Missed Hatch on CNA938 Radio Station? Fret not! Catch up on the exclusive interview of Victor and Wan Qing, co-founders of Hatch. In this Singapore Today interview, hosts Melanie Oliveiro and Lance Alexander find out more about how Hatch aims to empower youth in Singapore.
Melanie Oliveiro: Hatch helps school dropouts or youths that did not go through the traditional secondary school, junior college, polytechnic or even ITE route to find jobs in digital marketing and user experience/user interface design.
Lance Alexander: Mr Victor Zhu, Hatch’s 24 year-old founder and his team see value in developing talent in individuals who do not have the best paper qualifications. Victor joins us now along with his co-founder, Yeoh Wan Qing. Thank you very much for joining us this evening. Victor, let’s start with you - when did it hit you that you could equip these young people with technical skills and then send them on their way and empower them to say, “Look, we can do a lot more than we think we can.”
Victor Zhu: Hello, thanks for having me. This has always been an objective understanding on my end. Essentially for any young people, if you give them sufficient training in an area that they are interested in, there is a lot of potential that can be tapped. It was during my university days that I had the opportunity to work with a lot of startups. These are very future, forward-looking people. For these people, it wasn’t that difficult for them to be willing to give it a try. For Hatch, we started with one company. We tried to do a training and matching for this company - we looked at what worked, and we tried to grow it there.
Melanie: And how do you find these young people?
Victor: For Hatch participants, they come from various social sector organisations and also from MSF - case workers and social workers from these organisations who knew the youth personally and knew about their interest and their motivations. These workers will refer youth who are keen on the digital and design space to the Hatch programme.
Lance: Wan Qing, let’s bring you into this discussion as well. You teach them computer skills. What exactly is UX and UI design?
Yeoh Wan Qing: UX is user experience. As a user, when you go on a website, how do you get the experience; how do you find it? Is it easy for you to find the information that you want? That’s basically user experience. And for user interface, which is UI, it is how visually appealing something is. It is the design elements - how do the colours go together and things like that.
Lance: And this is quite popular for companies to have?
Wan Qing: Yeah, for the UI/UX field, it is growing in terms of the skills that you can adapt to different things. For example, UX is not just for website or for applications. It can be for very simple things like understanding users. If you do market research, how do you do the questioning to get the answers and the information you need? The skills that are required in UI/UX is quite demanded in the market right now.
Melanie: It is indeed because there are entire agencies teaching people who want to do a mid-career switch to go into UX and UI. Tell us what it is like working with these people who, we assume, come from troubled homes or wayward youth. There is always a reason behind that, of course. We are not judging here. How do they initially behave with you when you start?
Victor: We see each other as fellow young people. There is a lot of relatability on our end. We are cautious about entering the workplace; there are things that worry us. In terms of common trends, one of the things we observed is self-confidence. What we specialise in the Hatch programme is bringing people with no prior experience - as long as you are interested and motivated - we bring you to the point whereby once you enter a company as a digital marketer or UI/UX designer, you can contribute to the company.
Melanie: But what is their behaviour like when you start to train them? How do they behave with you?
Victor: One of the challenges is convincing them that this is something that, once you go through this programme, you can actually do it. For these young people that we are talking about, it tends to be something that is difficult for them to grasp. For them, what they are accustomed to is hearing that they are not capable of achieving much. This is one of the key behaviours we observe very consistently through the programme.
Melanie: So they have esteem problems…
Lance: So you are not only teaching them skills in the technical aspect, you’re giving them confidence as well. Sometimes, does that take more time than the IT skills?
Victor: Definitely confidence is one of the large areas that we focus on. I wouldn’t say that they are exclusive from the IT skills. The design of the curriculum is very hands-on. Throughout the training, they will be creating websites and collaterals, digital marketing and UI/UX products. In this way, through this process, they are already building their own confidence as they see the different products they have already made throughout the training phase. It might still be quite preliminary, but they can observe their own improvements as the weeks go by.
Melanie: So it is built up, but they get there anyway. Share with us some success stories, Wan Qing. Obviously, if they do not meet the grade, you do re-train them. But what happens when they go to full-time work? Do you have any success stories for us?
Wan Qing: We have one of our youth who is now a full-fledged digital marketer in the firm he did an internship in. That is the common metric of success in which we measure by. We also see success stories in terms of how our youths grow. It is also very important for us that the youths are able to be more clear about the paths they want to undertake. We had another youth who did a digital marketing internship, but decided after that that he didn’t want to pursue a digital marketing career. He went on to pursue his own things, and he had the confidence in himself after the internship and everything to do what he wanted to do.
Lance: Do you think some of these older graduates can say that once they finish the training programme - do you bring them back to talk to the youths who are starting the new programme?
Wan Qing: We are still pretty new, we are in our third intake. Our graduate pool is still pretty small, but we are trying to find ways we can engage our alumni better and to inspire the new batch of Hatch youth.
Melanie: Are they mostly guys, or girls? Or a nice equal?
Wan Qing: We fit a nice equal for this batch, it is a good mix.
Lance: It is incredible that the 2 of you have come up with this programme because you are still in your early twenties, and you are already thinking of a social enterprise. The two of you must be very proud of what you are achieving here!
Victor: Thank you so much, it is very meaningful work.
Wan Qing: Yes, we find it very humbling to see the youth grow.
Lance: Well, you guys are doing tremendous work. Thank you for coming in and talking to us. We were speaking to Victor Zhu, Hatch’s 24 year-old social enterprise founder, as well as Hatch’s co-founder Yeoh Wan Qing.