One Singapore university’s mission for a future-ready workforce

By Singapore Institute of Technology

The world is your classroom.

Shakespeare would have it that all the world’s a stage. But it could also be a giant classroom.

The best learning includes experiences outside of the campus, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) believes. It has designed its student experience to tear down the walls of the lecture hall, and place undergraduates right in the heat of the action -- in the industry.

SIT students go through work attachment programmes and receive learning credits to further their knowledge after graduation. Here’s how the university is giving its students a head-start to employment.

Real world insights

Tan An Qi, a recent Mechanical Design and Manufacturing Engineering graduate at SIT. She is part of the SGUnited Traineeships Programme at Siemens Advance Manufacturing Transformation Centre (AMTC).

SIT deliberately crafts its curriculum to give students a taste of the real working world, and emphasises the need to be lifelong learners and stay agile in a disruptive era. Tan An Qi, a recent Mechanical Design and Manufacturing Engineering graduate, shares how her university experience helped hone both her skillsets and a growth mindset.

During her attachment at leading industrial and fiber laser solutions supplier Coherent, An Qi led a research project to design and build a thermal chamber. The process taught her to prioritise practicality.

After coming up with the initial designs for the thermal chamber, a senior colleague shared with her that it may be a bit too heavy for just one staff to handle, she says. Another important lesson was that there was no need to customise everything -- sometimes it is faster and cheaper to buy ready-made parts.

It is with these insights from experienced industry seniors that An Qi realised the importance of keeping an open mind to cultivate a growth mindset and not limit her personal and professional growth.

This experience came in helpful for her current role under the SGUnited Traineeships Programme at Siemens Advance Manufacturing Transformation Centre (AMTC). When she’s not creating digital twin models of manufacturing plants, she assists with the operation of specialised equipment and trains mid-career switchers – all of which are new experiences that cannot be taught in the classroom.

“It was certainly daunting to graduate amid a pandemic. However, my academic experience had helped nurture a sense of adaptability, and I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the traineeship role at Siemens when I saw the opening on ReadyTalent – SIT’s job portal for students,” says An Qi.

Her supervisor has also found her university experience useful. Her academic training “was a good foundation to work on”, says Benjamin Moey, Vice President of Advance Manufacturing and Head of Advance Manufacturing Transformation Centre, Digital Industries, ASEAN, Siemens. “I believe some of the courses have given her the opportunity to develop important soft skills, such as communications and problem solving,” Moey adds.

An Qi has since been offered a full-time role at Siemens AMTC.

Unlearning and relearning

Technology is constantly evolving and transforming the sectors, and the workforce needs to keep up. SIT offers learning credits for graduates, who can use these to learn about the latest industry advancements.

These credits were of great help to Timothy Lee Zi Jia, a recent Electrical Power Engineering graduate. At his full-time job as an electrical engineer, he manages more than 500 components that are crucial to manufacturing operations.

One popular solution in the industry now is to use machine learning to predict the lifespan of a machine or preempt a failure, he shares. Through SITLEARN Professional Development’s machine learning course, he learned how to apply the same approach to the tools under his care.

Career matchmaker

“Our emphasis on applied learning encourages students to learn by doing, rather than learning for doing, which helps them to be industry-relevant and employable," says Ms Yeo May-Fung, Director, Centre for Career Readiness, SIT.

The university has been leveraging its strong industry partnerships to help final-year students in their job search. SIT holds workshops with companies, offers recruitment recommendations and sets up networking opportunities for students.

"We constantly connect with key members of the industry to understand how we can strengthen the talent pipeline to help address the gaps in their sectors. By doing so, we ensure that there will be a demand for our students when they graduate,” she adds.

Graduating students will have to grapple with a volatile job market for the next few years, as the economy recovers. SIT’s emphasis on real world experience, continuous learning and career support will help to give students a leg up into the world of work.

Images from SIT.