Getting Ready for the Future (II) – Career Preparation and Future-ready Skills

We are at an extremely critical point of human existence as technology and automation are rapidly changing the future of the world and causing disruption on a scale that the World Economic Forum calls “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Entire job sectors are becoming obsolete and new ones are being created as we speak. Over the next decade, the World Economic Forum predicts that 47% of all occupations will be affected by deepening automation. Many children in primary school today may end up in jobs that do not even exist now.

Some business experts call this environment “The VUCA World”, VUCA being a US military acronym used to define an environment that is “Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous”.

If we don’t know what the future holds for us, how do we prepare our youth for their future?

At NUS, we pride ourselves as being at the forefront of educational innovation and we have implemented a range of initiatives to prepare our students for the future. One of the less conventional approaches we have taken is with the Centre for Future-ready Graduates and its work.

A couple of years ago, we restructured our NUS Career Centre, turning what was a traditional University career services office into what you know as the NUS Centre for Future-ready Graduates (or CFG) today. CFG now serves as the vital bridge between students and the world of future careers. It offers career advisory services, but also functions as a teaching arm, equipping students with future-ready skills and competencies, and performs research on future-readiness.

To better equip our students for this VUCA world, CFG started a groundbreaking programme “Roots & Wings” in 2016 that focuses on upgrading students’ internal Operating System so that they can function better and maximise their potential in a world of change.

Roots & Wings is formulated based on students and industry feedback that developing social emotional intelligence is of crucial importance for students to be prepared for the future, regardless of what career they are aiming for.

The latest psychology, neuroscience and leadership research contributes to the development of the module. Through a combination of experiential learning and interactive technology, students are taught social emotional intelligence based skills.

“Roots” stands for personal skills such as:

  • Focus – Learning to train one’s attention and curb distraction
  • Self & Interpersonal Awareness – Learning one’s strengths and challenges, emotional literacy and sensing
  • What’s my Operating System – Learning about how to self-regulate, manage stress and adopt a healthy growth mindset
  • Happiness and Resilience – Learning the essentials of a happy and meaningful life, and how to bounce back from adversity

“Wings” stands for interpersonal skills which include:

  • Sensemaking – Understanding different perspectives
  • Empathic Communication – Listening and communicating on a deeper level
  • Collaboration & Networking – Developing collaborative mindsets and teamwork skills

Roots & Wings allows students to maximise their potential, encourage diversity of thought and collaboration, and reduce reactivity as students learn to manage stress during times of complex change.

Students also learn to view the world through different lenses and adopt different perspectives, build positive relationships and use their strengths in the service of others and the wider community. They also learn crucial career preparation elements such as personal branding, networking skills and develop awareness of the industry landscape.

Over 7,000 students have participated in the Roots & Wings module as an essential part of their NUS education. Many have given positive feedback on the relevance of its content as well as commended its innovative teaching methods. 87% of students felt that the content was relevant and useful and 92% agreed that teaching had been effective.

One of our students, Erica Lim from FASS, wrote to CFG about the programme, saying: I really appreciated the focus on personal development, because this is something that’s often neglected in Singaporean education. A good education should teach us how to be better people, not just better students. Personally, I felt skeptical at first; I had attended a few personal development workshops prior, and they were so abstract they were meaningless. However, I found myself learning a lot from the seminar.

It was eye-opening to see how my actions deviated from my words and plans – I realised I was very others-focused (focusing on family, friends and other intimate relationships) to the detriment of my personal well-being. It also taught me that your priorities in life are yours to decide, not for society or the people around you to dictate. The breathing exercises, while simple, were also very helpful in anchoring myself. I’m looking forward to more seminars in the future, and I am very glad that NUS have these programmes for undergraduate students.”

Students from many different Faculties – from Arts and Social Sciences, Computing and Engineering, to Medicine and Dentistry – have reported similar stories of improving their wellbeing and abilities by practising these skills.

We plan to further complement the 2 MC Roots & Wings programme with a Career Practicum programme, where students can earn 2 MCs for participating in career workshops, networking events and industry education talks, and deepening their career preparation journey. More details will be announced in due course.

With the establishment of CFG and its various innovative programmes, NUS seeks to support the holistic development of our students – not just their academic skills, but their character and values as well. These, in conjunction with the world-class academic and research skills gained at NUS, will give them the necessary tools to thrive in a fast paced and complex future.