Education

The job market trends that are affecting students and recent graduates

Singapore has enjoyed unprecedented rates of growth in the past three decades. We have transformed from a third-world nation to a first world nation. Industries,

Things to note if you want to take up art and design professionally

Art is an important aspect of lifestyle and society. It is also an increasingly sought after field of education. Whilst it was looked down upon

Society

The challenges of urbanization faced by tomorrow’s cities

Urbanization is a challenge as well as an opportunity to cities around the world today. As the trend of smart cities becomes more mainstream, city

Culture

4 trends that will shape the future of the music industry

I guess we do love music. We wrote a post earlier on the Singaporean music scene (www.weare.sg/kevin-lester/) and here we have decided to focus more

Ng Yi-Sheng and Singapore’s budding literature and poetry scene

Over the years, we have seen great and acclaimed writers and literary geniuses such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway and Twain grace our world. These writers

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4 trends that will shape the future of the music industry

I guess we do love music. We wrote a post earlier on the Singaporean music scene (www.weare.sg/kevin-lester/) and here we have decided to focus more on future trends that are sweeping the industry. These trend are something that aspiring Singaporean musicians should take note of.

To give some context about the industry, music has seen so many shifts. From the emergence of Rock n Roll, blues and jazz to techno, teen pop and hip-hop, musical tastes have always changed. Till the 90s, songs used to always be part of albums. You didn’t get one without the other. That disappeared with the emergence of streaming and the unpopularity of albums.

We just need to look at this history of music to know that it is never certain. It is influenced by too many factors. The rise of activism and the occurrence of wars led to the emergence and popularity of funk and grunge genres. It was less the music, more the political and social circumstances that led to its widespread popularity. So what are today’s circumstances that can shape music in the near future?

Brands and artists

Recently, our own Joel Tan, aka Gentle Bones, was signed up by Universal! Mind-blowing! He is the first Singaporean to have been signed up by a prestigious studio such as Universal. Today he is being compared to Ed Sheeran. Why is this relevant to this post? It is because today’s artists are increasingly intertwined with brands and production agencies. Once cannot survive without the other.

Rise of Virtual reality

Virtual Reality (VR) and its application in music is picking up pace. In the near future, we should be able to watch our favorite concerts and artists for cheap or perhaps even free. Costs of production for concerts will decrease, meaning ticket prices will fall.

The rise of musicals

Musicals and Broadway have been hit and miss for the most of it. There have been good ones such as Hamilton and Les Misérables. They have started a reemergence of musicals, with younger crowds increasingly flocking to them.

Activism and its effects

Politics shaped music immensely from the 60s to the 90s. The Vietnam War and its damages was the inspiration behind John Lennon’s masterpiece Imagine. With political uncertainty returning and global issues becoming more of a concern, activism will influence music again. Music will again become a means to rebel against the institutions.

So Singaporeans! Take note of these trends that will shape music in the near future. If you aspire to be a musician, use these trend to your benefit.

The job market trends that are affecting students and recent graduates

Singapore has enjoyed unprecedented rates of growth in the past three decades. We have transformed from a third-world nation to a first world nation. Industries, trade and banking has flourished in our island state. However, over the last couple of years, the job market has not been relatively favorable.

Wage growth has stagnated over the last few years. There are constant threats of Artificial Intelligence and automation that are perceived to be job stealers. Digitalization is taking away a lot of lower-skilled jobs. The government saw the threat in advance and introduced the Skills Future program to reskill employed people for the jobs of the future.

Singaporean students in polytechnics and universities don’t have he same kind of choice they had a few years back. Recruiters and HRs are looking today for niche skills that are not relevant for all types of students. There is a big shortage of tech talents and HR companies are looking to fill that up. However that benefits only certain degrees such as engineering, not everyone.

With such challenges that we face today, students and prospective graduates need more options. There is a new trend of freelance, part-time and project based jobs that are popping up. Recent graduates are increasingly looking at those. Surprisingly enough, only 59% of employees in Singapore are engaged, meaning are in full-time roles. This is the lowest in the ASEAN region.

The percentage is even more stark if you look at art and design graduates. NTU’s Art, design and Media (ADM) school recently did a survey where it was found that only about 45% of ADM graduates are full-time employees as of 2016. The gig economy is the new normal today. 8% of Singapore’s working residents are freelancers today.

