There’s never been a worse time to enter the job market than now. Unemployment is the highest it’s ever been in a decade, and the economy is shrinking by over 40% quarter on quarter. Plus, according to Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, there were 71 vacancies for every 100 job seekers in March, down from 84 at the end of 2019.
Faced with an abysmal economic outlook, many fresh graduates have turned to ad-hoc jobs and temporary internships to stay afloat.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. As part of the Resilience Budget announced in March, the government has devised a S$100 million fresh graduate traineeship programmes in Singapore. Over 21,000 traineeships are slated to be on offer with homegrown brands such as Singtel, Carousell, SGAG Media and even NTUC. Global powerhouses such as Samsung, Rohde & Schwarz, and Fujitsu have also come onboard.
Graduates from local Universities, Polytechnics, and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will be able to apply for these traineeships to improve their employment prospects and gain work experiences. Roles are available in a variety of areas—from social work to sports nutrition—so graduates from different fields are welcome. During the traineeship period, trainees will receive an allowance based on their qualification, a bulk of which is funded by the government.
Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? But first, here are the five things to take note of before you sign your traineeship agreement.
1. You don’t get employee benefits
When you’re a trainee, there is no employer-employee relationship between you and the company. This means you are not covered under the Employment Act. To make it even clearer, you are not entitled to paid sick leave or annual leave like new employees are.
Of course, companies may provide days off to their trainees at their own discretion. It is alright to clarify with your host organisation on your terms and benefits (if any) before signing the traineeship agreement to avoid any unwelcomed surprises down the road.
Aside from that, you will also not receive any CPF contributions from your host organisation during the course of your traineeship.
But just because you aren’t technically an “employee” doesn’t mean you can’t seek recourse for poor practices. As a trainee, you can reach out to the Singapore Business Federation to report any workplace issues you may face when working with your host organisation.
What you are entitled to is workplace injury insurance in case of any unforeseen mishaps at work.
2. You can’t extend your traineeship
Unlike most internships for fresh graduates, SGUnited Traineeships last a maximum of twelve months and cannot be extended. If the host organisation finds your performance satisfactory, they may offer you a full-time role—but this isn’t guaranteed.
What if you want to quit before the traineeship duration is up? Trainees can leave their traineeship at any time, provided you give their host organisation sufficient notice. This means that you’re not locked into your traineeship for the entire period, but just like how we encourage the host organisations to honour their part of the deal, we hope trainees do too, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Fresh graduates can apply for traineeships while holding down other ad-hoc or temporary jobs, but must be available full-time during the period of their traineeship. If you are employed when offered a traineeship position, make sure you let the host organisation know when you will be able to join them, and give your current employer notice as soon as possible.
3. You will learn industry-specific skills on your traineeship
This one may seem pretty obvious, but hear us out. How many times have you applied for an internship at a company only to find that most of your work involves photocopying, running errands, and making coffees for the executives?
SGUnited trainees aren’t glorified office admins. Host organisations need to provide a detailed Trainee Development Plan that outlines meaningful development opportunities for every trainee they hire in order to be eligible for the programme. This means less coffee making (unless you are in F&B), and more industry-relevant experience that will prepare you for future roles.
As a trainee, you will work with a team in the host organisation to learn about the company and then perform relevant duties as stated in your job scope. It’s important to review the traineeship agreement and clarify exactly what your duties will be prior to signing.
What’s more, during your time at your host organisation, you’ll be able to network with professionals within the industry. These are contacts you can leverage beyond your traineeship when seeking future opportunities.
You can maximise the opportunities provided in the traineeship by selecting an organisation that is relevant to your interest and area of study. Browse available opportunities at a virtual career fair or log on to mycareersfuture.sg job portal and search for positions with #SGUnited Traineeship in the title.
4. You will get a monthly training allowance
Probably the most attractive part of the traineeship is the allowance that comes with it. As previously mentioned, the government funds a bulk of the allowance—80%, to be exact. The host organisation pays the allowance monthly based on your educational qualifications. The allowances are commensurate with 50% to 70% of median starting salaries.
As a trainee, you can command anywhere between SGD$1,100 and SGD$2,500 in monthly allowance depending on your level of education and the host organisation’s capabilities. Your host organisation will inform you of your allowance prior to commencing your traineeship. You should clarify their pay day, allowance amount, and nominated payment method with the host organisation prior to commencing their traineeship. It is important to note that you will be able to negotiate higher pay in future roles due to your allowance being significantly higher than most internships and ad-hoc job rates.
5. You will be more attractive to future employers
It’s no secret that gaps in your resume can be viewed unfavourably by potential employers. Long stints between positions could be viewed as a sign of inconsistency, poor performance, or a lack of commitment. The gap becomes even more significant when it’s between the end of your studies and your first job.
Many employers are going to want to know how you filled your time between graduation and landing your first role—and “binging Netflix” isn’t going to cut it. In normal circumstances, you could talk about gaining a global perspective through travel, but that clearly isn’t possible in today’s circumstances, so what better way to stand out to future employers than to talk about your experiences as a trainee in your industry?
Undertaking a traineeship in your chosen industry is reflective of interest and professionalism, which will be viewed favourably by potential employers. The industry-specific skills you learn on your traineeship can also add value to your existing skill set, making you more attractive to future employers.
Seize the opportunity
As much as it doesn’t feel like it, the COVID-19 crisis is a small blip in the course of your early career. Being a fresh graduate at this time can definitely feel daunting and hopeless. On the flip side however, there’s no better time to seize employment opportunities and position yourself as an attractive hire as the economy recovers.
SGUnited Traineeships offer greater remuneration and flexibility than your run-of-the-mill internships. What’s more, trainees are guaranteed to learn important industry-specific skills that they can bring to future roles. Opportunities for networking and career progression are numerous - this is one of the most productive ways for fresh graduates to use their time given current circumstances.
Stay up-to-date with the latest job openings and get more support during your Traineeship Programme by joining the Young NTUC’s Facebook Group and Telegram Channel.