Mr Lim Kok Kiang, Principal and CEO, Ngee Ann Polytechnic
Mr Nicholas Gabriel Lim, President, Youth Work Association Singapore
Friends and Colleagues
1 A good morning to all, on this joyous occasion. I’m very glad to have this in-person session as we celebrate the second edition of Youth Work Day. First of all, a big thank you to Youth Work Association, Singapore (YWAS) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) for making this event possible. You have brought together sector experts and academia to start initiatives that equip and deepen the skillsets of our youth workers so that they can better support our youth towards reaching their full potential.
Celebrating the Contributions of Youth Workers
2 I’m sure all of you in the hall will agree with me that COVID-19 has changed the operating environment for our youth workers. During the pandemic, more youth faced social isolation when lessons pivoted online. They also experienced more stress as routines and spaces got disrupted. As youth workers, you continued supporting our youth, engaging them through creative means. You helped them find emotional support and financial stability and connected them to resources.
3 You also looked beneath their shells and saw their potential. For instance, REACH Community Services conducted Instagram Live sessions during the pandemic. Ten-year-old Faiq was invited to showcase his cooking skills on one of the IG Live sessions. As a result, Faiq’s confidence grew and his passion for cooking deepened. All of you, youth workers, have relentlessly journeyed with our young ones to overcome major challenges in life, such as the past two or three years in the pandemic, and steering our youth towards contributing meaningfully to society.
4 Most importantly, you care for our youth. You believe in our youth. You persevered, you soldiered on, holding on to your mission to touch each young life you come across, nudging them to reach their full potential. From the bottom of my heart, a big thank you to all youth workers, youth work professionals for your time, energy and passion towards this meaningful vocation, we salute you.
5 The world we live in today is a complex and uncertain one. Amid uncertainties, our youth continue to seek out opportunities and aspire for a brighter future. They do many of those aspirational things, as well as many other activities online. In fact, much of our youth’s self-concept is heavily invested in their virtual personas. Technology is inherently neutral, neither good nor bad, as virtual spaces connect our youth to the possibilities of the world. However, it remains a double-edged sword, leaving our youth exposed to potentially harmful influences online such as pornography, hate speech, bigotry. Social discourse can become fragmented and polarised as we have seen in societies of the world over. It is against such a backdrop that we have launched our Forward Singapore exercise and I hope that you can sign up for one of our SG Cares Community Network sessions in December, and you can do that on the ForwardSG website. We look forward to hearing you, our youth workers, on your views for our refreshed social compact, because you are one of us, one key component of what makes Singapore tick, especially Singapore in the next lap, because you are working with our young ones. You are working with the future of Singapore and that’s why your work continues to be relevant, your work continues to be so important.
Capability Building for the Future
6 To better support our youth in this challenging environment, youth workers must continue to upskill, sharpen and deepen our skills. As part of today’s programme, the organising committee has curated masterclasses on key areas pertinent to working with youth. In addition to local case studies of successful programmes, the masterclasses will also feature best practices to enhance knowledge-sharing in these areas.
7 To support our new youth work entrants, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), partnering NP, will launch an inaugural Youth Work Onboarding Course in the first half of 2023. This two-day introductory course will equip youth workers with foundational knowledge of local youth work practices and enable them to network with fellow practitioners and professionals for peer support and future collaboration. The course is one of the initiatives proposed by the Social Service SkillsFuture Tripartite Taskforce Youth Work Sub-team, to strengthen professional practice, as well as to attract and retain passionate and competent people within the sector. We will continue to invest in training so that everyone has access to the opportunities available. I hope you will set aside time for your own reskilling and upskilling. As for your bosses in the hall today, I would urge all of them, please do continue to support your staff for their own professional development because as they grow, our organisations grow as well.
Celebrating Sector Partnerships for Youth Workers
8 Partnerships, too, are important. Partners can include other youth agencies, schools, institutes of higher learning and business organisations. The aim is to collaborate and share, to maximise the impact of our resources to better meet community needs; all hands on deck. Both YWAS and NP have led the way in doing so.
9 NP has launched the Youth Development Academy, or YOuDA, to train and deepen the skills of students and professionals who work with youth. NP is collaborating with YWAS on a couple of fronts. First, to design and provide training to help youth work practitioners upskill and be updated on the latest developments in youth work. We must keep up with youth trends, youth lingo; the ways we connect to young people are changing all the time and I think that’s the key challenge of being in this sector, but that’s also what keeps this sector exciting. And that’s the first part, to keep up with the latest developments in youth work. Second, to conduct evidence-based research on youth development and youth mental wellness. Congratulations to NP on the launch of YOuDa, we hope to see many good work being done on this front.
10 Youth workers, in your day-to-day work, you may encounter situations which need legal knowledge, such as judicial processes in the Youth Court. The tripartite partnership between YWAS, the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers, and Allen & Gledhill will allow youth workers to gain access to legal expertise more readily through workshops, legal clinics, and online question-and-answer sessions. The partnership aims to provide education on youth, family, community and the law, as well as pro bono legal advice to youth-in-need, their families and youth workers. We value such partnerships between business organisations and the community to shape the future of our youth together.
11 In conclusion, let me just say this – I want to thank all of you for your commitment towards nurturing our next generation and supporting the youth work sector with your relentless efforts, energy and expertise.
12 Amid all the hard work that everyone is putting in, I would like to remind all of you to practise self-care. Youth work is not easy. It takes time, it takes all of you to have this sense of community to forge a way forward together and I find that amongst the youth work community. I really hope that we can treasure this trait of youth workers, ably led by the good folks at YWAS , working in tandem with our colleagues at MSF. I want to really thank all of you for the great work that’s been done, many of which, if not all of which has been done behind the scenes. For that, I really want to thank all of you and I hope that you will seize the opportunities to participate in the various initiatives that have been launched today. Happy Youth Work Day, everyone.
13 Thank you.