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Young S'poreans should consider jobs in Asean first: EDB MD

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EDB managing director urges young Singaporeans to build up skills closer to home, before venturing farther afield

Young Singaporeans have been urged to consider job opportunities at home or in Asean nations to build up their skills before venturing farther afield.

The call came from Economic Development Board (EDB) managing director Chng Kai Fong, who told a briefing: "Too many students, or too many people, prefer to go to... Silicon Valley or London."

But when they go there, they "have to compete with the very best, and (they) have no inherent advantages".

Mr Chng suggested they start their international careers a bit closer to home: "What we have been trying to do is to encourage students to go to Asean first before going to (United States), London."


For example, the EDB tasked Ngee Ann Polytechnic, among other institutes of higher learning, last year to create more overseas internship opportunities for students at start-ups or companies in entrepreneurship and innovation as part of a national programme.

As of September last year, the poly has sent around 70 students to intern in start-ups in Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok as part of its Global Entrepreneurial Internship Programme, while around 130 have taken up internships at other start-ups, 43 in Silicon Valley, 13 in Hong Kong and two in London.

The programme, which started in 2016, is open to all students regardless of the course they are attending.

Understanding the Asean market better can add value to the students because they can learn how business models here evolve differently compared with the US and China, said Mr Chng, who was speaking at the briefing late last year to mark his first year as EDB chief. He took the reins in October 2017.

"The challenge with Asean is that (there's) a very diverse crowd... with different, varying developments," he added.

Different countries can thus play different roles, and there is a role for Singapore to play, he noted.

"Our people have to play that role, in terms of understanding Asean, being able to traverse all the (cultures)."

He also pointed out that Singapore has "a more developed economy, more rule of law, more institutional trust ... that's a niche we have to carve ourselves in".

The EDB wants to "create a situation where Asean companies or Asean does business with the world through Singapore", Mr Chng said, adding that Singapore now draws investors who are interested in Asean because "we have ancillary services, we have access to talent".