Having considered these statistics, what can we recommend the graduates of tomorrow to focus on? At wearesg, we talk constantly to corporates about future trends that Singaporeans should be wary of. HR personnel and recruiters have spoken of the increasing need for roles such as big data architecture builders, data scientists, full-stack engineers and machine learning engineers – basically all tech roles.

One alternative is to become an entrepreneur. While it may sound risky to many, there are less riskier entrepreneurship careers such as e-commerce retail. Amazon, for example, provides affiliate programs to ensure that a retailer in Amazon can earn a substantial profit. There are stories of people who have engaged on Amazon stores full-time and earned $100,000 annually.

You can also learn programming. John Tan, entrepreneur turned investor turned entrepreneur and founder of the e-commerce label Controlled commodity, is working on something to address this. He runs Saturday Kids, a school that teaches programming to children. While his target market is too young currently, that can change in the future.

Each graduate needs to look at the market, asses the technological trends that are shaping it, and find a niche that they can be good at. Freelance jobs can be profitable once you identify your niche.

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Image source: manpowergroup.com

Ng Yi-Sheng and Singapore’s budding literature and poetry scene

Over the years, we have seen great and acclaimed writers and literary geniuses such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway and Twain grace our world. These writers have produced masterpieces which are still regarded as works of art. Their works are still part of literature syllabi in schools.

Singapore is not a nation known for producing great writers. We have had our share of great orators, most notably our founding father Lee Kuan Yew. When it comes to writing, there aren’t many names that come to mind.

16 - Ng Yi-Sheng and Singapore’s budding literature and poetry sceneNg Yi-Sheng is one of the few local writers who have achieved recognition. Yi-Sheng is well known as he is one of the few Singaporean gay writers. His works focus on the themes of gay, lesbian and bisexual Singaporeans. His collection of poems, Last boy, even achieved the Singapore national literary award. Truly, a prominent writer.

Yi-Sheng also bucks the trend of Singaporeans through his works, in a good way. Us Singaporeans have a few common traits – straightforwardness, honesty and hard work. While these are all commendable, artists and writers often need that edge to receive acclaim and recognition. Yi-Sheng’s works are a bit controversial and direct. As a result, they have received the acclaim of critics.

Of course, Singapore has more literary geniuses like Philip Jeyaretnam, Catherine Lim and Edwin Thumboo. And yet, considering our diversity in culture, race and experience, we should have had a bigger literary scene. For many years, it was underwhelming. If you think about it, no Singaporean writer’s works are part of a JC or Secondary school syllabus.

It does seem like that trend is changing for the better. A new wave of literary authors are emerging into the scene. Full-time writing is emerging as a profession that interests students and corporate professionals. We have O Thiam Chin’s Now that it’s over, which won the Epigram books fiction prize in 2015, and the famous Amanda Lee Koe, whose Ministry of moral panic won the National literary award for best fiction.

The full potential of Singaporean literature is yet to be exploited. We have such a rich mix of ethnic diversity, gender diversity and sexual diversity. Any kind of person can flourish in our society. Literature is born out of unique experiences and our kind of diversity definitely aids that.

This should provide a stroke of inspiration to young Singaporean students who want to go into the field of literature and poetry. Most students change profession after they graduate to more promising sectors. If, however, you take an academic degree in literature due to a passion for it, don’t give up on becoming a renowned writer. The potential is there.

The challenges of urbanization faced by tomorrow’s cities

Urbanization is a challenge as well as an opportunity to cities around the world today. As the trend of smart cities becomes more mainstream, city councils and local governments should also be aware of balancing the pace and adoption of urbanization. This is a challenge especially in developing and densely populated cities.

While governments globally are setting up specific focus groups and departments to tackle this issue, private consultants and research institutes are also offering consulting services. Public-private partnerships and collaboration has often led to beneficial societal outcomes, and this case should be no different. It ensures that more smart minds are working together with unbiased interests to solve a common need.

One such research institute in Singapore that provides consulting on urbanization is Zeroth Labs. They aren’t limited to Singapore. They provides services across Asia-Pacific, which has a high proportion of densely populating and rapidly growing cities such as Jakarta, Kuala Lampur, Ho Chi Minh, Manila, Mumbai and Bangkok.

