Public discussions in recent months in Singapore have been focusing on the need to look beyond qualifications and towards job performance and skills. However, degrees are still the gateway to better opportunities. This was the view generally expressed by young Sikh graduates at a plaque presentation ceremony at the Colonial@Scotts on 2 November 2014.

Organised by YSA and the Central Sikh Gurdwara Board, the ceremony was aimed at recognising the academic achievements of Sikhs, including those who pursue post-graduate studies and continuous learning. It was also an important platform to engage Sikh graduates and to impress upon them the need for them, as intellectuals, to contribute to the Sikh community and Singapore society.

Of the 41 Sikh graduates who attended the ceremony, a good number had chosen to pursue a degree after spending some time in the workforce while seven did post-graduate studies. There were also several graduates who went on to a do a degree after completing their diplomas in local polytechnics.

Twenty-six years old Ms Kamaljeet Kaur, a senior human resource and administrative executive, who recently completed her part-time Bachelor of Commerce degree, felt the need to upgrade herself after six years in the workforce.

“You have to upgrade; otherwise you will lose out to better qualified people. It was tough juggling part-time degree with work but I am now in a better position to look for good jobs at the managerial level,” she said.

Similarly, Mr Jivan Sidhu, 31, who completed a Master in Business Administration programme in Cambridge, stated that competition is tough both among Singaporeans and foreigners.

The former credit analyst added that higher qualifications will put a person in better stead for better paying jobs. “Arming yourself with specific qualifications to complement your career goals opens up doors and demonstrates to potential employers your willingness to upgrade,” he said.

Another recent graduate, Ms Sharanjeet Kaur Dhaliwal, 23, returned from Australia after completing her Bachelor in Business programme at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She had earlier done a diploma in Customer Relationship and Service Management at Republic Polytechnic.

“For me, the degree was natural progression in upgrading myself. The diploma was a stepping stone for me. I knew that I had to develop further if I wanted to compete in the marketplace. I do have plans to do a Master’s programme sometime soon,” said Sharanjeet.

Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Minister of State for National Development and Defence, who was Guest-of-Honour at the ceremony, said that the government has developed new education pathways for Singaporeans to acquire more practice-oriented diplomas and degrees. It will also work closer with industries to promote upgrading the workforce.

“We also want to develop more peaks of excellence for Singaporeans to aim for new type of jobs and not just traditional ones so that they can keep pace with fast evolving trends in the economy and technology. We will also bring in more value-added industries so that incomes can be reflective of the high skills needed in these industries,” he added.

Mr Malminderjit Singh, President of the Association, said that it is important for Sikhs, like all Singaporeans, to upgrade themselves to stay relevant in the workforce and to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a highly dynamic global economy. He added, “The Sikhs have always been a vibrant group, contributing to Singapore’s economy, and we should also leverage on opportunities provided by the government to upgrade ourselves.”

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