Among youths in Singapore, majority do place an emphasis on career preparation, however have reflected that they are less likely to prioritise overseas exposure, with even less focus on the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries. This was understood from ASEAN Business Youth Association’s survey findings, alongside data provided from Young NTUC’s census on close to 1300 youths. Yet, this lack of prioritsation in ASEAN-readiness appears to be a concern, especially given that the future of Singapore’s economy will be largely interdependent with the region. ASEAN is predicted to be the fourth largest economy by 2030, whilst being home to the world’s third largest labour force in the world today.
Since October 2019, a team of youths have been working hard to understand the Singaporean youths’ mindsets towards ASEAN. A recurring theme was that language barriers and differences in lifestyles within these developing economies make youths hesitant towards pursuing opportunities within ASEAN. The team also sought to find out whether ASEAN was less favourably perceived compared to the Western countries, and if so – what information sources Singaporean youths were turning to. Whether these were first-hand experiences, or impressions left from media interpretations, also appeared to be a key influence in how youths perceived the ASEAN countries.
Furthermore, the team also dug deep to uncover the existing ASEAN opportunities that youths typically turn to — if they did have a pre-existing interested in ASEAN. Through this, the team defined actionable targets and founded ‘ASEAN Business Youth Association’ (ABYA). Its mission is to nurture ASEAN-savvy youths by establishing a competency-building platform to provide Singaporean youths developmental opportunities in networking, cultivating ASEAN awareness, and cross-cultural activities in Singapore and the ASEAN region.
The Youth Action Challenge
Central to the team’s successes in realizing ABYA has been the Youth Action Challenge. As featured on Today Online, the Youth Action Challenge is a programme under the larger Youth Action Plan that seeks to engage youths in change maker projects, within the three pillars of issues related to the economy, society, and environment.
It is through the continuous support from the Youth Action Challenge that the team had found a common platform to discuss issues related to ASEAN. These youths had realized that there was a common issue experienced within their generation of youths, and they thus proceeded with founding ABYA.
ABYA’s idea to cultivate ASEAN-readiness amongst Singaporean youths was furthermore picked up by the local current affairs and culture digital magazine, Rice Media, that featured ABYA’s president, Veronica Low and her motivations for pursuing this initiative.
The Youth Action Challenge has also provided the youths behind ABYA ample opportunity to develop their ideas, through ideation tools, mentorship, prototyping, and pitching sessions, and a generous seed funding of $5000 to kickstart ABYA’s plans.
ABYA has been fortunate to be under the close guidance of its mentors, Malminderjit Singh, Editor at Channel News Asia, Wendy Tan, Head (Covering Director) at the National Trade Union Congress, and Andrew Pang, Chief Consultant at Mycelium Asia.
In March 2020, ABYA had reached another milestone, in becoming officially inducted as one of Young NTUC’s affinity groups. Young NTUC is Singapore’s largest youth movement and youth wing of the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC). ABYA realizes great synergy with Young NTUC ,to further Singapore’s youth developmental opportunities within ASEAN. Young NTUC will continue to support ABYA through mentorship, access to network and operational support.
Today, ABYA is still on its eight month journey, as it gears up for its upcoming pitch in June 2020. ABYA will pit its idea, for an ‘ASEAN Business Youth Association’, against eleven other teams at the Youth Action Challenge Summit. If emerged as one of the top four teams, ABYA will receive a maximum of $50,000 to accelerate its ongoing plans to nurture Singapore’s youths and leaders of tomorrow, with ASEAN-readiness.
ABYA has also received the privilege of being showcased on Mediacorp’s MeWatch, as part of the Youth Action Challenge Summit, such that teams can have a wider opportunity in garnering support from the public audience.
Looking into the future, ABYA anticipates challenges as it continues to negotiate between the public and private sector for youth developmental opportunities with regard to ASEAN. This gives ABYA an opportunity in being a representative voice for Singaporean youths who have a keen interest in becoming prepared to work with or in the ASEAN countries.