Zeroth labs was founded by Singaporean Bernise Ang. She is something of a celebrity by now, having been selected as a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum (WEF). She additionally serves as an adjunct faculty at SMU. Zeroth Labs provides a unique take on public policy, by looking at behavioral sciences and social sciences and drafting methods based on those. They work together with startups to borrow agile and lean methods of tackling issues.

Bernise, not satisfied with her works, started off on another venture, this time a design consultancy to produce social impact and innovation. The focus revolves around cities and urbanization as well. Bernise follows a similar take on addressing public issues by using anthropological studies to understand human nature and behavior in cities.

In an earlier post, we talked about NGOs and social impact startups that offer consultancy when it comes to different aspects related to urbanization. We mentioned Billionbricks and Thought collective, two design and content consultancies that help mobilize communities and solve issues faced by developing cities. You can read more about these startups here: www.weare.sg/kuik-shiao-yin/

Ultimately, it comes down to engagement. A collective effort is required to solve problems faced by cities. Public institutions cannot do it alone. In Singapore, we have startups, consultancies, government agencies and well-regarded educational and research institutions such as the LKY school of public policy in NUS. These institutions have a lot of offer.

Shigga Shay, Kevin Lester and the new wave of Singaporean musicians

In previous posts, we talked about the importance of art and the leading Singaporean artists today, such as www.weare.sg/jackson-tan-phunk/. Here we focus on music and the importance of songwriting to follow your creative instincts and to promote the image of the Singaporean musical scene.

We have had a great crop of musicians and bands such as the Gentle Bones, Sam Willows, Shigga Shay and Kevin Lester. Kevin Lester especially is a unique case. He started off in the corporate world as a marketing manager, but then decided to go full-time into music. His single hit, Lioncityboy, exploded into the music billboards in Singapore, ushering in a new age for Singaporean hip-hop.

Lester has grander ambitions. He wants to put Singaporean hip-hop in the global scene. Lioncityboy is just the beginning. People like Lester and Shigga Shay, who came up with his own hit Limpeh. Their optimism is derived from the fact that the hip-hop scene here is something that is entirely unique. Our language mix of Hokkien, Malay and Tamil, along with our very own entertaining Singlish, blends to form an entertaining script.

Lester and Shay have proved to be inspirations to many aspiring Singaporean musicians. Their creative approach to hip-hop, integrating the mainstream aspects with Singapore’s kampung and multi-cultural lifestyle, have yielded great success. It proves that creativity and having a unique style with music can produce dividends.

Today Lester is going places. He remains the first home-grown artist to sign up with a reputed American production agency, the same one that produced the Black Eyed Peas. That’s a huge accomplishment. He can be the face of Singaporean hip-hop to the place where it all happens – Hollywood.

We also have the Sam Willows. They managed to changed Singaporean perceptions towards local musicians. Before them, most Singaporeans preferred American, British, Korean or Chinese/Taiwanese music. When Sam Willows broke into the scene, the showed that Singaporeans can also produce great music. IT inspired other musicians to follow their footsteps.

And it is not just pop and hip-hop. There are rock / metal bands here such as Electrico and 53A that perform locally. Astreal and The Observatory compose indie music. There is variety in Singapore, provided you look for it. The presence of these bands is important as an inspirational tool for budding musicians.

Looking at these success stories, we can learn a lot of lessons. Musicians always have a tendency to complain that there is too much supply and very little demand in the market. While that is true to an extent, the fact remains that musicians don’t compose creatively anymore. Shay and Lester proved that adding their own flavor to mainstream hip-hop was the difference between failure and success.

Things to note if you want to take up art and design professionally

Art is an important aspect of lifestyle and society. It is also an increasingly sought after field of education. Whilst it was looked down upon a few decades back, the view on pursuing academic degrees related to art is increasingly positive.

Singaporean universities such as NUS and NTU have renowned art and design related degrees that are seeing increasing intakes every year. This shows that not just students, but also parents in Singapore have had a change in perception towards art and design. This can only bode well for children and teenagers that have a creative side to them  that needs nurturing.

Singapore has its own share of artists and designers that are receiving national and global acclaim. Public institutions are turning more and more to freelance designers and boutique art studios for contracts. A great example of this was the now iconic SG50 logo that was on display during Singapore’s hallmark 50th national day celebrations.

The SG50 logo was designed by an art studio founder called Jackson tan. His name should by now be synonymous to many Singaporeans. Jackson Tan is the partner founder of Phunk studio, a contemporary art collective. He is also the creative director of the creative agency BLACK. An acclaimed artist and designer, he is one of Singapore’s biggest recent success stories.

