Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) Graduation Ceremony on 13 October 202213 Oct 2022
Chairman, Board of Trustees of SIT, Mr Bill Chang
President of SIT, Professor Chua Kee Chaing
Faculty and staff, parents and , Graduands,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am happy to join you this morning for your graduation.
2. And it is so good to be able to gather like this to celebrate this important milestone for our graduands, together with your family and friends. Is truly something to cherish because this is the first time that we are able to come together in such a large scale graduation ceremony since the outbreak of the pandemic, two and the half years ago.
3. I know over these period for much of our student journey at SIT, events like these were not possible and has not been easy for all of you.
a. When your industry attachments and lessons were disrupted, you had to quickly adapt to new ways of learning. You also had to find new ways of connecting with one another, to overcome the stress of social isolation.
b. But despite these challenges, all of you demonstrated the best of the human spirit, pushing yourself forward and encouraging each other to carry on. So to all our graduates this morning, let me offer my heartfelt congratulations to all of you. Well done everyone.
c. Of course, this achievement would not have be possible without those who have supported you throughout your journey – your family and friends, and the faculty and staff of SIT. Many of them are here today to celebrate this milestone with you and you have truly made them very proud. So I think we should also give them a big round of applause to recognise them.
4. I would like to also thank all of you here today for your cooperation and support in tackling the pandemic these past two and a half years. We only managed to get through the worst of Covid because you complied with the measures, no matter how inconvenient they were. And we continued to keep faith with one another in Singapore even through the darkest period of the pandemic. If you recall late last year when our healthcare workers were under much strain, many SIT students answered the call to support them. You put others before yourselves, and you stepped up to volunteer at various social, rehabilitation and healthcare facilities. Your contributions were invaluable in our fight against COVID-19 and is really because of efforts like these – everyday Singaporeans all doing your part – that we managed to get through this crisis together. So let me say a big “Thank You” to all of you.
5. Speaking to all of you today is a bit of a home-coming for me because as was mentioned just now by your president, my journey with SIT began a decade ago in 2012 when I led the committee to review the possibilities for expanding our university sector in Singapore.
a. After careful study at that time, we assessed that we could increase the number of university places to give more opportunities to young Singaporeans like yourselves. But instead of simply expanding our existing universities, we felt that we should try something different to broaden and diversify our university sector.
b. And in particular, we had looked at applied, practice-oriented universities overseas, which combined classroom-based learning with practical work experience. These universities had strong linkages between academic knowledge and industry skills, and they also have very good employment and educational outcomes.
c. We felt that this learning model would be useful to Singapore. It will benefit our students and equip them with valuable industry-relevant skills.
d. And that is why we recommended them to make SIT a full-fledged autonomous university and also our first university for applied learning in Singapore.
6. Today, 10 years later, I am glad to see that SIT is making its mark as a leader for applied learning in Singapore.
a. From an inaugural batch of just 500 students, which is about the size of the audience here today, SIT has grown significantly over the years to over 9,000 students, offering about 40 degree programmes.
b. All this was made possible due to the close collaboration between SIT and its many industry partners. And this has enabled SIT to do well.
c. The facts speak for themselves – SIT graduates have seen very strong employment outcomes.
d. As you heard just now, close to 96% of the Class of 2021 found employment within six months of graduation and this is higher than many of the other autonomous universities in Singapore which is really quite an achievement!
e. And I am pleased that SIT’s Allied Health graduates, namely Diagnostic Radiography, Occupational Therapy, and Radiation Therapy; your allied health graduates have excellent track record – achieving an impressive 100% employment rate last year.
7. One reason for this is that the healthcare sector is a growth sector. There are many opportunities for employment and career advancement in healthcare. And the reason is simple – we are ageing very quickly.
a. By 2030, we will have around 1 million citizens who will be aged 65 and above. That is about 1 in 4 of us. All of us can feel it, it’s either us or our parents.
b. And this is driving a substantial increase in the demand for healthcare professionals, including allied health professions like yourselves. In fact, Singapore needs 82,000 healthcare staff by 2030, an increase of more than 40% from our current headcount.
c. So for our graduates you are in a very good position, because I have no doubt that your employment prospects. You are in a growth industry.
8. Beyond finding employment, you can look forward to continued advancement, learning and transformation in your careers.
a. For example, for diagnostic radiographers and radiation therapists, advancements in technology are promising to revolutionise patient assessment and treatment.
b. Artificial Intelligence has shown an impressive ability to leverage diagnostic scans to identify abnormalities within the human body. A.I. also has the potential to help radiation therapists develop personalised doses of chemotherapy for patients, reducing the radiation they receive and improving the quality of care.
c. Meanwhile, occupational therapists will increasingly need to learn how to use remote care and telehealth to treat our ageing population in the comfort of their homes. And MOH is working to help standardise the measurable outcomes for patients across hospitals and community providers, to help you better understand your patient’s rehabilitation progress and the appropriate treatment responses.
