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Speech by Mr James Pang

MONDAY, 25 MAY 2015 (SESSION 16)

Mr Tan Choon Shian, Principal and CEO, Singapore Polytechnic
Distinguished Guests,
Parents and Graduands,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Evening.

  1. It is my pleasure to join you today at Singapore Polytechnic’s 55th Graduation Ceremony to witness the graduands from the Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA) receive their diplomas in Marine Engineering, Maritime Business and Nautical Studies. This is the culmination of your hard work throughout your three years in Singapore Polytechnic. I am sure it is a proud moment for you and your loved ones as well as a time for celebration. My congratulations to all the graduates and their families on this milestone occasion.

A Culture of Life-long Learning

  1. With the diploma that you are receiving, this marks the end of your polytechnic education. However, this does not mean that you are done with learning and in fact, this is only the beginning.

  2. For most of you here, you would be all ready and raring to enter the workforce. I am sure that the education and training that SMA had provided you would have prepared you well for the exciting maritime industry. However for some of you, you would already be thinking of the universities that you would be applying to further your studies. For the seafaring graduates from the Nautical Studies and Marine Engineering courses, your career paths are set for you and upgrading is necessary to attain captainship or to become a chief engineer of a ship. Whatever your paths may be from here on stagnation is not an option if you want to achieve your career goals in life.

  3. The Inspired Learner. Singapore Polytechnic has aptly put it as one of its visions for its students and graduates. This vision is also in alignment with national efforts of life-long learning and skills upgrading through the SkillsFuture initiative. SkillsFuture is a national effort to develop skills for the future as well as promote career progression based on skills and mastery, which includes the recommendations from the recently concluded Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) and CET 2020.

  4. The SkillsFuture framework announced recently by Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will further enhance Polytechnic education through several initiatives such as the “Earn-and-Learn” programme. It is a work-study programme designed to give fresh graduates a head start in careers related to their area of study through structured on-the-job training and institution-based training. Furthermore, career and academic progression prospects for Polytechnic and ITE graduates will be enhanced through the strengthening of industry linkages to provide work-relevant training for students as well as enhanced educational and career guidance. CET 2020 aims to transform Continuing Education and Training (CET) for a competitive and career resilient workforce.

  5. One of the initiative of the SkillsFuture framework will provide each Singaporean aged 25 and above to receive an initial credit of S$500 to be used for education and training from next year. Furthermore, education and training subsidies for all Singaporeans aged 40 and above will be enhanced to a minimum of 90% of training costs for courses funded by MOE and WDA.  Especially for the maritime industry, additional subsidies are available for most maritime-related courses through the Maritime Cluster Fund (MCF) administrated by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). What it means is that you will now be given the support and resources to take charge of your career planning and life-long education.

  6. I know some of these schemes may seem too far away for your consideration at this juncture, but it wasn’t too long ago when I was sitting in a similar position as you are now. Fresh and eager to start carving out my career, and determined to push myself to see how far I can go. 15 years have passed since then, and I still find myself as fresh, and as eager, because one can never stop learning in today’s dynamic world. Unlike you, I majored in Economics and Finance and started my career at an international bank where I was able to hone my selling and pitching skills being part of the top Global Corporate Sales team in Standard Chartered Bank. My role also gave me exposure to managing key client relationships as I learnt from the best at handling delicate issues with the clients especially during the 2008 Great Financial Crisis.
    And when my dad invited me to join his company to help him grow our global footprint back in 2011, I was sceptical at first. Will my time in the bank be considered a waste? Are my skills and knowledge acquired during the past years transferable? Will I be able to live up to expectation? And more importantly what does the Offshore and Marine industry have to offer?
    As it turns out, plenty.

Joining the Maritime & Offshore Industries

  1. Singapore's maritime sector recorded good growth in 2014 despite challenging conditions. Container throughput grew 4 per cent to a record 33.9 million 20-foot equivalent units last year. Vessel arrival tonnage rose 1.9 per cent to 2.37 billion gross tonnes. Singapore kept its position as the world's top bunkering port and there were 82.2 million gross tonnes of ships under the Singapore flag, making Singapore as one of the top 10 ship registries globally.  Singapore is now home to some 130 shipping companies. The maritime cluster employs over 170,000 workers and contributes about seven per cent to Singapore's economy. The maritime industry is here to stay and as a small country highly dependent on international trade, Singapore has always regarded our maritime sector as a critical pillar supporting our economic development.

  2. Singapore is also the top player in the global market for oil and gas drilling units and offshore support vessels. From their humble beginnings as regional ship repair centres, our local conglomerates Keppel and SembCorp have become renowned names in the global offshore industry. Today, Singapore is the largest manufacturer of jack-up rigs, and commands 70 per cent of the world market. It also has 70 per cent of the global market for the conversion of Floating Production Storage Offloading units. The future of the industry remains bright, driven by a global increase in energy demand. An expert cluster of marine-related service companies such as those providing classification services, maritime law and insurance services, and offshore support services has developed here.

  3. We managed to achieve such remarkable progress in the oil and gas sector despite not having a single ounce of oil or gas in our country. Because of this, Singapore companies in this sector have grown to be one of the most dynamic and global companies in the country and there are many other examples apart from Keppel and Sembcorp that have also made their mark in the global offshore industry. Ezra for example, has one of the largest and most sophisticated fleet of subsea construction vessels operating in the world. Pacific Radiance was awarded Ship Owner of the Year in 2015 by the leading offshore Journal, Offshore Support Journal, for its rapid and successful expansion into markets such as Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. When I joined in 2011, 95% of our business was in Asia. Today, close to 35% come from outside Asia. As you can see, I’m no longer a sceptic.

Traits of an SP Graduate

  1. SP has indeed contributed much to the Singapore workforce and it has remained true to its motto, “Berkhidmat dengan keahlian” or translated, “To serve with skill”. The education and training here would have prepared you for the next generation workforce with technical competencies, industry knowledge, overseas exposure and character development through the purposefully-designed curriculum and activities beyond the classroom. With SP’s new vision - Inspired Learners, Serve with Mastery and Caring Community, I am confident that the SP graduands here today are with eager minds, skilled hands and big hearts, ready to be part of the future Singapore workforce.

  2. When asked what is the single most important factor that made Singapore successful, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman replied that it is our attitude and mind, our ability to turn our disadvantage to our advantage. It is this attitude and mind that have sculptured the workforce culture that we have in Singapore today, which has not only led us to be the leading offshore oil and gas player in the world but also one of the biggest economic powerhouse in Asia despite not having any natural resources. It is also this attitude and mind that we have that led us to find strength in diversity, and the drive to relentlessly pursue ways to improve and upgrade ourselves and compete with the best in the world. And my dear graduands, it is this attitude and mind that will place you in the best companies and carve a promising career path for you for many years ahead.

  3. On this note, I would like to once again congratulate all graduands. I hope all will find fulfilling careers, and I wish you great success in all that you do. 

Thank You.

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