792

Ground stint for top govt scholarship holders

Under a new scheme, management associates must spend their first three months in the civil service at a frontline agency

Ground stint for top govt scholarship holders

-- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

TOP government scholarship holders who once went straight from university to writing policy papers in air- conditioned offices now start their work lives sweating it out on the ground.

Mr Sim Kwang Xiong, 25, a graduate of Northwestern University, joined the Land Transport Authority's community partnership department. He visited angry residents with transport woes in their homes and mediated conflicts over parking spaces and pedestrian crossings.

He did so under a new scheme in which management associates (MAs) like him, who largely go on to enter the elite Administrative Service, must spend their first three months in the civil service at a frontline agency like the LTA or Housing Board.

Having to take 'abuse' from those who felt that government decisions dealt them short shrift was a memorable lesson in how the policies he is now crafting affect ordinary Singaporeans. Now at the Ministry of Defence, he is glad for the ground experience because young policy officers are often 'insulated' from the public by the layer of agencies once they start ministry work.

Now more aware that there are different stakeholders, he said: 'The 'neat' policy may not do as well as an untidy compromise in reconciling competing needs.'

The Public Service Division said the new scheme kicked off last August and is mandatory for all MAs.

Sensitive to the charge of being disconnected from the public, the Civil Service has always had a variety of opportunities for its top officers to do stints on the ground.

Mid-career administrative officers have been seconded to grassroots organisations and operational agencies. Last year, 17 of them, out of a 300-strong corps, served grassroots stints.

Ms Lim Phey Wa, 23, did her three-month stint at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority. The time she spent there handling appeals from those wanting permanent residency for their foreign spouses, or extended social visit passes for a dependent, showed her how difficult those charged with executing policy have it.

While welcoming the sentiment behind the scheme, Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua said a three-month stint may be too brief. The long-time advocate of a more flexible and responsive civil service hopes for longer-term 'roadmaps' to expose young scholarship recipients more consistently to realities on the ground.

Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob suggested sending MAs to the labour movement, grassroots organisations and voluntary welfare organisations as well.

She urged young policymakers to make the most of their short stints: 'If they treat it as just an attachment to be cleared as a prelude to starting their proper career, they may not learn much. But if they take it seriously, there is a tremendous amount that they can learn which will be greatly beneficial to them.'

Back to Career Resources »

Related Articles

    A*Star to woo more Korean SMEs to S'pore

A*Star to woo more Korean SMEs to S'pore

Centre opened to facilitate co-development of products

    Fewer professionals sent for training

Fewer professionals sent for training

But more lower-wage workers undergo skills upgrading

    Staff urged to volunteer skills

Staff urged to volunteer skills

Volunteering receives a new term

    Adapt as labour profile changes, unions told

Adapt as labour profile changes, unions told

Citizen workforce ageing, workers now better-educated, says DPM Teo

    Seed Institute attains accreditation for high quality training

Seed Institute attains accreditation for high quality training

NTUC's Seed Institute, which trains early childhood educators, became the first Continuing Education and Training (CET) centre in the early childhood sector to attain the National CET Institute (NCI) status

    NUS up 3, NTU 11 spots in world university rankings

NUS up 3, NTU 11 spots in world university rankings

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Techonological University (NTU) are climbing up the ranking charts.