SINGAPORE: The Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) has seen a 24 per cent increase in the number of people seeking career-coaching between January and July, compared to the same period last year.
Among them are more students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), and e2i says this could be because the job fairs and career guidance events it co-organised with ITE have raised greater awareness of such services.
Providing students from the ITE and polytechnics with more career coaches is one of the recommendations proposed by the ASPIRE committee. In fact, career coaches say students could benefit from thinking about career options as early as during the secondary school phase.
Said Ms Kristin Loh, an Employability Coach for e2i: “Secondary school students may not be fully clued in yet, or may not be thinking long term. They may just want to pass their ‘O’ Levels. We need to get them to start thinking about their interests: what are they passionate about? Planting that thought within them would definitely help, rather than only starting to consult friends, family and relatives when they receive their results. That might be a bit late.”
Currently, most students approach their teachers or counsellors in school if they need career advice. This might not be ideal, as teachers and counsellors may not have the relevant resources or a deep understanding of the industry the students are interested in. e2i career coaches, on the other hand, work very closely with employers, said Ms Loh: “We are very well aware of the expectations and trends outside, and definitely get (students) to look at the opportunities and potential of the fields.”
As for students who are bent on getting a degree whether or not it is relevant to the industry they want to enter, Ms Loh says she will advise them on the pros and cons of doing so. For some, going to university could mean spending a lot more time and money that may not necessarily result in an advantage.
For example, even if the starting salaries of engineers and technicians differ by at least S$2,000, Ms Loh believes there is merit in technicians working their way up to the engineer level. There are plenty of technician-type positions available at the moment, “so for a fresh graduate to go in at that level, the entry barrier may be much lower”, she suggested.
“Along the way, if they get the relevant experience and are recognised by the employer, they may even be sponsored to take up a degree,” said Ms Loh. Those who take up a degree right after their diplomas, on the other hand, may face more experienced competition when looking for a job.
Ms Loh also pointed out that many job-seekers who approach e2i need help with resume-writing and handling interviews, and suggested that the Education and Career Guidance syllabus suggested by the ASPIRE committee could include tips on these areas.
e2i is already working with polytechnics on job search skills such as how to prepare a career portfolio, how to work with different colleagues, and how to be more resilient when one starts working, she said.