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Shaping our future together

Speech by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Trade and Industry at the Committee of Supply Debate 2022

  1. Mr. Chairman, Minister Edwin spoke about our transition out of the pandemic – to build towards a strong, caring, and inclusive Singapore. 
  2. Our national monuments embody our foundational values, and where we come from. Elgin Bridge, located just next to this House, is one of them.
    a) It quietly symbolises our openness to the world, our strength in diversity, our adaptability for the future.
    b) It symbolically connected Singapore and the world, through facilitating trade for our city’s growth. 
    c) It connected the culturally different towns of our Indian and Chinese migrants living on South Bridge Road, to the Malay and European community living across on North Bridge Road.
    d) The Elgin Bridge that we walk on today, is a result of four major reconstructions over two centuries, adapting to the times of our society.
  3. Elgin Bridge continues to bear witness to our Singapore story - where we build connections with the world, re-invent ourselves for the future, bridge our differences, and forge a shared identity amidst our diversity.
  4. Mr. Chairman, I will first touch on our youths, who will realise our future. Together with them, we will continue to build bridges to the world, towards our shared future vision of Singapore, and with one another.

    Section 1: Building Bridges for our Youth to the World, and the Future

  5. I chat regularly with our youths, and two issues that they deeply care about are (i) the future of work and (ii) mental well-being. I will focus on both.
  6. Ms. Hany Soh asked how we can better support our youths, especially in their jobs, finances, and mental well-being. Our youths know they need to prepare themselves for their future careers, and desire three things: first (i) opportunities to learn, second (ii) concrete skills to offer, and third (iii) guidance along the way.
  7. That is why we are building bridges to our region and beyond, to help them to seize new opportunities.
    a) For example, we are building bridges with Latin America – a region with immense growth potential, to help Singapore startups enter. 
    b) Singapore established an MOU with Colombia, and a partnership with venture capital (VC) firm, Latin Leap, to promote closer collaboration with companies in Latin America, especially in areas of Artificial Intelligence, fintech, and sustainability. 
    c) Our youths who are setting their sights beyond Singapore can therefore look forward to more global opportunities.
  8. During the Budget Debates, Mr. Desmond Choo referred to our youths as ‘Generation COVID’ - coming of age during the pandemic, in an era of many opportunities, but also, unique challenges. Our youths need the confidence to seize opportunities by acquiring concrete skills and knowledge, and we have developed three initiatives on this. 
  9. First, our Asia-Ready Exposure Programme (AEP) helps bridge our youths to the region. Through online content, and physical trips when possible, we are developing our youths’ cross-cultural skills for opportunities in Asia. 
    a) Our AEP recently collaborated with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) Academy on a webinar programme, titled ‘Regional Economies and Trade’, to equip our youths with insights on market economies, like in ASEAN, China, and India.
    b) Our youths learnt first-hand from industry leaders in Asia, from companies like Quest Ventures, a top VC fund in Asia, YCH Group, a leading regional supply chain management partner, and Riverwalk Holdings - an India-focused VC fund, on what it’s like to work abroad, and what skills you need to succeed in the region
  10. Second, we are creating opportunities to bridge our youths to local organizations, in the community and social sectors. 
    a) At the height of COVID-19, we rolled out our Youth Corps Internship Scheme, which provided more than 700 youths with internship experiences since September 2020. 
    b) We will build on this as we recover from the pandemic. Through the Youth Corps Community Internship (YCCI), MCCY and National Youth Council (NYC) will partner social and community organizations to offer internships, with priority given to ITE and the Polytechnics. 
    i) Our youths can pick up skills like event and project management, marketing, and community engagement.
  11. Third, we will build and strengthen bridges for our youths, with mentors, as they navigate life’s many milestones.
    a) Ms. Rahayu Mahzam’s question about mentoring opportunities to support our youths emotionally is thus key. Mentoring will play a key part in the upstream. 
    b) That is why we launched our Mentoring Alliance for Action (AfA) last year, to build a stronger mentoring culture in Singapore, especially for youths undergoing life’s many transitions, be it from school-to-work, or when switching careers. 
    c) So to any youth looking for a mentor – 
    d) The Mentoring AfA has established WeConnect, Singapore’s first dedicated online mentoring platform, where you can find programmes, ranging from mentoring opportunities, to community groups, for your personal life-stages.
    e) Through WeConnect, you can connect with a pool of over 1,000 volunteer mentors, which is growing, coming from companies like P&G, Unilever, and Meta.
    f) You can learn from mentors who have traversed career journeys across industries like tech, logistics, media. By the end of this month, you can register on WeConnect, and I highly encourage you to do so.

