Press | Social enterprise equips youths who lost hope with digital media skills

Words by Lauren Ong Photography by Najeer Yusof This article was originally published on on 14th July 2019


SINGAPORE — They are school dropouts, or youths who did not go through the traditional secondary school-junior college or polytechnic route.

Thanks to Hatch, a social enterprise founded by a National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate, these youths are getting jobs in digital marketing and user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design.

Mr Victor Zhu, Hatch’s 24-year-old founder, and his team see value in developing talents in individuals who do not have the best paper qualifications.

“I think one of the sad things happening in Singapore is that we’re so qualification driven. By the age of 18, you have already been streamed according to your academic ability or your background,” said Mr Zhu, who is in his final year of studies at NUS’ Faculty of Science.

“There are a lot of youths who never believe they are capable of any skilled jobs, they think that they’re going to be in the logistics sector, they’re going to be driving for Grab or Foodpanda forever. And it didn’t make a lot of sense, that is objectively not true.”

Hatch works with youths referred to them by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, or organisations such as Beyond Social Services and YMCA.

These youths will undergo a one-month training programme in UX and UI design, where they learn web design using HTML and CSS codes, or in digital marketing, which covers areas such as social media marketing, analytics and search engine optimisation.

They will also be taught soft skills like communication skills and teamwork.

This is followed by a three-month internship with startups or small-and-medium-sized enterprises that Hatch partners with.

Asked why digital marketing and UX/UI specifically, Mr Zhu said these are skills that are in high demand.

“A lot of companies are increasingly seeing the need for a digital presence, and they’re trying to expand their teams in that area,” he said.

“The greatest value of the partnership happens when the company starts off with getting an intern and eventually gets a full-time hire,” he added.

Youths with Untapped Potential

Mr Zhu shared that the inspiration behind the enterprise, which began operations in May 2018, was mainly his realisation that there are many young people with “untapped potential”.

While serving at a fire station during his National Service (NS) stint in 2016, he realised that many in his unit did not believe that they were capable of landing jobs they were passionate about after NS.

“I think it's all quite sad that it's because they may not have very strong qualifications. A lot of them tend to settle for the lower-skilled jobs,” he said.

“And that didn't seem very right because if you had given them any other training and something that they're interested in, they would have done very, very well.”

For Ms Yeoh Wan Qing, 22, co-founder and chief product officer of Hatch, it was her previous experience of working with youths in charities that drew her to the social enterprise’s cause.

“One of the youths whom I mentored, he was very sad because he couldn’t get into ITE (Institute of Technical Education) and he was standing on top of a building while telling me that. He asked whether he should jump down because he doesn’t see a future for himself,” the final-year Arts and Social Sciences student recalled.

“And at that point in time I felt like, it’s kind of sad to know so many people define themselves by numbers that will never define you again in your life.”

Mr Peh Jun Kai, 24, who has just completed his internship, told TODAY that Hatch’s programme has not just taught him new skills, it has also helped him adapt to a workplace setting and given him new-found confidence.

“Previously, I did not have the confidence to go for interviews or apply for jobs, I was scared that I will screw up,” he said.

“But now, after the course and internship, I am able to produce something and that gives me confidence and a sense of pride in what I do.

“And with this, there is hope.”

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