Issue 122 | Jul-Sep 2020

Resilience in Action

Alumni-led firms step up to back the NUS Resilience and Growth Initiative.

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Amid reports that job vacancies are falling in anticipation of the global economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation for fresh graduates remains critical. In a recent address to the nation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as much, but he followed up with the assertion that the nation can emerge stronger and better. “I believe we can still secure a bright future for ourselves,” said Mr Lee in televised remarks. If the efforts of local universities and alumni are anything to go by, there is already a strong sense of solidarity and stoicism, unparalleled in the contemporary era.

In particular, NUS alumni-led firms are taking the initiative in supporting University-created programmes to give fresh graduates a much-needed boost in the COVID-19 era. The response to the NUS Resilience
and Growth (R&G) Initiative has been heartening, with firms such as MoneySmart, BeeX, Carousell and others lining up to offer their support. Make no mistake about it though, these offers amount to more than charity. “I believe in the power of investment, especially when it comes to students,” said Mr Jeffrey Tiong (Engineering ’07), CEO and Founder of global patents database platform, PatSnap. “I started PatSnap
as a fresh graduate, so I value the insights and unique perspective that students can bring. Creating opportunities for graduating students to share, nurture and grow these insights is important to me, and is 
the reason we have decided to take them on.”

JOBS REPORT FACTSHEET


21,000
traineeships to be added in 2020 via the Fortitude and Resilience Budgets

11,000+ traineeships available now under the SGUnited Traineeships Programme

What kinds of companies are offering traineeships?
A mix of large firms such as Singtel and DBS, and SMEs such as Carousell and SGAG Media

This sits well with the aims of the R&G Initiative to help graduates “skill up, develop professionally and secure good employment,” according to NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost Professor Ho Teck Hua (Engineering ’85). In his letter to alumni, Prof Ho added that the R&G Initiative offers 1,000 full-time positions and paid internships in a variety of fields. “Amid this pandemic, the Class of 2020 will find themselves graduating in a challenging job market. As a university, it is paramount that we look after the well-being of our graduands and support their journey during this difficult time,” he wrote. 

Great Expectations

The companies making the R&G Initiative happen have a variety of expectations for the graduates they are taking on. Businesses such as 2359 Media and 99.co will be looking for trainees to help them grow — with all the opportunities and challenges that this entails. Some see NUS graduates as the ideal fit. One such company is BeeX Autonomous Systems, which comes as no surprise since 70 per cent of the company got their start as part of the NUS undergraduate competitive robotics team Bumblebee. “NUS has been supportive of BeeX even before we were a company,” said BeeX Co-Founder and CEO Ms Grace Chia (Engineering ’14). “I myself benefitted from a whole range of NUS programmes — the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) experience in Beijing, Bumblebee, Lean LaunchPad Singapore (LLP), the Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP) — and condensed these experiences to help build BeeX. I have always believed that the world could be made better if everyone gives back a little, and that job creation is one of the most direct ways to do so. We also see this as a good engagement opportunity with our alma mater, to continue the gruelling but exciting journey of translating R&D into value for the commercial world.”
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The kind of projects NUS is looking for 

The preference is for interdisciplinary approaches that embrace multiple perspectives, including those from arts and culture, health, social work, sports and technology.

Submission period: 1 June to 31 December 2020

Getting, And Giving In Return

On the subject of innovation, it is not only the Class of 2020 that has the chance to pursue opportunities with the R&G Initiative. Grant 2020, for example, is also open to graduates from the Classes of 2018 and 2019. Now subsumed under the R&G Initiative’s Innovation Challenge, it asks how we can make the world a better place by addressing specific problems. It offers up to $50,000 for a team of up to five people, to work on a six-month project — this includes a stipend of $1,200 per month for each team member. “The NUS R&G Initiative supports our students during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are not only helping students from needy backgrounds but also providing development opportunities to the graduating cohort in this difficult time. The R&G Innovation Challenge is an excellent opportunity for our graduates to contribute to the greater social good by making our people, our society, and the world better, with support from NUS,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye (Science ’85). 

The recent numbers, with regard to the situation with fresh graduates, show that there are opportunities out there. The government’s SGUnited Traineeships Programme has a bank of more than 11,000 traineeships from more than 1,000 companies. It has been accepting applications since 1 June. With all these initiatives in place, and more developing, the case can be made for an optimistic outlook, if everyone gives back a little, as Ms Chia said.
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