    Section 2: Building Bridges of Mutual Support 

  12. Next, building bridges of mutual support. Ms. Tin Pei Ling asked how we are supporting youths struggling with mental health. Now, during the Budget Debates, Ms. Shahira Abdullah and Ms. Nadia Samdin stressed the importance of stronger mental health support in Singapore. I agree with them. Even as the pandemic wanes, mental health issues will not just disappear with it. We need to reinforce support for our youths.
  13. We want our youths to know that it is okay to reach out and share about their mental health and well-being without fear of judgment. 
  14. To build supportive communities, we will expand peer support networks across various settings, be it in schools, workplaces, online, and in the community.
  15. And, our youths are leading the way on mental health awareness.
    a) The Happiness Initiative, Calm Collective and Limitless, are just three of the many ground-up initiatives they are spearheading.
  16. And to bring together these efforts, the Government started our Youth Mental Well-being Network (YMWBN) in 2020.
    a) Since then, more than 1,500 individuals, comprising youths, parents, caregivers, mental health professionals started more than 20 ground-up projects to support youth mental well-being.
  17. But mental health issues do not only affect our youths. So to achieve even greater impact, we will expand the efforts of the YMWBN to a broader network, which will tackle mental health issues across a broader range of population segments, as mentioned by SMS Janil in his speech.
    a) This wider network will be a platform for those who can deliver mental health and well-being outcomes, like Campus Psy and Calm Collective, to come together and spearhead initiatives, with funding support.  
    b) For those who would benefit from these initiatives, the Network could help you find useful services and initiatives more easily. 
    c) So whether you are an organization, a student, a middle aged PMET, or a senior looking for mental well-being support, we welcome you to be part of this effort. 
    d) MCCY will support this network, which will be advised by the Inter-agency Taskforce for Mental Health and Well-being. 
     e) I feel privileged to chair this network with the support of my colleagues MOS Sun Xueling and Parl Sec Rahayu Mahzam. We will announce more details later this year.
    f) We have learnt a lot from the Youth Mental Well-being Network, and we will build upon the learnings and networks to build a more inclusive Singapore that prioritizes our mental well-being. 

