“The National University of Singapore is pumping $30 million into initiatives to help students and graduates gain career skills and enhance their employability” (NUS To Roll Out Career Skills Initiatives, Pearl Lee).
While there is enthusiasm over proposed initiatives by the National University of Singapore (NUS), with a life-skills programme which will focus on “developing self-understanding in students, and help sharpen their communication, networking, and collaboration skills” (ST, Oct. 28), what is less clear is how these endeavours may complement existing ones, whether there is demand in the first place, as well as how their effectiveness will be measured?
In particular, the reference to “communication, networking, and collaboration skills” seems to suggest that little has been done thus far, or that outcomes have been poor. What prompted the investment in these plans, and how did NUS decide on the skills to be developed? Should it not fall on the students to maximise learning opportunities within the university, primarily through their home faculties? How different – for instance – are the new life-skills programmes compared to others offered by the Centre for Future-ready Graduates, the office already responsible for maximising the “potential and aspirations” of undergraduates?
What is even more puzzling is NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan’s assertions that his students come from a “strong position”, are perceived to be “highly competent with good analytical and problem-solving skills”. If so, then why the need for these supplementary programmes? What does Professor Tan mean by a “can-do” spirit, in this context? Is it not a prerequisite for graduates to possess gumption when applying for jobs, and is that not instilled at present?
Measuring the success of the life-skills programme will be challenging too. According to the annual Graduate Employment Survey, employment rates and median salaries have remained high across the years, so it is difficult to see how these quantitative measures could be used or improved. In other words, to convince more of the significance of these endeavours, greater substantiation is needed on their purpose, details, and evaluation.