Well, if you are a young Singaporean you would be familiar with the themed nights at Zouk. Tan and PHUNK were the inspiration behind that. These records puts an impressive gloss on Tan’s resume. And yet he is a reserved man and simply desires to follow and fulfil his creative instincts.

Tan should be an example for any art or design student who is wondering what their profession looks like. Most artists and designers are creative by nature, and hence don’t prefer to work for Ad agencies or other companies today. They prefer to start their own studio or consulting business and produce unique pieces of work.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, that is a great path to follow. Like every other business, you will need to struggle at the start. You will need to learn the tricks and trade of digital marketing and SEO. Learn as much as possible tools like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, CodePen and Azure. They help bring your vision to reality.

Another recommendation for budding designers in Singapore especially is to explore the ecommerce sector. With very high penetration of online shopping in Singapore, designers and artists can list some of their works online to get early adopters and initial sales. It can also serve as a supplemental revenue stream in addition to your core consulting business.

In fact this is something that has been tried and tested, especially by popular Singaporean photojournalist and artist Tay Kay Chin. Check out more about Tay Kay Chin at www.weare.sg/tay-kay-chin-platform/

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Image source: inspirationfeed.com

The importance of the Kampung lifestyle to Singapore

Climate change, global warming, sustainability, environmental degradation – words that have become hipster-like and are becoming increasing prominent in today’s society. Fortunately, most countries have recognized these issues and are acting immediately to tackle these issues. A global effort is being made and Singapore is also at the forefront of it.

The branch of social entrepreneurship focused on sustainability and environmental advocacy is becoming more prominent in Singapore and South-East Asia. Eco-friendly and green solutions to combat the rising ride of pollution and deforestation are being implemented increasingly.

However, in addition to concerted efforts by corporations and public institutions, it is also vital that the citizens of Singapore, especially the youth, take a leading role in this transformation. The youth, who are the citizens of tomorrow, need to be aware of the importance of going green. At the forefront of the green revolution is the kampung concept.

We all love the lifestyle of kampungs, as we are no strangers to it. Less than three decades back, Singapore had a thriving kampung infrastructure and community. The lifestyle and setup promotes sustainability and the green movement. When we think of kampungs we think of a peaceful society without the hindrance of diesel engines and pollution, where we cultivate natural food and life a simpler community-focused life.

Despite rampant modernization, Singapore has not changed that much when it comes to its core values focused on the kampung lifestyle. Unlike most developed and first-world nations, our lives still revolve around our community. We help our fellow citizens and form close relationships with them. We don’t alienate ourselves despite the prevalence of technology, to an extent.

It is on this note that we introduce to you Tay Lai Hock. Hock is one of Singapore’s leading young eco-advocates. He has famously promoted a revival of the kampung lifestyle and a return to basics. He founded the Ground-Up initiative to support and execute this mission. He has started a Kampung Kampus project that will feature a site with camping facilities and green solutions prototyping.

We are Singapore spoke exclusively to Hock on how we can empower our community to follow in his footsteps. He seems confident that there will be more like him who will ensure that despite the growth of modernization, smart cities and tech, our roots and values will still be focused on the kampung spirit.

We will organize at some point a live event or a podcast where we will find out more information about Hock’s mission and projects planned. As a social advocate for the nation, wearesg hopes that people like Hock will receive active support from the government to realize his dreams for our nation.

5 startups leading the social impact cause in Singapore

Social impact is something that is talked about a lot. Companies like to promote themselves as fighting the common cause and achieving social goals. While a lot of these are misplaced, there are great institutions, communities and companies that have achieved a lot in the domain of social impact.

Words that are closely associated with social impact are social innovation and entrepreneurship. The use of technology to bring about meaningful societal change is also relevant. We have identified a few startups in this domain that have achieved enviable results in Singapore.

Eggchill

11 - 5 startups leading the social impact cause in Singapore

Infertility in women is a sensitive and awkward topic not just in Singapore, but most of Asia. Eggchill was founded by a group of women to help women who face issues about infertility and egg freezing. They refer such clients to trusted clinics and assist them through the process. Eggchill was incubated at Tech for good Singapore, a leading social impact startup incubator here.

