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University students tap networks to help peers get internships

/ 02:49 PM July 06, 2020

Mr Bryan Chiew (top photo) and Mr Adriel Yong (above) are working to help their peers at their universities find internships.

SINGAPORE — Some undergraduates have been forced to be more resourceful in hunting down internship opportunities, as companies withdraw offers and overseas programs grind to a halt.

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In April, Yale-NUS College student Adriel Yong created a spreadsheet of about 300 internship listings, each offering two or three places. The online document was also circulated to Singaporean students in universities in Australia, Britain and the United States.

Mr Yong, 22, who has just completed his first year of university and intends to major in global affairs, said a senior in school had told him about the tougher recruiting season this year.

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“As I asked around more, I realized the situation was a lot more dire… Singaporean students were being recalled back from exchange programs and overseas internships, and others were having internship offers rescinded or put on hold.”

He decided to ask some start-up contacts in a WhatsApp group if they were keen to hire interns, and also approached friends for help. Some Yale-NUS alumni also contributed to the listings.

“When I posted about it on LinkedIn, it got shared by people who were working at Carousell and Singapore Global Network, so that’s how it led to more tech companies and start-ups joining and how it reached overseas Singaporean students as well,” said Mr Yong.

He estimated that employers filled about 80 positions through the spreadsheet.

Similarly, the Nanyang Technological University Students’ Union created an internship portal in April to help students. Its president Bryan Chiew and his team contacted over 100 companies, ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises to large corporations and government agencies.

They have since put up about 40 internship listings, each with several openings.

Said Mr Chiew, 23, who is studying public policy and global affairs: “We exhausted all platforms, asking our contacts and alumni too.

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“Some were able to create vacancies specifically for us, while some couldn’t, but they would refer us to other contacts.”

Mr Chiew said the students’ union received more than 500 applications from students for internships, but he does not keep track of how many of them secured places.

“Covid-19 may have a knock-on effect on the next batch of students graduating next year in terms of hiring, so we just want to support them as much as we can,” he added.

At the National University of Singapore, its students’ union engaged the university’s Centre for Future-ready Graduates to increase the number of internship and job opportunities available for students.

The union also started a new $200,000 fund for up to 800 needy full-time undergraduates. Eligible students will receive a one-time financial aid of $250.

Yale-NUS College student Isabelle Tan, 20, found a three-month internship at a digital consultancy through the database that Mr Yong started.

Ms Tan, who has just finished her first year of university and plans to major in economics, had pulled out of an overseas summer school program with the London School of Economics because of the Covid-19 situation. The program was to have started last month.

Instead, she hunted for a work stint, to get a clearer idea of her interests as well as job prospects in different industries. “Students also do relevant internships to bolster their portfolio, in the hope of standing out to prospective employers, or so that they can be converted to full-time positions if they perform well,” said Ms Tan.

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