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Staying relevant to the needs of business and society

James Cook University is preparing its students to meet future challenges as it actively contributes to Singapore's success

'We will continue to develop our world class learning environment, drive our environmental footprint, and strengthen our industry and business links to support graduate outcomes and research impact.' - Professor Chris Rudd OBE, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of Campus, Singapore, at James Cook University

AS SOCIETY evolves, the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU) is equipping its students with the skills that are relevant to the needs of employers in Singapore. To ensure it stays relevant, JCU listens closely to industry and business, and constantly explores ways to extend its research collaborations with industry partners, says Professor Chris Rudd OBE, Deputy Vice- Chancellor and Head of Campus, Singapore, at JCU.

"We respond to feedback from partners and from the market. Our high-level Singapore Advisory Board challenges our thinking and helps us to connect with real world opportunities for our graduates and faculty," he says.

"JCU's very existence is underpinned by the strategic intent of creating a brighter future for life in the tropics worldwide through graduates and discoveries that make a difference. This is not a passing strand or a short-term project but defines our existence as an institution." Some areas where JCU is contributing to Singapore's success are in the fields of mental health and wellness, disruption and business, and food security.

Promoting mental health

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Reflecting its contributions towards promoting mental health and wellness, JCU was one of five universities recently presented with the Valued Partner award at the Asian Conference of Criminal and Operations Psychology (ACCOP) 2019, which was jointly organised by the Home Team Psychological Services at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Dr Denise Dillon, Associate Dean of Research and Research Education, accepted the award on behalf of the university from Minister for Manpower & Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mrs Josephine Teo. Dr Dillon is also the Research Chair of the Singapore Psychological Society.

Since the Singapore campus began operations in 2003, JCU has trained dozens of local psychologists who have contributed to psychological health enhancement through a number of employers, including several under the MHA's Office of Chief Psychologist.

Helping industry deal with disruption

On the business front, JCU is supporting Singaporean chambers of commerce as they evolve to better meet the needs of local companies in the age of technological disruption. In April 2019, JCU's Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA) organised a panel discussion series titled Futures in Focus: The Relevance of Chambers in the 21st Century.

The event brought together key members of various chambers of commerce, industry, government and academia to address market challenges, technological changes, and the future direction of chambers as they seek to remain relevant. Panel members highlighted key measures that chambers of commerce can adopt to thrive. These included the diversification of revenue streams, preservation of membership numbers, discovery of new profit centres and offering customised membership services, like training and education.

"As society evolves, and with it the business environment, chambers just like universities must continually challenge themselves to reassert their relevance. Innovation in the way chambers educate and engage with their target audience is critical," says Prof Rudd.

Building capabilities for food security

Another major issue that JCU in Singapore is tackling is that of food security. For instance, JCU offers undergraduate and higher degree by research programs in aquaculture to build capabilities locally. In line with this, the Singapore campus of JCU launched a new Aquaculture Research and Teaching Facility in July 2019. The facility will be used for both teaching and research purposes, and allow the university to more effectively deliver its world-class expertise in tropical aquaculture directly into Singapore and the immediate region.

Furthermore, the Tropical Futures Institute (TFI) at the Singapore campus of JCU will work with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to expand their collaboration in the field of aquaculture technology. Under a memorandum of understanding that spans three years, TFI and NUS will work together to discuss and develop research collaborations in the area of agriculture technology and aquaculture technology innovation.

JCU is also contributing to the government's "30 by 30" initiative - which aims to raise Singapore's food self-production level from the current 10 per cent to 30 per cent of total food needs by 2030 - as a member of the Aquaculture Innovation Centre (AIC). Unveiled in June at Temasek Polytechnic, the AIC is the first Centre of Innovation to bring the vast knowledge and experience from different partners - including tertiary institutes and government agencies - together through a consortium model to benefit the aquaculture sector in Singapore.

Delivering relevant skills

The Singapore campus of JCU will continue to develop its programme portfolio to remain relevant for its key audiences. "We will continue to develop our world class learning environment, drive our environmental footprint, and strengthen our industry and business links to support graduate outcomes and research impact," says Prof Rudd.

In particular, the university will prepare its graduates for the evolving workplace by making sure that its programmes are properly matched to employer needs and the evolving business landscape. Says Prof Rudd: "Our graduates are in great demand in the sunrise industries of the 21st century, which reflects our highly relevant content but also the innovation and creativity that infuses the JCU experience."