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Young S'poreans must work at building future together: PM

Mr Lee said young Singaporeans have more opportunities than their parents did in education; there're more university places and also more pathways into the future.


GREATER economic uncertainty may be on the horizon, but young Singaporeans today are better equipped and in a better position to build a better tomorrow, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday evening.

Speaking to students at the Singapore Institute of Technology, he said that ultimately, how well Singapore does and the kind of society it will become in the next 30 years will depend on them - how they make the most of the opportunities they get, their resilience in facing uncertainties and change, and whether they are team players.

He noted that young Singaporeans have many more opportunities than their parents did in education; Singapore today offers not just many more places in universities, but also a system which presents them with more options and pathways.

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More importantly, the good certificate and diploma that the young here earn come with the acquisition of knowledge and skills, which will enable them to land good jobs and achieve their dreams.

"It's not too hard to create more university places and produce more graduates," he said. "It is much tougher to find jobs for all the graduates that make full use of their training and skills."

He cited South Korea and Taiwan as societies in which nearly everyone has a degree of some kind, but may not actually find jobs; youth unemployment is a serious problem in many places, he added.

Singapore has side-stepped the problem by setting up education institutions with applied pathways leading to industry-relevant qualifications and providing plenty of opportunities for degree-holders to also get a job, a career and a bright future, said Mr Lee.

Singapore is not only creating opportunities for young Singaporeans at home, but overseas as well, he added. This has been done by welcoming multinational corporations to Singapore, and connecting this country with the rest of the world.

"So, as young Singaporeans, the world is your oyster," he told the estimated 500 students in attendance. "You have many opportunities, many more than your parents had. But you have to seize them, make the most of them and create further opportunities for yourself."

To do this, the young must be resilient because, while the world is changing, no one can tell how it will do so. Young Singaporeans must thus gird themselves for whatever might happen and adapt to new conditions.

They must take setbacks in their stride and have the toughness and flexibility to soldier on and see themselves through, Mr Lee said.

One key uncertainty is the economy, which is going through rapid changes because technology is evolving quickly; this evolution is killing many old jobs and demanding new skills.

Mr Lee said that support is in place in the form of the SkillsFuture schemes, for example. These help workers cope and make learning and adapting a lifelong endeavour - but it is up to young Singaporeans to use these support schemes.

"You must have the resolve and spirit to take up the schemes, to switch jobs or move to a different industry if the economy shifts (and) to learn, unlearn and relearn things all your life," he said.

But while individual commitment and contributions are important, he said Singapore's real strength lies in its people being united - "not just working hard, but working together".

He added that while there is definitely a future for young Singaporeans in Singapore, they must work at it - not just individually, but together.