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Singapore economy needs ‘talent’ at middle levels: Teo Ser Luck

More than 300 firms are waiting to hire ITE and polytechnic graduates, says Minister of State (Trade and Industry) Teo Ser Luck.

SINGAPORE: With a tight labour market, Singapore needs talent at the “middle” levels and the Government has been working with companies to help place good polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates in these jobs.

Speaking at a post-National Day Rally (NDR) dialogue with Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC residents on Sunday (Aug 31), Minister of State (Trade and Industry)Teo Ser Luck, who is also Member of Parliament for the constituency, said more than 300 firms are waiting to hire ITE and polytechnic graduates and the Government is trying to help in job matching.

He was responding to a question from a resident, who asked why it had been necessary to set up the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review committee to enhance education and career development for non-graduates.

Mr Teo said firms could not have a situation where they have only managers and no supervisors and middle-level staff. “In fact, there are more jobs at that kind of middle level and supervisory level waiting to be filled. So, when I work with companies to find ITE and polytechnic graduates, actually, they are very willing to offer jobs and traineeship,” he said. “(The) labour policy (has been) tightened, so they need a lot of ITE and polytechnic students.”

Another resident was concerned that the opening of more pathways to universities – introduced in the past few years – would lead to an oversupply of graduates who earned degrees in areas of their interest, but fail to find a job.

In response, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was also present at the dialogue, said young people should do something that is practical and leads to a decent job. Interests can be pursued as a passion rather than a career, he added.

He noted that youth nowadays could take a year off to pursue their passion with the support of their parents, instead of heading straight to work.

“If you take your time and develop an interest, and you pursue the interest (as) something that can give you a decent living, I think that is okay,” he said. “But if you pursue an interest and find it difficult to make a living after that, and you expect your parents to pay a lot of money for you … I think for young people, that is not (the) most responsible thing to do.”

Separately, at another post-NDR dialogue in Sembawang GRC on Sunday attended by about 150 youth, some said it might take a generation to change the population’s mindset to one that does not limit people based on paper qualifications.

Responding, Sembawang GRC MP Vikram Nair said: “I think the mindset shifts that are required are probably in the students themselves. And here is a tough balance because the message is not ‘don’t study’; (it) also is not ‘studying is not important’. But I think the key message is wherever you are, do your best and there will be options and opportunities available.”