A Letter from Singapore

Jul 27, 2020 | Sector & policy

Insight to student recruitment overseas from Jonathan Kwan, Executive Director, South East Asian Association of Graduate Employers.

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, I’ve been fortunate to have lived and worked across three continents, with Singapore being my home for the last 13 years.

Today, as the Executive Director of SEAAGE (South East Asian Association of Graduate Recruiters), let me give you a view into what is happening with graduate recruitment in the epicentre of one of the hottest (literally and figuratively!) areas of the world.

Impact of Covid-19

In SEAAGE’s Covid-19 Impact Survey conducted in early April, close to 50% of respondents said that they were in a ‘wait and see’ mode with their graduate recruitment plans. The positive was that offers were yet to be rescinded, and some companies were still going ahead completing their assessments.

At the same time the government announced ‘circuit breaker’ measures, similar to many places around the world, to get things under control. Except for essential services, all businesses and schools were closed, forcing employees, educators and students to try to continue virtually.

Despite world class technology infrastructure, a move to a virtual environment was a massive mindset shift for a very conservative nation like Singapore.

But with summer internships fast approaching, status quo would not be an option. Strategic employers quickly hurried to design a virtual internship from scratch, while fast followers delayed and reduced the length of their programmes in order to take a more basic ‘shift and lift’ approach, and laggards opted to simply cancel their internships altogether.

The government has also stepped up in a significant way pledging over SGD$2billion to create 21,000 traineeships (of up to one year in length) for graduating students of the class of 2019 and 2020, where 80% of the salary will be subsidised.

Mixed model going forward

With the new academic year starting in mid-August, much earlier than in the UK, no Singapore university has announced going fully online nor returning to all in-person classes.

Some post-graduate programmes have significantly increased their career services provision, taking advantage of the virtual model to on-board their students months in advance to help ease the uncertainty.

For employers, a mixed model will be needed for the peak Fall campus recruiting season, with most wondering how to best engage with students virtually given webinar fatigue. This could also be a great opportunity to reach a much wider audience that previous travel budget restrictions would not have allowed.

Revolution in graduate recruitment

If there’s any upside to Covid-19, it’s that this pandemic has forced everyone, especially hiring managers, to re-think all their assumptions of what is and is not possible.

Over 70% of respondents in our survey believe that this is the beginning of a new revolution in how we recruit. Though there’s still quite some time left before this crisis is over, over 75% are optimistic and believe that recruitment targets in 2021 will be the same, if not higher than today.

Read SEAAGE’s Covid-19 Impact on Graduate Recruitment Report

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