Future of Work | Traineeships: The Future of Graduate Employment?

Career Guides
Yeoh Wan Qing

The SGUnited Traineeship programme might help you if you've graduated within 2019 to 2021 and you're looking for a job. Read on to find out more about what a traineeship in Singapore is like, and how it can benefit you.

From 1 June 2020, graduates from the classes of 2019 and 2020 could apply for traineeship opportunities under a novel initiative implemented by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Workforce Singapore (WSG). This is none other than the SGUnited Traineeship programme.

As of 1 April 2021, the programme has been extended to cover the graduating cohorts of 2021 as well. All applications and traineeships are required to start latest by 31 March 2022.

This initiative applies to you if you're a student from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Polytechnics, Universities and other educational institutions (for instance, private universities, or overseas institutions).

But before we explore the potential implications of traineeships on the world of work, let's understand how traineeships differ from existing employments options for fresh graduates. This helps you better understand the opportunities under the SGUnited Traineeship programme, and whether a traineeship could suit what you're looking for.

Seedly’s Blog has a detailed breakdown of the SGUnited Traineeships Programme. (Source)

Host companies will give graduates in the traineeship programme opportunities to develop professional skills for industries of their choice. This lets you prepare for full-time employment when the recessionary effects on hiring subside. As such, host companies must have developmental plans for trainees approved by the Singapore Business Federation to be eligible to accept trainees.

Unlike internships, traineeships last up to twelve months, providing you with greater exposure to the business and activities of their host companies. This also affords more opportunities for graduates to develop their professional network, and gain a deeper understanding of their chosen industry.

Productivity and Standards Trainee listing by National Environment Agency
A listing for a traineeship at the National Environment Agency. (Source)

Additionally, graduates under the SGUnited Traineeship programme collect a training allowance that's substantially greater than what most employers would afford interns (most employers pay full-time interns between $600 to $1000 SGD). Interested graduates can find jobs in a plethora of industries by keying in #SGUnitedTraineeships into WSG’s mycareersfuture.sg or on other job search sites. You can explore roles in public service, finance, tech and even the arts. Notable companies like DBS Bank and Singtel have also joined the fold by listing traineeship opportunities, looking for analysts, web developers and more.

The SGUnited Traineeship programme aims to provide up to 8,000 traineeship opportunities for fresh graduates, supporting their professional development and employment substantively. With an expected loss of 150,000 to 200,000 jobs in the pandemic-induced recession and a bearish economy, the initiative — together with the host of job support schemes implemented in tandem — could well be one of the key instruments keeping us afloat.

Percentage of students enrolled in dual vocational training across various European countries, with Austria and Germany each having close to 35% students enrolled
Close to half of German students enrol in the dual studies system after high school. (Source)

The concept of a concurrent work and training programme is not unprecedented, with similar iterations in many European countries. Since 1969, Germany has used a dual studies system to provide graduates with an effective transition into vocational roles in their manufacturing sectors. Close to half their graduates enter the dual education system, where they spend time both in the classroom and in companies for on-the-job training. Low youth unemployment rates are attributed to the efficacy of the dual studies system.

President Halimah Yacob on a state visit to a German worksite
President Halimah Yacob in Frankfurt, Germany on a state visit in December 2019. (Source)

Germany's dual studies system is dissimilar from Singapore’s traineeship programme in that its primary focus is on high-school graduates, providing them with standardised qualifications for vocational training and degrees. Regardless, it could be valuable to emulate their emphasis on acquiring industry-relevant skills. In her visit to Germany in 2019, President Halimah Yacob highlighted Germany’s model of dual studies has merits in helping “young people integrate into the industry”.

Again, while there are certain industrial scopes of the dual studies system in Germany that would be less applicable in Singapore’s context, it must be noted that concurrent programmes do have merits in helping develop you to be industry-relevant.

In Singapore, there are clear benefits to the introduction of traineeships as an alternate means of transitioning to the workforce, offering smoother integration for both students and potential employers. Like the German system, you can expect to gain substantive on-job experience under the SGUnited Traineeship programme. This allows employers to make a better evaluation of your fit for the company and industry too. Regardless of whether you stay on, get rehired or opt to pivot into other industries, the net experience gained should be taken as a win, against the alternative of unemployment.

As for companies, HR departments can benefit too. Attrition from selecting less ideal candidates through conventional vetting processes can be eased with data collection during the program. With the gathering and tracking of trainees’ performances, companies can identify individuals with the necessary competencies to add substantial value to the company with greater certainty.

At present, there's still no better alternative to in-person vetting, especially not in proxies like qualifications that are often far from representative of an individual’s actual aptitudes. While traineeships may be a novel concept, it's worth extensive consideration as it carries many benefits.

At present, more employers are growing wary of giving fresh graduates long-term contracts given the bleak economic outlook. With the SGUnited Traineeship programme, Singapore has a good opportunity to offer new pathways for employment and professional development. With the pronounced uncertainty of a world grappling with a pandemic, the shift toward the gig economy and project-based work may only be hastened.

The SGUnited Traineeship programme may appear to be a stopgap measure to ameliorate the effects of recessionary pessimism, but it does present a good opportunity to question the fundamental assumptions about career relevance and the future of jobs.

Does traditional hiring and contracting need to be reconsidered? Should we have more on-the-job training programmes to empower graduates in their transition to the workforce? The next year and the experiences of graduates under traineeship would not only test the viability of traineeships as a sustainable employment path. It will certainly clarify the necessity of diversity of learning and employment paths.

Hatch is an impact-driven business with the mission to make digital and design opportunities accessible for all. That's why we are committed to sharing valuable resources like these freely and openly for the community.

More resources on career you might like:

Learn more about what we do at Hatch: