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Youths’ role in shaping Singapore’s future

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Transport at the LIT ASEAN Careers 2019

Mr Tan Richard, Central Committee Member, NTUC
Mr Lim Hock Chuan, Chief Executive Officer, Temasek Foundation Connects
Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you today at LIT ASEAN Careers. This Learning is Triggered (LIT) series was created to support youths’ in their career development. It is timely that this year’s conference has expanded its focus towards the growing opportunities in ASEAN.

    Growth of ASEAN and opportunities

  2. ASEAN is flourishing economically and socially. Today, it has a combined GDP of more than US$2.5 trillion and a reach to more than 600 million consumers. ASEAN is poised to maintain its growth momentum of 5.2% in GDP per year from 2018-2022. By 2030, ASEAN is set to become the world’s fourth-largest economy after the United States, China, and the European Union.
  3. More importantly, not only is the general level of income increasing in ASEAN, ASEAN has a very large and fast growing middle-income level. The middle income’s consumption represents a vast market potential for Singapore businesses. As businesses respond by shifting to ASEAN and broader Asia, there are many opportunities in our regional markets. ASEAN cities such as Jakarta are witnessing the proliferation of tech start-ups that are taking the region by storm. One such example as you’ve heard earlier on is Gojek, Indonesia’s first unicorn company, which grew from a motorcycle-taxi call centre to one of the first super apps in Asia. Vietnam, with its digitally-savvy young workforce, and coupled with strong government support, has become the third largest start-up ecosystem in Asia. It now houses over 3,000 start-ups in e-commerce, fintech, and online services.

    A wide repertoire of skills as the currency of relevance in ASEAN

  4. Our Singaporean youths can capitalise on these exciting opportunities. To do so, you will need strong functional competencies, such as in data evaluation, synthesising information, programming skills, IT architectural skills and critical thinking. Many of you have honed these “hard skills” through your time in schools and through workplace attachments. However, alongside these traditional “hard skills”, you will also need to cultivate “soft skills” to thrive in ASEAN. These include leadership, project management skills, and negotiating cultural differences, but also the ability to work well with your counterparts in a multi-disciplinary, multi-national team to deliver the projects you’re assigned.
  5. Let me offer a few suggestions on how you can prepare yourselves to explore the vast pathways and possibilities in ASEAN:
    • First, adopt a mind-set of lifelong learning and continually sharpen your skills. Make use of platforms such as the SkillsFuture movement to pick up specialist skills and deepen your domain knowledge, such as in technology and regional business.
    • Second, explore the region to deepen your knowledge of ASEAN. Many of you have benefited from exchanges, internships, and service learning programmes in your schools. I encourage you to continue seeking such opportunities in your workplaces. From a very young age, we have been exposing our children to overseas trips. It is important to raise their understanding of different countries around us, as they are our neighbours and we need to understand them better. The Government at all levels is really supportive in a very big way – to enable our young people to acquire international and regional exposure, and cultural literacy skills, so they are prepared for the workplace. I urge you to take up these opportunities – Youth Corps is where you can find community projects available in the region, and I strongly encourage you to find out more with the National Youth Council as well. As you immerse yourself in ASEAN, and experience living and working with friends from diverse cultures, you are gaining valuable cultural competencies. Take the opportunity to learn a new language, which will enable you to deepen your understanding of the people and culture of another country.
    • Third, build up your networks to help you connect with the ASEAN markets. For example, BLOCK71, an incubator by NUS Enterprise, has recently expanded into Jakarta to help start-ups access the Indonesian market. As you venture out of your comfort zone, you will find having a support network helpful for encouragement and advice.
  6. On this note, I am very happy to learn that the NTUC Youth Career Network has expanded to include ASEAN mentorship, to connect youths with young regional industry professionals. Quite a number of them are here, taking time from their busy schedule and work commitments, to avail themselves to you. Sally Wong, a Senior Digital Product Owner at Yara, is one of 36 such ASEAN Career Guides here today. Sally’s stints in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines had enabled her to expand her networks and develop regional cultural skills, as she worked with colleagues across different nationalities. Thank you Sally, and the ASEAN Career Guides, for helping to guide and spur our youths on their journey. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing and for your mentorship.

    Youths have a role to play in shaping Singapore’s future

  7. I hope that many of you will gain a better understanding of opportunities in ASEAN from today’s conference. If you do take the next step and venture into ASEAN, the skills and networks you build will come in useful not just when you are abroad. They are also highly sought after by local companies with regional operations. Indeed, the Government has gone in a big way to help local companies expand beyond Singapore, market their products and establish their networks. I encourage you to stay connected with Singapore. Help share your experience with fellow Singaporeans who may also be interested in exploring the region. The support of young leaders like yourself is important in sustaining a Singapore full of exciting opportunities for all.
  8. At the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, we are committed to working with youths like yourself to shape the future of Singapore. For this purpose, we are developing the SG Youth Action Plan for youth to articulate their vision of future Singapore, and to bring it to life. The Action Plan includes policy recommendations and partnerships that support the needs and aspirations of our youth.
  9. I am heartened that partners like Young NTUC are taking the lead in empowering youths to pursue opportunities both in Singapore and in ASEAN. I encourage you to get involved in the SG YAP by sharing your ideas and taking action to spark the next wave of change.
  10. Singapore will always remain as a place full of opportunities. We are doing what we can to support the Youths in their education needs and requirements. The world is uncertain, technological changes are affecting industries, but we have confidence and faith in this system, where we are able to work together, we are able to offer the world a place that is good for businesses. It is up to us – the Government and organisations in the private sector to work together to provide our youths with the highest possible potential and the bringing the best market possible to you. I urge all the youths here to make full use of the platforms like this, with the view to bring your skills back home, so that other youths can benefit from your experience and knowledge. My thanks to Young NTUC and Temasek Foundation for making this platform available. Thank you for inviting me, I wish you a meaningful and fruitful time ahead.

Last updated on 07 October 2019