SINGAPORE — Pu Huan Jun, a 20-year-old student about to graduate from polytechnic, felt that her internship experience last year left her unsupported and lost, as she struggled to adjust to the workforce without adequate guidance and mentorship.
She told Yahoo Southeast Asia on Thursday (27 April), "Most of the time, the interns there actually had to teach ourselves how to do most of the tasks, because whenever we ask questions, the company doesn't want to answer and help us.
"They would kind of look down on us when we ask questions. I feel my self-esteem has lowered a lot because I think it's important to ask questions, especially if it is your first internship. When you ask questions, you can do things better."
Career Starter Lab to help young job seekers in Singapore
In an effort to support youths like Pu, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) announced on Thursday it will pilot a Career Starter Lab initiative with the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).
Under the initiative, job seekers will have the opportunity to participate in a three-month trial period with a company. This trial period allows both the job seeker and the company to evaluate if there is a mutual fit for full-time employment.
Additionally, job seekers will receive structured training and guidance from a workplace mentor who is specifically matched with them.
The pilot initiative aims to reach 300 to 600 youths who have completed their full-time National Service or freshly graduated from Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL).
The Career Starter Lab was developed based on feedback from the NTUC Youth Taskforce's engagements with youths over the past few months, according to NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng.
"We want to help the youths coming into the workforce with mentorship programs, in-company mentors, supervision and structure, so that they have less anxiety as they move from school or post NS into the workplace," he explained.
Since July last year, the taskforce has talked to over 10,000 young people from various educational institutes. Nearly 4,000 were asked about the top two resources needed to transition from school to their desired careers. Most answered that they needed quality internships (31.4 per cent) and career mentorships (18.9 per cent).
Prioritising mental health in work practices
This pilot initiative is expected to launch in the second half of this year, with the support of over 100 companies, including Singapore-based integrated logistics and supply chain provider YCH Group.
YCH Group was founded in 1955 as a passenger transportation company, but pivoted to provide cargo transportation and logistics services in early 1980s.
Over 50 youths will be able to work in 15 different job roles in YCH Group through the pilot program. It will provide mentoring and support for both entry-level positions such as warehouse material handlers, as well as higher-level positions for those with more experience.
The company will also conduct regular check-ins with employees to assess their progress and mental health.
"We will then see how they are coping. Are you doing fine? Do you think there's any way that we can actually help your learning to be better, or we can even explore potentially, you know, this may not be a good role because you may feel overly stressed out?" said Annie Lam, YCH Group' head of group human resources.
She expressed her hope that the pilot program will dispel misconceptions about the supply chain and logistics industry and encourage more young people to join the sector.
"There is a common misconception that the industry lacks highly sophisticated technology and that it only involves working in hot warehouses, but the reality is very different now," she explained.
Post-IHL graduates or NSmen who have completed their full-time National Service may apply for the pilot NTUC Career Starter Lab within the current year. Companies interested in participating in this pilot NTUC Career Starter Lab can register here.
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