Saturday, 24 Oct 2020

Unfazed by upheaval, more young S’poreans are Woke with hope

At 23, Mr Mock Yi Jun is among young Singaporeans that his generation calls “woke”.

“Woke” means being acutely aware of social issues — and acting on such awareness. Where others merely worry about a pandemic-stricken economy, climate change and political upheaval, the “woke” prefer to walk as much as talk, to do what others don’t or won’t.

Confronting the challenges of this generation, Mr Mock and his Singaporean peers are using their voice, talents and skills to be the new normal’s agents of change. 

Mr Mock leads a 51-strong team who are helping youth make informed decisions about their career and future education choices. He is doing this through Advisory, a non-profit organisation that offers resources such as an online career guidance portal.

He shares that his previous internships with government agencies helped to land him a foreign service scholarship and zero in on his occupation of choice, inspiring him to set up Advisory for young job seekers. 

The organisation’s career guidance portal publishes in-depth interviews with industry experts that provide an inside look at specific professions, with personal accounts of job experiences and details of work tasks and environments. 

The interviews can be read for free on Advisory’s website.

In April, the organisation launched an online mentorship programme that pairs students with working professionals for three months.  The mentors provide advice and guidance on issues such as career interests and future education choices. 

Mr Mock shares that of the programme’s 1,943 applicants, aged between 16 and 28, almost 700 have been matched with a mentor so far. 

Prior to the pandemic, Advisory organised engagement events for students with working professionals to gain industry insight. PHOTO: MOCK YI JUN

He feels the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of supporting youth seeking career-related opportunities.

Issues on jobs and the future of work are among the top concerns that youth have voiced on various platforms. 

To address these concerns, the National Youth Council (NYC) and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) have rolled out a slew of initiatives to engage and strengthen the youth voice in shaping Singapore’s future.

NYC, for instance, has facilitated discussions and activities and provided resources that support youth advocacy and action. 

They are part of efforts to encourage youth to partner the Government in the policy-making process and come up with solutions to societal issues on a regular basis.

To seek youth input on new and existing policies, NYC also conducts policy-based engagements. 

Emerging Stronger Conversations

One key engagement effort is a new series of dialogues, known as the Emerging Stronger Conversations (ESC), that provides a platform for Singaporeans to reflect on their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic and share their hopes for a post-pandemic Singapore. NYC is organising seven of these sessions for youth. 

Based on recent dialogues, some key concerns of the youth include:

Having a greater stake in shaping a more inclusive Singapore;

  • Creating a culture for youth to feel safe in seeking help for mental well-being issues;
  • Providing more emotional support for vulnerable communities beyond structured support systems;
  • Prioritising environmental and sustainability issues such as climate change and waste reduction habits even during a pandemic, and 
  • Being competitive and staying relevant in the job market

Mr Mock participated in one such session and had four key takeaways:

  • A need for more focused career mentorship programmes;
  • A growing anxiety over job prospects among graduating students;
  • A high demand for upskilling and reskilling opportunities, and
  • A need to build a more resilient economy that can withstand future shocks

Moving forward, he hopes to introduce more initiatives through his organisation to help the young in those specific areas. 

Support from NYC has been critical in Advisory’s efforts so far.

Last July, Advisory emerged as the winner in the inaugural Youth Action Challenge (YAC) Summit, organised by NYC, MCCY and the People’s Association Youth Movement. 

The challenge encourages youth to generate policy ideas and ground-up initiatives to solve societal issues in partnership with the Government. 

“As an organisation, the impetus to understand how we could do even more for schools and students than we already have, drove our decision to take part in the Youth Action Challenge,” explains Mr Mock, who is currently serving National Service.

As winners, Advisory received a $50,000 grant that will be used to roll out new initiatives such as the Advisory Schools Programme. To be launched next year, the programme will provide education and career guidance to over 44,000 tertiary students.

The youths of today are the leaders of tomorrow. They are the people who must have a say in the kind of society they want to be in and play a part in shaping the kind of future they want to leave behind. – Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, in his parliamentary speech on Sept 3, which focused on the youth of Singapore

Thinking deeper, helping further

Over the last few months, the Government has rolled out a slew of support schemes to provide financial assistance to those affected by the pandemic. 

The National Youth Council shared that some young Singaporeans voiced concerns about reaching out to vulnerable communities during the ESC youth dialogue sessions.   

Youth Corps Singapore (YCS) Leader Muhammad Habib, 26, a part-time sociology student at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, is among those who attended the dialogue and felt that more could be done to provide adequate support for such communities. 

“Although government help is available, there are always families that slip through the cracks and might miss out on the help rendered for some reason,” he says.

Mr Habib has also been volunteering with youth initiatives such as Food from the Heart and Willing Hearts, which prepare and deliver food to vulnerable families and people in Singapore.

As a Youth Corps Leader, Muhammad Habib (above) was part of a team that organised “Wonders with Nature” last year. The six-month project was aimed at educating children on environmental sustainability, as well as building friendships. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD HABIB

The volunteer believes that his role goes beyond providing meals. 

“While people may be receiving financial assistance, they are also lonely and isolated. As volunteers, we play our part by providing companionship as well.”

He credits YCS for equipping him with the right skills to “think deeper” and discern appropriate forms of assistance for different groups within the community.

“Everyone we meet has their own set of personal problems and challenges. And while we can’t solve these issues, we lend a listening ear and focus on forging strong relationships with them.”

As leaders of tomorrow, youth have the power to shape the future of the country. Not sure where to begin? Check out these initiatives:

  • Youth Action Challenge Season 2

Play a part in shaping the youth vision for Singapore in 2025 and get involved in the Youth Action Challenge for a chance to recommend policy changes or champion initiatives that address societal issues.

  • Young ChangeMakers

Meet, connect and collaborate with like-minded youth by organising community projects or championing ground-up initiatives. Develop your ideas with mentorship from youth leaders and seed funding to grow and implement solutions that help the community.

  • Youth Corps Singapore

Ignite positive change with Youth Corps Singapore and contribute to the community. Receive life-skills training and mentorship, and meet like-minded peers throughout your volunteering journey.

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