technology on jobs, ways to encourage entrepreneurship, and changes to the elected presidency - in particular, the provision to have minority presidents from time to time as the office symbolises Singapore's multiracialism.

One participant said he felt some older Singaporeans still harbour racist sentiments, while another wanted to know the MPs' assessment of racial harmony in Singapore.

Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam said that while some among the older generation may think along racial lines, the young can choose not to go down that route by making friends with people of other races and appreciating their cultures.

Mr Murali cited the example of Sri Lanka, which enjoyed peaceful relations among its people at independence but was divided by racial tensions in the years after that, to show how today's state of affairs cannot be taken for granted.

He said: "The attitude that we must have for the future is always striving to make racial relations stronger."

Citing another example, Mr Tharman noted that the first generation of immigrants in societies like Britain and France were quite different in terms of identity, but made accommodations in their host societies, which in turn accommodated them.

But some among the second generation who grew up in France felt alienated and separate, and became vulnerable to influences from outside, he added.

The task of building a multiracial society will always be ongoing, Mr Tharman said, citing a rise in ethnic and religious consciousness leading to conflicts and troubles globally.

"Because the world is now a more troubled place... we need to put even more effort into strengthening our multiracial compact," he said. "Never be satisfied with what we have achieved because that can tumble down quickly."

Young residents focus on future trends, jobs at dialogue
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 26 Sep 2016

Services like Uber and Airbnb first emerged abroad about eight years ago but Singapore's approach towards them has been reactive, said a participant at a dialogue yesterday.

"We started discussing them only when they came to Singapore," said public servant Bernard Sim, 27, who was worried about workers being displaced by these new trends.

At the same time, he is concerned that calls for students to master certain disciplines such as IT and digital skills may result in an oversupply a few years down the road.

Can Singapore be more proactive in identifying future trends to ensure that these skills do not become obsolete, as well as in helping those displaced by technology, he asked.

He was one of several participants at a dialogue with their MPs for young residents in Jurong GRC, Yuhua and Bukit Batok yesterday.

Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam said the Government is already predicting future trends, but individuals should also have the attitude and aptitude to want to learn new skills throughout their lives.

Fellow Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng said disruptive technologies create new jobs in other areas, and such skills training will help people take on jobs in these sectors.

Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee, also a Jurong GRC MP, said the SkillsFuture movement is about shifting from pre-employment education to lifelong learning, and this "will give us an edge over other cities".

A participant was concerned that job seekers might be over-trained, citing friends who did postgraduate studies but found during their job search that an advanced degree was not a must.

Jurong GRC MP Tan Wu Meng said job applicants need to know how best to position themselves.

A person with a post-doctoral degree in physics and mathematics may look like an academic, but he may also be suited for a job in finance, which needs people who can study a topic in depth and pull complex data sets together, he said.

"There is no waste in education - it always prepares you for the next step in your journey," Dr Tan said.

"But the paper qualification cannot be the last step in this journey."

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