Press | Hatch is helping disadvantaged youths find better jobs

Words by Hannah Toh This article was originally published on on 19th February 2019


Teaching youths without paper qualifications web design and digital marketing to help them land jobs.

In a country that places so much emphasis on grades and qualifications, how do school dropouts or disadvantaged youths find their second chances?

This was a question that weighed heavily on the mind of 23-year-old founder of Hatch, Victor Zhu. While working in a fire station during his National Service, he met youths from different backgrounds who wanted to achieve financial independence and turn their lives around, but were unable to apply for the jobs they wanted.

Victor said: "Even though they have the interest and motivation in something, they did not have the qualifications for the jobs they are interested in. So they end up being stuck in certain jobs."

However, after working with several start-ups during his university internship, Victor was happy to find out that there were actually job opportunities available for people who are willing to work, regardless of qualifications.

"It was something that was surprising to me, as I grew up thinking that you had to get good grades and good qualifications, then you'd get a good job," Victor said.

Hatch managed to secure funding from the National Youth Council | Photo credit: Brenda Teo

Wanting to help people with low paper qualifications to get hired, Victor started Hatch in August 2017 to provide month-long classes for youths to learn either web design or digital marketing. They are also coached on how to do well in interviews, as after their classes, they are sent to interviews with companies.

The Hatch team of eight core members comes from diverse backgrounds. Victor, a third-year undergraduate pursuing a degree in quantitative finance in the National University of Singapore, invited many of his schoolmates to join his cause. He also recruited several members who are already working full-time.

Victor (bottom left) and the young core team at Hatch are all aged 20-23

"I think the common characteristic among us is that we feel something for this cause – to help these youths explore their potential," said Victor, who had some interactions with these youths previously through work and volunteering.

The team works with youths who are at-risk, school dropouts, or from low-income backgrounds. Even though such youths are interested in tech jobs, they lack paper qualifications, which limits them to jobs in logistics or the retail industry. Hatch tries to bridge that gap by offering courses that teach web design and digital marketing.

Prior to attending classes organised by Hatch, 21-year-old Qamarul Arifin was working in the food and beverage industry.

He said: "My probation officer told me about Hatch, and I was really interested in it because they had a track for digital marketing and I never thought I would do business in my life."

Qamarul (centre in pink) explaining what he learnt during the course on demo day | Photo credit: Brenda Teo

While there was enthusiasm in starting the project, there were also many challenges along the way. One such challenge was that the students and teachers of different backgrounds had difficulty communicating with each other initially.

"When I didn't understand some things, I looked at my friend and we would be like 'oookay'. But we managed to ask questions and the trainer tried to reach our level of understanding when he was elaborating," Qamarul said.

Victor and his team also faced frustrations working with youths going through many challenges at home as some even bring these challenges to class.

The youths attending a web design class with Victor (left) and a Hatch volunteer | Photo Credit: Brenda Teo

"It's frustrating, but at the end of the day, when I go back home and think about it, I realise that it is out of our control. All we can do is provide a safe space for them and make it an enjoyable learning experience for them – to learn and see the value in their work," he said with a smile.

After their first run in May 2018, the team continued to adapt their curriculum to what the youths were interested in to further engage participants in the second run. They have even seen some success in helping youths to find opportunities to work for companies.

Qamarul, who just started a digital marketing internship, said: "Focus on the future and how you can bounce out of your 'worst', because you never know, opportunities can present themselves at any time and you never know what will happen next."

The Hatch team taking a group photo with their youths and everyone involved in the initiative | Photo credit: Brenda Teo

The Hatch team believes there is potential in these youths, and hopes that they can help them in small steps – to broaden their exposure and give them a marketable skill to help them achieve their aspirations.

But for all their efforts, Victor still feels that the bigger challenge is taken on by the youths they are trying to support.

He said: "We are only there to bridge the initial gap; the rest is the hard work of the youths."

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