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Speech by
Mr Chan Lee Mun
CHIEF SKILLS OFFICER
SINGAPORE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AGENCY

AT THE POLYTECHNIC’S 56TH GRADUATION CEREMONY
FRIDAY 6 MAY 2016 (SESSION 6)

Mr Tan Choon Shian, Principal & CEO, Singapore Polytechnic,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen. Good evening.

I am delighted to be here this evening and I want to thank the Singapore Polytechnic for inviting me here to speak at your Graduation Ceremony.

First, let me congratulate all of you on your graduation.

Just to graduate is enough reason for anyone to celebrate. It’s the culmination of one’s hard work and determination. It’s one of the more significant milestones in anyone’s life. But, in your case, your achievement is even more remarkable given that you have to balance your learning journey with your work and, for many of you, to have to also juggle your studies with family commitments and other demands on your time and attention.

So, together with your lecturers and mentors, and your family and friends, I commend all of you on your resolve and your sense of purpose. In particular, I applaud your motivation and passion for learning.

I do not really know your reasons for taking up the programmes you are graduating from this evening.

For some of you here, your reason could just be that you want to learn something new to enable you to perform better at your work. For others, it could be your preparation for a bigger job role, perhaps, in anticipation of a promotion or in contemplation of a career switch.

There can be many reasons, but regardless of what they might be, you can be sure of one thing: you are better equipped and better prepared for the future than you were on the day you started on this quest.

Today is Friday. You will have the whole weekend to celebrate your success. But, come Monday, most – if not all – of you will have to go back to work.

SP did not invite me here this evening to spoil your mood for celebration! By all means, please go out and paint the town red with family & friends. Just remember, if you drink, don’t drive.

But, seriously, let’s think about what our workplaces might be like when we return to work on Monday. You know …

The question is, “Are you ready for Monday?”

The answer has to be a “Yes”, right? After all, you have just completed your studies and you are graduating today. You have gained new knowledge, learned new skills, and acquired new competencies.

I agree with you … but I must say that the answer is, at best, a qualified “Yes”. It’s a “Yes” for this coming Monday. But, you know, there will be many more Mondays to come. Then what?

You see, the world will continue to change and those changes will have profound impact on the way we live, the way we play and, most certainly, the way we work.

New technologies will be introduced. New business models will emerge. New processes will be adopted. New systems will be put in place. New materials will be exploited. New software will be used. New cyber threats will surface …

At the same time, in the face of global competition and a tight labour market locally, our industries are resorting to automation & robotics, embarking on process re-engineering, job re-design, as well as adopting lean practices to raise productivity.

Where will all these changes leave you?

If you are working in the manufacturing sector, Industry 4.0 is at your doorstep. If you are from the Banking industry, you’ll do well to keep an eye on Financial Technology or FinTech and its potential to disrupt the financial sector. If you are an engineer or an ICT technologist and you are not up-to-date with the “Internet of Things”, or if you are in retail dealing with fast moving consumer goods and you haven’t heard about how big data analytics can help you in your work, you may be greatly disadvantaged. In some cases, your job may even be at risk.

The bottom line is this – there will be many drivers of change and we need to be continually updated with new knowledge, be equipped with new skills & competencies to stay current and relevant for the days ahead. In other words, we need to continually adapt to a changing environment.

Sure, you can attend more training courses to work towards another WSQ, Specialist Diploma, or a Degree.

But, that’s not the only way. Learning can take place anywhere and at all times. Do not discount what you can learn on the job or at the workplace. You can learn by taking on new projects, new assignments, or new postings – especially overseas postings. You can also learn a lot from your co-workers, your mentors, your bosses. Or, you can challenge yourself to take up some self-directed online learning with, say, Coursera, Udemy, or Lynda.com.

Our capacity to learn is directly dependent on our willingness to do so. Ultimately, it boils down to motivation and a mindset for lifelong learning.

This is where SkillsFuture comes in. SkillsFuture is a national movement aimed at creating opportunities and pathways for all of us – young and old, students and adult learners, employees and employers – to develop to our fullest potential throughout life. To paraphrase the words of our Acting Minister for Higher Education & Skills, SkillsFuture is ultimately about developing mastery of what we are good at, it’s about meritocracy based on our diverse talents and abilities, but most importantly it’s about you … about us … about us discovering our dreams and taking positive steps to work towards those dreams.

What I hope to be able to do here today is to urge you to look at the runway ahead of you and to encourage you to grasp the many opportunities that will come your way over the next 10, 20 and, for some of you, 30 or even 40 years of your working life.

Yes, in that time, you will have your fair share of challenges to overcome, mountains to climb and rivers to cross. But, along that journey, you will have the time and the opportunity to do what you really love, to pursue what you have passion for, to reach out and touch the lives of others, to make a difference to the community that you are a part of, and, in your own way, to make the world a better place for all of us.

That’s what is so exciting about your future and about the promise that your future holds.

I believe that, if you remain positive and determined, always willing to learn … if you do your best and give of your best, holding fast to your values, and believing in your own unique gifts and abilities … you will be a success – regardless of how the rest of the world may define success to be.

So, in closing, let me – once again – congratulate all of you on your success. You have done well and you should be very proud of your achievements.

And even as you leave later to celebrate your success, I would ask that you remember those people who have helped you come this far … as well as those who will help you go beyond.

Thank you and Happy Graduation Day!