Press | Hatching a plan to nurture youths for the digital industry
Updated: Apr 4, 2022
Words by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)
This article was originally published on imda.gov.sg/digitalforlife/on 14 December 2021.
For youths who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, landing a career as a UI/UX (User Interface, User Experience) designer or a digital marketer can be a struggle. Oftentimes, many of them have no choice but to take on vocational jobs that help pay the bills at home. Because of such circumstances, they don’t have the means to take their interest in the digital industry further.
The team at Hatch wants to work together with these youths to help make these dreams a reality.
When co-founders Victor Zhu, Yeoh Wan Qing and Choo Li Ying started their impact-driven organisation in 2018, their mission was simple: to build a more equitable world where opportunities are made available and accessible to those who need them. They also hope to uncover the potential of out-of-school and at-risk youths by empowering them with digital or design skills that would boost their employability and in turn, move them up the social ladder.
Recalling how Hatch got started, Wan Qing says that they started to notice more interest from companies and organisation about going digital. While they saw that a lot of opportunities moving in this direction, it became clear that careers in the field were not equally accessible to all. Employability programs for out-of-school and at-risk youths, for example, were mostly limited to vocational tracks.
“In our personal interactions with the youths, we saw their interests and ambitions to enter these sectors. It wasn’t that they lacked the potential to excel, but that they did not have the right exposure and access to opportunities,” explains Wan Qing, who is the co-founder and chief product officer at Hatch.
The Hatch team came up with a three-tiered programme targeted at different groups of youths, aged between 15 and 25 years old. Youths will get an opportunity to, and immerse themselves in, Digital Marketing and User Interface, User Experience Design, honing digital design skills by learning directly from industry practitioners.
Tier 1: Aspirations for a Digital Future
The first tier reaches out to latent disadvantaged youths through Youth Support Agents (YSAs) such as social workers or counsellors. YSAs will be trained to identify young people who are keen to explore a career in the digital design industry. They will also be equipped with an open-sourced resource pack that includes an information kit, videos, and a set of hands-on challenges for the youths to get a ‘taster’ experience of digital and design.
Upon assessing their level of interest, the YSAs will refer the youths for one of two programmes, Skills for a Digital Future and Pathways for a Digital Future, to further support youths who develop an interest or commitment to enter the digital design industry.
Tier 2: Skills for a Digital Future
The second tier, Skills for a Digital Future, aims to provide an introductory hands-on experience to help youths explore if they would like to eventually make a foray into the industry. The workshop provides hands-on exposure by teaching them how to build a digital portfolio. Concurrently, they get to learn about the industry to better decide if they are keen to join.
Tier 3: Pathways for a Digital Future
The final tier is a six-month program which will help committed youths from disadvantaged backgrounds overcome existing barriers and transition into a fulfilling digital career. Under Pathways, Hatch runs a direct train-and place program, with a three-month training curriculum designed to drive clear employment outcomes, leading to a three-month work attachment for youths who meet training milestones.
Wan Qing says, “We move away from being theory-focused. We consulted people in the industry, so we know what the market is looking for, enabling the youths to be prepared thoroughly for a job in the real world.”
What appeals to the participants is often the softer side of the programmes. To help them cope with a new environment, Hatch’s programme managers prioritise fostering a strong sense of community between peers by journeying closely together with them. The team has also set aside social-emotional learning (SEL) classes once a week to help them facilitate a smoother transition into the workplace. During these sessions, participants get to brush up on their social skills, interview skills and learn about best practices in the workplace setting.
“The SEL lessons were something I didn't expect the programme to have. It was quite helpful in teaching us some soft skills and aided me with some knowledge on job preparations,” said 18-year-old Heidi Lee, a past graduate of Hatch’s customised train-and-place programme.
She added that learning how to craft a resume and cover letter also gave her new-found confidence when applying for jobs.
Wan Qing shares that social emotional learning is important because some of these youths deal with family problems at home that threaten to spill over into the workplace. Meanwhile, others who have never worked in a professional setting before may be unsure of how to navigate an office environment. One Hatch graduate, for example, was in a dilemma about whether she should say hi to her colleagues in the morning.
“They may not have the self-confidence and sometimes feel anxiety entering into the next stage of their lives. Our hope is that we can help shift the narrative in their head. We tell them ‘You’ve already acquired the skills, you can do it.’” says Wan Qing.
Supporting young people is a cause that she has championed for years. Before Hatch, she ran a homework mentoring group for underprivileged children in the community. Musing about how she ventured into the volunteering space, she says, “I saw a bit of inequality around me and wanted to find out why things exist the way they do. I wanted to find out what I can do to play a part.”
Meanwhile, Victor was troubled when he saw that companies were not able to find the right digital talent. At the same time, there were youths with enormous potential who were made to feel unworthy for not having the right qualifications.
When Wan Qing met Victor – they were staying at the same residence at the National University of Singapore – they connected over their common passion to help their peers discover their strengths and be the best versions of themselves.
The third co-founder and chief operating officer, Choo Li Ying, joined Hatch shortly after. Reflecting on her journey, she shares that she has always enjoyed meeting new people and learning about their stories.
“The conversations I had with various people has taught me to always be kind and humble, and if it is within your means, we should always do our best to be there for others. My role in Hatch enables me to continue doing this work that I enjoy very much,” says Li Ying.
Having witnessed first-hand the impact of Hatch’s work, she transitioned from her career in private banking to spearhead the social enterprise’s operations and strategic partnerships.
Together, the trio hatched a new movement. It has only been four years since they started Hatch, but already the social impact organisation has hit many milestones.
Hatch currently works with a network of 96 partner companies that range across startups, SMEs, MNCs and corporates including Changi Airport Group (CAG) and Tree Dots, a food distribution company.
Changi Foundation, CAG’s philanthropic arm, has funded the Hatch Immersive programme since 2020. Two interns were also hired “to learn and contribute” after they impressed the head of iShopChangi – CAG’s e-commerce platform – on Demo Day. This is a session where hiring companies meet Hatch graduates, see their portfolio and offer internships.
Mr Vala Pavan Kumar, senior manager at Airside Concessions for Changi Airport Group, shares that despite being with the team for only less than 6 months, both interns have added value by creating marketing creatives and helping to improve new UX/ UI features on the e-commerce site. “I can see that Hatch Immersive programme has prepared the trainees well for a job in the UI/UX sector. Even with no design background, the trainees are able to quickly learn and adapt to new skills to work and collaborate with experienced designers within a short period of time,” he adds.
For Wan Qing, her greatest achievement is watching every learner graduate from the programme – no matter whether they attain hard skills or soft skills. “There’s a different matrix of success for everyone. Sometimes they come to learn about the industry, but they also gain confidence and clarity about what they want to do in life.”
Some 114 individuals have graduated across Hatch’s train-and-place programs, of which, 81 come from its customised program for out-of-school and at-risk youths. About 87 per cent of them secured internships.
The experience of working for a company also inspired 30 per cent of the participants to continue and pursue full-time jobs or take on internships in areas such as graphic design, social media management, UI/UX Design and web design.
Wan Qing looks forward to Demo Day.