COVID-19 has disrupted life as we know it. From being able to walk outside and shake hands with new acquaintances, we’re now encouraged to stay one metre away from each other at all times.
For many new graduates, the pandemic has foiled their career plans. With a weakening job market and thousands of retrenchments in the span of a few months, the odds of finding a job these days is looking bleak.
But all is not lost. The government has launched initiatives to cushion the impact of COVID-19 and stave off retrenchments in the country, such as wage subsidies, support grants, and care funds. These programmes provide monetary support to those whose livelihoods have been impacted by COVID-19.
For those who have yet to kickstart their career, there’s the SGUnited Traineeships Programme for fresh graduates. New job seekers who have recently graduated or will soon graduate have the opportunity to take up a traineeship across various sectors.
These traineeships will help graduates develop professional skills even amidst the declining job market.
To better understand how this traineeship works and why new entrants to the workforce should consider it, we interviewed Johanna Yeang, a 20-year old diploma graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic who is currently a trainee at Young NTUC. Here’s how it went.
Hi Johanna! Tell us a little bit more about yourself. What are your career plans for the future?
I graduated this year with a diploma in mass communications. However, my career interest lies in the social service sector. As my diploma is not related to this sector, I’m planning on going to university again and taking something related to social work, like behavioural studies.
I was initially looking for jobs related to marketing or something related to my field of study, but I realised it was not what I would have enjoyed doing in the long run. It would not have been fulfilling for me. I reckon, it will be better to get into my choice of career now rather than later.
Currently, I aspire to work in the social service sector. But it may change along the way as I’m still exploring, still discovering.
How does a traineeship at Young NTUC fit into your plans?
The traineeship programme is a new programme that was introduced by the Government just this year to provide fresh graduates like myself with the opportunities to gain industry relevant experience during this economic downturn.
Young NTUC is part of the labour movement and not really in social service, but I have ample opportunities to help others.
It spearheads the LIT (Learning is Triggered) series of career programmes, including conferences, masterclasses, mentorship, and conversations, which seeks to engage young working adults on issues such as career empowerment, fair workplace practices and skills development. Recently Young NTUC had also collaborated with NTUC's e2i to provide a job matching service for fresh graduates and young adults.
Their efforts to support workers, very much aligns with my own values in wanting to help others.
Besides the obvious reasons (i.e monthly allowance, industry experience), why did you choose to do the traineeship?
I chose to do a traineeship because I see real value in it. For instance, every trainee that is attached to a host organisation has a comprehensive training and development plan laid out for them. We are equip with the necessary knowledge to give us a good start into the company. We are not plunging in blindly in that sense.
Through the inductions and trainings that I have attended, I got to know more about the labour movement work and it helps me to discover as well if this career is what I want to do in future.
I have been learning so much the past few months. It's also partly because the people at Young NTUC have been really helpful. They genuinely want to see me grow and help improve my skills set.
Wilson is the other trainee with me at Young NTUC. We are currently planning a youth programme in December. We’re also managing the Facebook Group, which is targeted towards trainees. So Wilson and I have been planning the contents and posting them on Facebook, to engage the fresh graduates alike by sharing with them useful career insights, tips, event updates and more. We have also been journaling our work experience and sharing it on FB.
What skills have you acquired so far?
Because we work from home mostly the past few months, I don't get to see my colleagues often enough physically. I have to learn how to communicate and work as a team virtually. There’s also a lot of independent work involved
For instance, for emails—what is the appropriate tone I should take? Should I communicate through email or can I use WhatsApp to message this person? Those are soft skills that I have picked up.
As for hard skills - I would say, programme planning and knowing how to manage online communities through social media I'm also learning how to devise creative marketing initiatives to promote NTUC membership to the young working adults. These are definitely industry-relevant skills.
During the time you’ve spent in your traineeship, how different do you find work life from student life?
It's different because in university, you're studying and trying to use your lectures to get better grades. But at work, it's a lot more about results.
And when I’m studying, I have more time to plan for one event. Even though I’m juggling, studying and planning at the same time, I have one whole semester, which is around five months, to prepare for one event. But in real life, when you’re working, you only have one to three months to plan, so it’s very different.
Do you think this traineeship is beneficial during this time?
Some people may think that this traineeship is not as good as a full-time job because there is no employer-employee relationship. The company that you are attached to is called your host organisation.
With that said, you have the option to leave at any point in time during the traineeship if you have a valid reason - when you managed to secure a full-time position with another company. As long as you give sufficient notice to your host organisation, you can exit from your traineeship.
My take, it's definitely beneficial to tide you over this difficult period. Even though I don’t enjoy the same benefits as a full-time employee, I get many opportunities to hone my skills – both soft skills and hard skills and still be able to earn a monthly training allowance. I see this as a stepping stone as well for me to acquire as much real-life experience during this time. I believe it will serve me well in future even when I join the university later, it could give me an edge over my classmates with my work experiences.
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