The COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted the job market in Singapore, but it has also thwarted the career path of some graduates as most companies impose hiring freezes.
According to recent data from the 2020 Polytechnic Graduate Employment Survey, fresh polytechnic graduates had a harder time in the job market last year, amid a hiring slowdown brought on by COVID-19.
The survey revealed that 87.4 per cent of polytechnic graduates were employed within six months of graduating in 2020. This is a drop from 90.7 per cent in the previous year.
Additionally, the proportion of polytechnic graduates who were unemployed crept up to 12.6 per cent in 2020, compared with 9.3 per cent in 2019.
While polytechnic graduates are indeed entering the job market in an unprecedented time, the job market is gradually recovering, albeit at a slow pace.
How To Get A Job Once You Graduate
So how can polytechnic students maximise their chances of getting a job once they graduate?
Firstly, it’s important to strategically pick your major. By figuring out your diploma specialisation, you can somewhat chart out your potential career possibilities.
While there is no ‘right’ course, it’s worth taking note of the fastest-growing jobs in Singapore, and undertake the relevant diplomas associated with the role. For instance, the tech sector is a good bet as it’s future-proof and high in demand as more tech giants set up offices here.
Secondly, one pathway to a job is through an internship. Although hiring has slowed down amid COVID-19, many companies are still hiring interns.
Fresh graduates lack working experience and this is one way you can earn them. What’s great is that internships are a time to experiment — you can learn new skills, ask questions and propose new ideas without the pressure of being ‘wrong’.
Moreover, internships typically last for only three to six months. This allows you to get a feel for different industries in a short span of time. This will help you in your overall career path if you are unsure of what to do in the future, or are stuck between two options.
You can also pick up a wider variety of skills when working in different industries, which can make you more attractive to employers.
Lastly, it’s important to network early. Networking is about building relationships and connecting with others: people you know, people you don’t really know, or new people you’ve never met before.
Networking is a good way to find a job because people typically conduct business with people they know and like. Moreover, job listings tend to draw piles of applicants, which puts you in intense competition with many others. However, networking allows you to be a recommended member of a much smaller pool.
There are also times when the job that you want may not be advertised at all. Networking leads to information and job leads, and this will definitely help to speed up your chances for success in the job-hunting race.
Get A Headstart In Your Career
Beyond the above, you can get a headstart in your career with the SkillsFuture Work-Study Programmes (WSP).
The SkillsFuture Work-Study Programme provides opportunities for Singaporeans to pursue a work-study pathway from the Diploma to Post-Graduate and Degree levels offered by the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and private providers appointed by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) as well as the industry.
Such work-study arrangements give you more opportunities to build on the skills and knowledge learnt in school, and let you gain longer-term job experiences that provide a good mix of hands-on learning and theory.
21-year-old Siti Nurhanis can vouch for this programme. Thanks to the SkillsFuture Work-Study Programme, she managed to turn her training programme into a career opportunity.
Nurhanis had studied chemical engineering in Temasek Polytechnic and graduated in 2019. She got to know about the SkillsFuture Work-Study Programme during her last semester when SkillsFuture Singapore came down to her school to share more with the students about the programme.
I decided to take it up as I wasn’t sure if I should continue studying the same major for a degree, or to start a career in this field. I was interested in what the programme can offer as it allows me to have a taste of both worlds — working and studying at the same time.
– Siti Nurhanis
Find A Job Related To Your Discipline Of Study
Under the scheme, Nurhanis worked with local manufacturing plant Pacific Refreshments since October 2019. To date, she has been with the company for a good 17 months.
It is a wholly-owned unit of The Coca-Cola Company that produces concentrates, which is then sold to licensed bottlers around the world.
As a technician, Nurhanis has to ensure that the plant’s operation line runs smoothly across the different processes.
One key feature of the SkillsFuture Work-Study Programme is that it will match applicants to roles that are related to their discipline of study.
The beauty of working and studying in a related field is that SkillsFuture Work-Study Programme candidates can immediately apply key concepts learnt to their work. Their hands-on knowledge of the industry also enhances their understanding of course materials.
Although her specialisation in school was oil and gas manufacturing, the processes that she had learnt thus far were applicable to a manufacturing plant that produces beverages and concentrates.
Coming from a chemical engineering background, she admitted that she had not expected to be working in a beverage plant. However, she was thankful to have taken the opportunity as it helped open up her mind to explore other roles within the manufacturing industry, beyond just the oil and gas sector.
When asked if she faced a steep learning curve, she said that her mentor and colleagues played a huge role in helping her adapt.
Most of the things I’ve learnt here are through on-the-job training and peer mentoring. My mentor is very open when it comes to sharing his knowledge and experiences (with) me.
– Siti Nurhanis
According to Nurhanis, her mentor regularly assesses her knowledge and technical skills, as well as gives her constructive advice and feedback.
“I’ve learnt a lot not only from him, but also from my colleagues, (who) are experienced and well-versed in their work areas. They are willing to help and guide me through work, especially during my first few months.”
“The teamwork and synergy in the plant is great, and I’m grateful for that as I wouldn’t be able to progress this far if not for them.”
She also shared that the companies involved in the SkillsFuture Work-Study Programme work hand-in-hand with SP PACE Academy to ensure that the trainees’ progress at work and school are on the same page.
Apart from their mentors at work, they have respective liaison officers (LOs) from Singapore Polytechnic, who will check on their progress and well-being at work. The LOs will also conduct feedback sessions for the trainees to share their experiences.
Receive A S$5,000 Sign-On Incentive
The programme for fresh poly graduates lasts 12 to 18 months, depending on the course.
For Nurhanis, the duration of her training programme is 18 months. She spent a “staggered” three months in school (October, December and March), and the remaining 15 months at work.
Since the time spent in school is shorter, the things that she learnt in her modules under the advanced diploma are “more in-depth and concise”.
The flexible arrangement also meant that her work and study schedule never clashed, which made it easy for her to divide her attention between the two.
I would definitely recommend it to those who are keen to work and study, but are afraid if they can’t juggle these two at the same time. This is a good opportunity as you get to find the balance in the programme, which is designed specially to fit for Work-Study individuals.
– Siti Nurhanis
She added that trainees also receive a lot of support from both the company and school, which greatly helps in their career and academic progress.
At the end of the programme, trainees may have the opportunity to continue on with the company, and may receive potential wage progression or career advancement based on their performance.
When Nurhanis’ training programme came to an end, she signed on as a full-time technician with Pacific Refreshments. She reasoned that the short stint had helped give her a fresh new perspective on the manufacturing industry, and she now sees herself working there in the same industry in the future.
She added that the career advancement opportunities for her are bright. With the right skills and experience, she could be upgraded from the operation line to producing batches of higher-grade concentrate.
Apart from being a technician, she could also advance to take on management roles such as team leads, supervisor, or even venture into other departments such as quality assessment to work in a lab setting.
In addition, SkillsFuture Work-Study Programme trainees who successfully complete the programme will receive industry-recognised qualifications, which are good to include in your resume to show future employers that you possess the relevant skills.
Upon completion of the programme, participants would also be eligible for a S$5,000 sign-on incentive (applicable for most programmes).
Check out the SkillsFuture Work-Study Programmes here.
This article was written in collaboration with SkillsFuture Singapore.
Featured Image Credit: Pang Yuhao via Unsplash