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NUS to teach students ways to clinch that job

Bulk of freshmen in next academic year will have to attend career workshops

NUS to teach students ways to clinch that job

Courses at the NUS Career Centre for students cover topics such as resume writing, interview skills and corporate dressing. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

A CAREER-PREPARATION programme - mandatory for students at the Singapore Management University and Nanyang Technological University for years - will now be rolled out at the National University of Singapore to help graduates find jobs.

From next year, the bulk of NUS' first-year students will be assigned to workshops that equip them with skills such as how to ace interviews and how to write impactful resumes.

Undergraduates from SMU have had to do a module on career skills since 2001 while such a compulsory course started in NTU in 2006.

Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS' provost and deputy president of academic affairs, wrote on his blog on Sunday that there was a pressing need to raise the career- preparation skills of its graduates.

He cited a recent NUS survey of major graduate employers in which 70 per cent of respondents said its graduates were lacking in this area.

One employer said that NUS candidates lost out to those from SMU and NTU in areas such as oral communication and grooming.

From the next academic year, all freshmen from the faculties of arts and social sciences, engineering and science, and the schools of computing and design and environment, will have to attend the workshops.

Freshmen from these faculties and schools made up 80 per cent of the intake of more than 7,000 this year.

Current students may sign up for the workshops during their final year.

Wrote Prof Tan: 'Our aim is to sensitise our students, right at the onset of their university life, to the importance of planning and preparing for their future careers.

'Better earlier than later, as students can then start to think and plan their curriculum, education and projects accordingly, to hone expertise and experience and to develop a credible portfolio towards their career goals.'

Last year, the NUS Career Centre started offering a set of five workshops in career planning, resume writing, interview skills, networking skills and business etiquette and corporate dressing.

Each workshop, which took two to three hours, cost between $8 and $10.

Only 1,500 out of 25,000 NUS undergraduates attended at least one workshop over the past academic year. And only 320 - less than 2 per cent of the current undergraduate enrolment - participated in all five workshops.

About half of those who showed up at all five workshops were from the department of pharmacy, which had made attendance a must.

In a survey of 3,000 students by the university, more than half supported the idea of mandatory career workshops.

The main reasons given by the respondents for why they did not enrol in the workshops were lack of time and lack of awareness about them.

NUS decided against making the classes compulsory for all students because it has a large student population. Prof Tan said the university would like to take more time to gather feedback and fine-tune the programme before rolling it out en-masse to all faculties.

At the department of pharmacy, the workshops, compulsory for final-year students, are incorporated into the timetable.

Associate Professor Chan Sui Yung, who heads the department, said that while the employment rate for pharmacy graduates has been consistently high, it wants to ensure that they maintain their competitive edge.

'We recognise that employers now go beyond academic achievements to hire the best talent; hence, it is important to equip our students with skills in, for example, coming up with well-presented CVs and be more than 100 per cent prepared for job interviews,' she said.

Ms Constance Neo, who graduated from the department of pharmacy this year and is now an intern at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, said the workshops were very useful.

She picked up several pointers, including tips on how to write a more concise and effective resume.

The 23-year-old said she believes many NUS students would benefit from the upcoming changes.

'Some people may not realise the usefulness of the workshops so they are not willing to fork out the extra time for them. I myself may not have gone if my department didn't help arrange for us to do so,' she said.

What the other universities do

Singapore Management University (SMU)

The first university here to have compulsory career preparation classes for undergraduates, since it started in 2001.

From this academic year, the module will be implemented over three years, with seven workshops in areas such as resume writing and interview skills to be taken in the first two years.

In the third or fourth year, students must go for at least one elective workshop that is more advanced than those in the first two years.

Mr Sim Cher Young, director of the SMU career services office, said it provides career counselling and organises enrichment workshops and networking events.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Undergraduates must take a course on professional communications, which focuses on business writing and career strategies that include resume writing and job interviews.

Students may also sign up for optional workshops in personal grooming, dining etiquette, wine appreciation and even golf.

They also have access to career guidance counsellors.

This year, NTU started an online version of its annual Career Fair for students on overseas attachments or who do not have time to visit the physical fair because of classes. Through a website, these students may chat with employers.

Singapore University of Technology and Design

Singapore's fourth university is developing a programme modelled after that at its partner university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.It prepares students to make a successful transition to the workplace.

On the agenda are seminars and workshops with industry leaders, entrepreneurs and practitioners, as well as courses in communication and interview skills.

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