    Section 3: Building Bridges to the Society We Want to Be 

  18. Next, we must look ahead, and construct new bridges to our desired future, with our youths.
  19. At MCCY, we have already begun the work and are now seeing the early fruits of our labour through the Youth Action Challenge (YAC) and Somerset Belt.
  20. Through the YAC, any youth with an idea, or a desire to tackle the problems of our day, can pitch their innovative project idea, and receive grants to realise these solutions.
    a) Since 2019, we have worked with over 700 youths, who have formed more than 170 project teams, to tackle societal issues ranging from environment and sustainability, to support for vulnerable groups. 
    b) Many of their projects have made tangible impact. 
    c) Take for example the team Skilio, founded by our youths Felix, Dody and Zhi Hui, with a simple but ambitious vision: 
    i) Creating a society where we are recognised for our unique strengths – not defined by the schools we go to, or the letters on our report cards.
    ii)Skilio puts these ideas into a tangible product – a digital portfolio that help youths document any soft skills picked up along their educational journey, to pursue their dream careers. 
    iii) With YAC’s support, Skilio has expanded its offerings, giving our youths free access to build these portfolios, and connects them to companies based on their unique qualities and skillsets. 
    iv) Thus far, over 5,000 students across 11 different schools and organisations have joined Skilio, with the potential to scale. This reflects how our youths’ ideas can, and indeed have made an impact, and indeed, a difference to many.
  21. We are also offering our youths a dedicated physical space to prototype their ideas and implement ground-up programs for social causes through our Somerset Belt.
    a) Since 2019, Somerset Belt has supported more than 20 ground-up projects, reaching more than 20,000 youths on causes like the arts, the environment, and more.
  22. In the year ahead, we will partner institutes like Singapore Polytechnic and Singapore University of Technology and Design to translate ideas from classrooms and studios into real life. 
  23. We will also refresh and enhance the spaces within Somerset Belt in the coming years. 
    a) Thus far, we have sought ideas from over 240 youths on how they envision or want to use the space. Some envision the Belt to be a Creative Hub, with experimental retail spaces. We will continue to grow and make our youth-initiated ideas come alive through funding support.
    b) We will announce more details on the refresh works on the Somerset Belt later this year.
  24. Mr. Chairman, we have already seen early fruits from the YAC and Somerset Belt. In time, especially with the upcoming YAC Season 4 starting October, we will see even more youths coming forward to make their impact, and in fact, I welcome youths to come and join our YAC Season 4.
  25. Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak in Mandarin, please.
  26. 许连斌先生询问关于我国青年对社会课题 采取行动的各项计划。1
  27. 我们将继续赋予青年能力做出改变,让他们从所居住的地方开始作出贡献。通过新加坡青年志愿团队和关爱新加坡行动旗下义工综合中心、社会联系站 (ComLink) 以及各个社会服务组织的合作,我们会提供1千5百个邻里区内的志愿服务机会。2
    a) 我们会将青年志愿者和需要帮助的邻居配对起来,让他们为身边的低收入家庭和年长人士等奉献爱心。3
  28. 包括上述的地方性志愿服务活动,新加坡青年志愿团队将提供多达7千5百个志愿服务机会,让有心为他人服务的青年 挺身而出,尽一份绵力。4

    Section 4: Building Bridges of Understanding With One Another and Across Communities

    Building youths’ civic capacity for constructive discourse with one another
  29. I will next talk about building our youths’ civic capacity for constructive discourse with one another. Today, with tech and social media as the frontiers for social discourse, we need to strengthen mutual understanding, especially on key and contentious societal issues. 
  30. While we see more open discussions on social media, we also see growing polarization, echo chambers, and the rise of cancel culture. 
  31. When I spoke with youths at the launch of the Inter-University Network last month, they shared with me their wish to discuss difficult and controversial issues frankly. They want to work with us to build what they call safe spaces and also guardrails to do so. That is why Mr. Koh Lian Pin’s question about opportunities for youth participation on topics of national interest is key, and relevant, and timely.
  32. We will work with our youths to create safe platforms for them to explore and engage in a diversity of views and help them build empathy towards those who hold different views. 
  33. From April to September this year, NYC will partner Mediacorp to launch a digital engagement campaign called “Civic Conversations”.
     a) We will highlight important norms and values that should guide our conversations and create spaces for respectful and deep dialogue. We will address key topics like race and religion, local-foreigner relations, and intergenerational bonding. 
    b) Our youths can participate in a variety of online platforms, like Instagram Live! sessions with expert panels, and access the content through a microsite. 
    c) They will pick up useful tips on how to engage in difficult conversations, and converse constructively on complex issues.
  34. Mr. Chairman, we must consciously strengthen the bridges that connect us, not just across the diversity of our perspectives, but also across our different racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. 
  35. Mr. Mohd Fahmi Bin Aliman asked about our integration efforts to build a cohesive society, and bridge societal fault lines.
  36. In addition to the work of our Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs), as covered by Minister Edwin, our National Integration Council and Singapore Citizenship Journey are important platforms for this.

    Launch of the NIC Alliance for Action
  37. Both platforms help us to strengthen the bridges between locals and newcomers to Singapore. We must never forget that Singapore’s story has always been one of an immigrant nation, embracing diversity, and being open to the world. 
  38. As part of our Emerging Stronger Conversations, members of the National Integration Council (NIC) candidly discussed challenges around local-foreigner relations, particularly arising from COVID-19. 
  39. We developed three key themes that the NIC’s Alliance for Action and its projects will focus on.
    a) First, to create more shared experiences and interactions through a Community Orientation Programme and volunteering opportunities, where newcomers and locals can have meaningful interactions.
    b) Second, to share positive stories that inspire us to embrace the vibrancy of our diverse backgrounds and common aspirations.
    c) Third, to empower and equip more to speak up on sensitive issues relating to diversity and inclusion, by developing workshops and programmes. 
  40. Together, 20 representatives from 15 different community groups, corporations, and grassroot organisations will co-create and drive these projects. Everyone can play a part in this effort.