9. In short, all of these things are changing. With AI, with technology, with new treatment protocols. Things are continuing to evolve and all that means our graduates here today will have the ability to continue delivering even better quality of care. But it also means that you will have to continue learning new skills and new ways of doing things throughout your careers.
a. So while today may mark the end of your undergraduate journey, it is really just the beginning of your lifelong learning journey.
b. And I hope that all of you will develop a mindset of continuous learning and keep abreast with the latest skills and knowledge required to do your job well.
c. And on this lifelong learning endeavour, the Government and institutions like SIT will continue to support you. Indeed, this may not be the last time you see SIT – it is very possible that many of our graduates may find themselves coming back here again, or some other institution, to do a short training module or a longer advanced programme in order to progress in your careers and stay current with the skills that you need to excel in doing your job well.
10. Ultimately, what’s important is that all of you can look forward to a deeply fulfilling and meaningful profession.
a. As allied health professionals, you will all be on the front lines in supporting our ageing population,
i. Helping them to regain independence and confidence in performing everyday activities,
ii. Helping to diagnose their ailments early,
iii. And treating their cancers, all in a day’s work.
b. There is no job more noble and no task more important than providing care for others.
11. You will see our seniors at their most vulnerable – when they are unable to do the daily activities that they have taken for granted all their lives, or they might be full of anxiety over what might be making them ill.
a. And in these vulnerable moments, they will be looking to you for hope and reassurance.
b. It may not appear that way sometimes, they may be uncooperative or even unwilling to listen to your advice. But don’t forget that behind every difficult case or clinical problem is a human being – someone’s parent or grandparent, spouse or sibling – looking to be reassured.
c. And I hope that you will always remember this and deliver care with empathy.
12. Finally, let me conclude by highlighting once again the spirit of resilience and excellence which all of you have displayed to get to where you are today.
a. Your accomplishments today are something to celebrate and cherish.
b. But please do not let this be the final stop in your journey of excellence.
c. I know it can be tempting to take the easy way out: after all you say I’ve studied for so long, I now have gotten a degree, why not relax and enjoy life a bit more? It’s a very natural thought to get into your minds. And it’s not surprising why these days you hear people talking about quiet quitting. Or in China, they say lying flat. But these sort of thoughts are not new. When I was about the age of the graduates here today, in the late 80s and early 90s, the media was portraying my generation as slackers. The Gen X was supposedly slackers and lazy, but we turned out ok I think.
d. So, I hope for our graduates that you will find as you progress through life that happiness comes about not by settling for mediocrity, but by seeking excellence in everything that we do. To be clear, this does not mean that you have to be constantly comparing with the other person next to you, or conforming to the expectations that others have of you. Because really it’s about each one of you redefining your abilities and strengths for what they are, as well as your own shortcomings and weaknesses, and really continually trying to be the best possible version of yourself.
e. So whatever you do, I encourage you to always keep doing better and working for improvements. Because when you put your hearts and soul into something, we will feel a greater sense of fulfilment and satisfaction in whatever we accomplish. And I believe that is the true source of happiness.
13. Many of you already embody this spirit of excellence. I can’t share all your stories, but perhaps just one story of your classmate – Ashley Gwyneth Tan.
a. Ashley was diagnosed with dyslexia in secondary school, and that sparked her interest in working with children with disabilities. She later learned more about occupational therapy during her diploma internship at a special needs school.
b. So she pursued this with passion, setting her mind on pursuing excellence and finding joy in helping others. She was determined not to let her dyslexia get in her way and she found creative ways to keep up with her studies.
c. Through her hard work, she made the Provost’s List for two consecutive academic years and received the Ngee Ann Kongsi Scholarship. Besides excelling in her studies, she found time to work with those with special needs.
i. She volunteered as a befriender at Rainbow Centre, where she engaged students with disabilities to help them integrate them into the community.
ii. And also volunteered with the SIT Magical Hearts Club, where she learn how to use magic tricks to entertain persons with disabilities and seniors.
d. Today, she is an Occupational Therapist at Rainbow Centre, teaching students with disabilities how to dress and fine-tuning their motor skills.
e. And in the spirit of continual improvement, she hopes to pursue a master’s degree in occupational therapy and engage in research to provide effective treatment for patients under her care.
14. As I said, I am only citing one story because if I were to mention all of the stories here, I do not think we will be able to finish this in good time. We will be here the whole day. All of your stories, I am sure shows how the pursuit of excellence can be deeply fulfilling and satisfying. This is so for Ashley and I am sure it applies to all of our graduates here today too. So to the Class of 2022, continue to chase the rainbow, push the boundaries and excel in what you do and find purpose and meaning in everything that you strive for. Congratulations once again and I wish you all the best in the next phase of your life’s journey.
15. Thank you very much.