By Kay del Rosario
One group has the most vested interest as Singapore charts a new way forward – the youth.
They are the so-called ‘Generation COVID’ who face unique challenges after the pandemic has changed the workforce and workplace.
NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Desmond Choo rallied for these young Singaporeans during his Budget Debate speech in Parliament on 1 March 2022.
“Generation COVID are the future leaders of Singapore. We need to address their anxieties and worries. And importantly, work with them to fulfil their potential to the fullest,” he said.
Mr Choo highlighted their concerns on three aspects: jobs, education, and changing aspirations, and called on the Government to consider several measures to help the youth.
The shifting skills landscape may force many younger Singaporeans to take on more significant skills upgrade.
Supporting a second subsidised diploma or degree will make a positive impact on their career transition.
“Currently, every Singaporean enjoys one bite of the cherry – one subsidised diploma and/or degree per person.
“With a shrinking cohort of Singaporeans every year, there is already capacity within the IHLs [institutes of higher learning] for people seeking a career reboot,” said Mr Choo.
He also asked to expand the reach of SkillsFuture, as ‘Generation COVID’ will greatly benefit from this.
“This is especially for those who have graduated but find themselves unable to tap on growth opportunities due to a mismatch of skills,” he said.
He suggested lowering the minimum age for SkillsFuture and increasing subsidies for targeted SkillsFuture courses that support young Singaporeans to venture into growth economies.
Technical skills can be acquired at educational institutions or academies. Soft skills, such as career management and interpersonal skills, are better gained from the sharing of experiences.
Mr Choo called for structured mentorship in today’s workplace to assist youths in navigating the professional workspace.
“Mentorship will be especially valuable for ‘Generation COVID’ youths from lower- and middle-income families.
“Some might not have easy access to mentors unlike their better-off counterparts,” he said.
Mr Choo suggested creating national centres of excellence for mentorship that can accelerate and boost the impact of mentorship.
Furthermore, he urged the Government to consider the possibility of a one-stop centre dedicated to young workers that houses career counselling, mentorship, internships and employment opportunities.
He said: “I can imagine that even the approach to career navigation might be quite different if it primarily serves younger workers.”
To address the changing values and aspirations of youth today, Mr Choo emphasised the need to understand ‘Generation COVID’s’ views on a deeper level.
He proposed creating safe spaces for them to candidly share their thoughts, views and hopes for Singapore.
“What is their desired workplace, and work culture? What is the new compact with our younger workers?
“NTUC is working towards a deeper understanding of the aspirations and needs of our younger workers,” said Mr Choo.
Mr Choo also called for greater strides to tackle mental health issues
“I believe we can spark more conversations on mental health on the national level, normalising mental health issues across the nation and also within workplaces,” he said.