    Launch of E-Book and E-Journey on Singapore Citizenship Journey Website

  41. The efforts of the IRCC and NIC emphasise our shared Singaporean identity.  But what does it mean to be Singaporean and to live in Singapore?
  42. Through our Citizens' Workgroup for Singapore Citizenship Journey (SC Journey) in 2020, Singaporeans answered this question.  
  43. They reflected that: 
    a) It is our shared languages and experience. It is how we order kopi with our uniquely Singaporean language, whether it is "Kopi-O", "Kopi-C" or "Kopi-Peng". 
    b) It is our community spirit and shared values, where we believe it is our responsibility to care for one another, and to leave no one behind.
  44. Thanks to our citizens’ contributions, we have included refreshed content in our e-Journey and new e-Book, such as our arts and culture, and aspirations for Singapore’s future.
  45. You can experience the e-Journey now through the Singapore Journey website and look forward to the launch of the e-Book next month, titled ‘Welcome to Singapore’.
  46. I hope these resources remind us about the heart of being a Singaporean.
  47. Mr. Chairman, in Malay, please.
  48. IRCC, NIC, danSCJ kita mengukuhkan hubungan antara masyarakat-masyarakat kita yang berbagai etnik dan agama. Perpaduan yang mereka pupuk, adalah sumber kekuatan negara kita, yang tidak boleh kita ambil mudah. 5
    a) Berjalan melintasi Elgin Bridge menuju ke South Bridge Road, kita dapat melihat bagaimana kepelbagaian kita wujud dalam harmoni. Sepanjang jalan yang satu ini, kita ada Masjid Jamae Chulia, Kuil Sri Mariamman, Kuil Buddha Tooth Relic, dan Gereja Fairfield Methodist. 6
    b) Kepelbagaian inilah, yang di atasnya, generasi perintis kita telah membina negara kita. Dengan membina jambatan-jambatan yang lebih kukuh antara masyarakat-masyarakat, kepelbagaian kita akan terus menjadi tunjang kekuatan kita. 7
  49. Mr. Chairman, Minister Edwin reminded us that our transition out of the pandemic will not be without obstacles. Great cities, including strong bridges, were not built in a day, nor by a single person, or group. 
  50. This mirrors the words that our former President Yusof Ishak said more than 50 years ago: 
    a) I quote, “In every brick, stone, stool that makes up Singapore, there is contained the effort and energies of generations of men, starting with the early immigrants. The whole fabric of Singapore society is woven out of the thread of human effort, labour and purpose." 
  51. As we embark on the next arc of our Singapore story, it is now our time, our turn, to build on these foundations, and create new bridges – to the world, towards our shared future, and with one other. Thank you. 
  1.  [Translation In English] Mr. Koh Lian Pin asked about other plans for youths to take action on social causes.
  2.  [Translation In English] We will continue to empower our youths to make a difference, starting from where they live. We will expand and provide 1,500 locale-based volunteering opportunities through Youth Corps Singapore (YCS)’s partnership with SG Cares Volunteer Centres, SSO ComLink, and other social service agencies.
  3. [Translation In English] We will match our youths to neighbours in need, to support underprivileged families, senior citizens, and more.
  4. [Translation In English] Combined with locale-based offerings, YCS offers a total of 7,500 opportunities where any youth, with a heart to serve, can step forward to bridge gaps in our society.
  5. [Translation In English] Our IRCC, NIC, and SCJ strengthen the ties between our different ethnic and religious communities.  The solidarity they foster, is our nation’s source of strength, which we must not take for granted.
  6. [Translation In English] Walking across Elgin Bridge towards South Bridge Road, we can see how our diversity exists in harmony. Along this one road, we have the Masjid Jamae Chulia, Sri Mariamman Temple, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and the Fairfield Methodist Church.
  7. [Translation In English] This is the diversity that our forefathers built our nation on. By building stronger bridges across communities, our diversity will continue to be our defining strength.
Last updated on 29 March 2022