Live & Learn
Traineeships VS Internships VS Management Trainees Programmes

The most recent batch of fresh grads is entering the job market at a tough time. Though the Circuit Breaker measures were lifted on 1 June 2020, businesses and companies are still struggling to recover. Because of how hard job providers have been hit, it’s become very difficult for fresh graduates to find full-time employment.

In response to these challenges, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) have launched the SGUnited traineeship program. You may be one of the many students considering an internship or traineeship in place of full-time employment, and the Young NTUC SGUnited Traineeship Network is here to help you make sense of your options.

Today we’ll take a look into traditional internship and management trainee programs vs the new SGUnited traineeship program. What pros and cons do they have for fresh graduates?

Traditional internship programs

A traditional internship program allows applicants to gain much-needed experience, especially for undergraduate students. According to Glints Singapore, the average internship pays $600 to $1000—though some offices may offer unpaid internship positions.

The traditional internship is best-suited for those who are still in school or are unsure of the career they wish to pursue. Internships allow you to explore many possible career options and job roles at a single business. You will often move around from division to division and take on entry roles in different areas.

The relatively low compensation for an internship is one of the main reasons why it’s best-suited for students, people with no work experience, or those looking to break into an entirely new industry. Internships can help tide you over until you decide on your career of choice.

Trainee programs

A traineeship is similar to an apprenticeship—they’re a longer working relationship where the student or employee immerses themselves into a specific skill or industry. Traineeships in Singapore are a way for people to learn important technical skills. Here, you learn by doing—especially helpful in industries where classroom learning is not enough. 

Traineeships could be in fields like information technology, financial services, or non-trade industries. Unlike apprenticeships, traineeships can be run part-time or full-time, and they don't last as long—just one to two years. Apprenticeships are usually limited to skilled trades and can take years to complete.

Management trainee programs

One unique type of traineeship is a management traineeship. In this type of traineeship, you’ll learn the ins and outs of managing a specific company—the ultimate goal is for you to take on a managerial position there.

Such a program is comprehensive and comprises lots of mentorship and on-the-job training in various different business areas so you get a "feel" for the company. Ideal management trainees have a university degree and a proven passion for leadership—usually shown through co-curricular activities, community service, and/or National Service.

If you’re interested in a management traineeship, choose a business that you would enjoy having a long-term career with. For example, DBS Bank offers a 12-month Executive Management Associate Programme (EMAP) for talented candidates who wish to accelerate their career at DBS. By graduation, you might be offered a management position or the opportunity to try out different roles across DBS’ business units or foreign markets.

You may find management trainee programs on job portals, but it’s easier to visit the websites of companies you admire and see if they have any openings.

SGUnited traineeship program

This new traineeship program is a government-sponsored initiative from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) that was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this generous program, the Singaporean government funds 80% of the required training allowance, while the host organization funds the remaining 20%. This allows companies to access the manpower they need at a heavily-subsidized rate while also enabling fresh grads to gain experience at established companies.

So far, over 1,000 organisations (most of which are small and medium-sized enterprises or corporations) have stepped forward to offer over 11,000 traineeships on, each one lasting up to 9 months. You can check them out through the online job portal or at the ongoing virtual career fair that lasts until July 12, 2020!

To be eligible for a SGUnited traineeship, you must fulfill these criteria:


  • Be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident; and
  • Have graduated or are graduating in calendar year 2019 or 2020 from ITEs, polytechnics, universities, or other educational institutions (e.g. private universities and overseas institutions); or
  • Graduated earlier from above institutions and completed National Service in 2019 or 2020.

The SGUnited traineeship program offers a guaranteed training allowance. This takes the place of a salary, because in a traineeship there is no employer-employee relationship and host organizations don’t have to offer employee benefits. You can leave a traineeship at any time (for example: if you’re offered a full-time contractual role elsewhere) as long as you provide sufficient notice to your host organisation.

One of the best benefits of applying for graduate traineeships in Singapore on the site is the ability to fill out your profile and see how much of your skills match what host organizations are looking for. This narrows down your options, saves a lot of time, and reduces spammy job applications.

Unfortunately, SGUnited traineeships are only available for people who meet the above requirements. This means that older graduates or current students will have to find other options if they want to find jobs in Singapore.


The biggest differences

Comparing to a full time position offered by a company, a traineeship provider is not your employer.

This is why you can leave at any time, and it’s also why companies are referred to as “host organizations” rather than “employers”. They’re hosting you so that you can gain experience and become a more well-rounded employee in the future.

Under traineeships, the host organization and trainee have no obligation to one another. You won’t be entitled to non-monetary benefits such as accommodation, food, or transportation. (Not a requirement for host organizations to) In addition, you are also not covered under the Employment Act, but kudos to NTUC Assistant Secretary-General, Patrick Tay, who spoke about the vulnerabilities of trainees in such circumstances, trainees are now covered under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA). As a good practice, MOM and WSG have also encouraged host organisations to provide a minimum of seven days of paid annual leave and seven days of paid medical leave per year of traineeship.

As for internships, student interns are also not covered under the Employment Act, however, many schools such as SUTD and ITEs have both purchased WICA insurance for their students as a way to protect them.

Remember, both traineeships and internships are temporary, with no guarantee that the working relationship will continue after the agreed-upon length. But whereas internships tend to last up to six months, traineeships last up to a year or even more.

With traineeships and internships, you may be offered a full-time contract-based role at any time if the company decides they like you and see the value you can bring to the organization.

Gaining meaningful employment during rough times

We’re living through extraordinarily difficult times, and it can be tough to stay positive. You may be dealing with a lot of mismatched expectations or disappointment about your career right now, and that’s totally normal.

During this time, it’s important to stay connected with others and invest in yourself. One way of doing this is by joining the Young NTUC SGUnited Traineeship Network. We aim to provide a safe platform for youths who are looking to take on traineeship programmes to network, share their experiences, get resources and useful content to help them in their traineeship journey.

If you’re not interested in a traineeship or internship or can’t commit to the hours needed, then complete online courses (some offer certification!) or learn a new skill like Adobe Illustrator or copywriting. Even if you don’t get a job during this time, you can show potential employers that you weren’t doing nothing for months.

In the meantime, stay up-to-date and learn about new opportunities through our Network’s upcoming Facebook Group (Public) + Telegram Channel (For Jobs Postings)!