Urbink

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Urbink is a logistics solution platform with a social cause. They connect the needy and less fortunate to industry. They focusses on economic last mile delivery and hire at-risk people including the poor, disabled and retirees as employees.

Billionbricks

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Billionbricks tackle a very challenging issue that has confounded even governments – homelessness. They are an innovation design studio and provide design consultancy to build shelters for the homeless. They are headquartered in Singapore, with additional offices in the US and India. They provide services to developing nations such as India, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Happi

14 - 5 startups leading the social impact cause in Singapore

This is an incredible startup. Happi basically asks you to pick a cause or charity that you like, answer a few questions and that’s it! They donate money to the cause through partnerships with corporates and you may even win a gift through a lucky draw. Really, it leaves everyone happy!

The thought collective

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The thought collective is a community with the intention of growing Singapore’s human and emotional capital. Founded by popular entrepreneur and recently elected member of parliament Shiao Yin Kuik, thought collective is a team of design and creative consultants who curate content with the aimof building up emotional capital and brings people together to contribute to the wider community.

Wearesg brings together these 5 startups and holds an impact seminar with the founders of these startups. Shiao Yin Kuik, perhaps the most decorated of the founders, will be our main speaker for the event. Come and join us at NTU’s Wee Kim Wee school on the 24th of July at 9 am!

Photography’s impact on society, culture and journalism

Photos are a great means to tell a story. They can provide information, tell stories, inspire people and bring to light the truth. Photography has become a dignified and recognized profession today. More and more people are taking up this creative and artistic means of profession today. It is a display of culture.

Perhaps the biggest value of photos today is to bring global events and atrocities to light. There are brave journalists who have travelled through the ravages of Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia, taking powerful photos and sharing them with the rest of the world. It has a big social impact.

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It is for a reason that Instagram has become the most powerful social media platform today. There are instagrammers that make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually through their travel photography, freelance journalism, fashion promos and brand advertising.

Singapore has produced some great photographers like John Clang, Leslie Kee and Russel Wong. One of the emerging stars in this domain is Tay Kay Chin. Chin, who was brought up in Singapore, focusses on photojournalism, the effect of which we just mentioned in this post. He is perhaps most well-known for his exhibit, Panoramic Singapore. Panoramic Singapore is a collection of candid works that showcase the culture and beauty of Singapore and its day-to-day aspects.

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Wearesg is an advocate of photojournalism and its impact on wider society. In this regard, we will organize a free exhibition of some of Chin’s recent projects. The artist himself will be present at the event and hold talks on photography as a profession and its impact. As a self-styled entrepreneur, he will also provide real-life mentoring to budding artistic entrepreneurs.

The event will be held at the Singapore Art museum at Bras Basah on the 25th of July from 2 pm onwards. Whilst entry is free, we can host only 120 people and you have to reserve your spot at our website as soon as possible. We hope to see as many of you as possible there!

Why reading books remains essential to education

Education is the fundamental pillar of any economy. And we doubt anyone would oppose that statement. Singapore is known for its brilliant educational system and institutions. We have one of the most challenging and comprehensive secondary and high school education structure.

There is, however, a worrying trend in this domain. And this concerns books. It is quite well-known in our nation that the penetration of technology in education here is among the highest in the developed world. Tablets and smartphones have aided the accessibility of education, but it may have an unintended cost. And that is the increasing irrelevance of books.

There is a connection between reading books and being literate. While online reading is also beneficial, we prefer quick reading in a span of 5-10 minutes when we are online. The reason for this is that there are millions of distractions in the digital world, and our minds are unable to focus on one thing. This is the reason why books are still important to children and adults alike.

In view of this philosophy and need, we are organizing an event in collaboration with one of Singapore’s popular entrepreneurs, Kenny Leck. Younger Singaporeans would be familiar with Leck and his company, BooksActually. Some of you may have chanced upon their store at Yong Siak street. BooksActually has become a popular online retailer of fiction and literature themed books.

BooksActually will be displaying more than 100 books spread across literature, fiction, science, art and design at our event which will be held in front of Northpoint shopping mall at Yishun on the 31st of June starting 10 am. These books will be sold for as little as $10, with a broader intent of making education accessible. Kenny himself will be having panel talks and Q&A sessions with aspiring entrepreneurs, where he will talk about his success story.

Drop by for the event and check out the works in exhibit. We promise that you will have a fun-filled and educative day!

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Infographic by: firstbook.org
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