Give Singaporeans a chance!

“For those lucky few who managed to get a job, it’s either because their families have connections or they have joined the civil service…..I am so disappointed to know that our government is not doing anything to help locals like me, yet want to import foreigners by the bucket-load and give them so many scholarships.” – source

Remember the American Idol’s hopeful James Durbin pleaded to the audience: “Give Metal A Chance!“, I will like to plead to the employers, bosses and the Government alike, “Give Singaporean a chance!”.

I am sick and tired of hearing these bosses (and some Government officials such as Philip Yeo) depriving Singaporeans of rightfully employed in their homeland just because of the liberal policy by our “Pro-Alien Party” Government. Give our people a fair wage and many Singaporeans will be happy to work for them, the usual excuses of foreigners have more drive and hungrier excuses are because these bosses has a choice, Singaporeans or cheaper foreigners? make no mistake why most bosses prefer the latter.  Let me paraphrase a motivation quote: “There is no lousy worker, only untrained boss who does not know how to motivate.”

When I was a hiring manager,  if I have to choose between a Singaporean and a foreigner, if the Singaporean is 90% as good as the foreign candidate and has the right attitude, I always gave the job to the Singaporeans without fail. If we don’t give our own people a chance, who else will? Yes, I had to deal with the guys having to go back to Reservist training every year and the disruptions it brought, but it is a small inconvenience we can do for our fellow Singaporeans, treat this as part of our national service. If we don’t, we will see more and more workplace enclave which will further erode the chances of born and bred Singaporeans on a level playing field in our own land, in both low end as well as high end jobs.

I will leave you with a satire column’s of Colin Goh on the prolific use of the word Drive:

Drive but don’t get run over

By Colin Goh

Source: The Sunday Times  February 6, 2012

So I read that employers are complaining to the Education Minister that Singaporean kids lack “drive”.

“This is news, meh?” I frowned to the Wife. “Seems like we’re wringing our hands over this every other month.”

“No, no,” she smiled. “We’re moaning about new deficiencies each time. First, Singaporean students lacked creativity’. Then they lacked ‘passion’. I guess someone finally realised that the word ‘passion’, thanks to its Latinate roots, connotes ‘suffering’. And that might be too discouraging. ‘Drive’ is a lot more affirmative. There’s a difference.”

Sarcasm aside, I’ve always been sceptical about this particular complaint of employers, since what they usually mean is they wish their employees would work harder for less pay. And whenever people talk about driven employees nowadays, they invariably point to China, where the example du jour is how one of Apple’s Chinese suppliers, after hearing that Steve Jobs wanted the iPhone’s screen changed just two weeks before its launch, woke its 8,000 workers at midnight to begin a 12-hour shift, giving them just a biscuit and a cup of tea. Is that really the kind of exploi… sorry, sorry, drive we want?

That’s not to say the Chinese don’t have drive. In the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine, Leslie T. Chang writes about the popularity of zhichang xiaoshuo (“workplace novels”) in China, featuring tales of what you need to do to get ahead, with lessons such as: “Avoid unpromising work assignments by feigning illness”, “If your boss makes a pass at you, smile and flirt back”, and “When bribing an official, have your business partner deliver the money so your hands stay clean”.

And we Singaporeans think we’re kiasu. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really fancy the kind of drive that involves driving over others or ourselves off a moral cliff.

And yet, most Singaporeans, including myself, would agree that somehow, despite our standard of education and First World infrastructure, yadda yadda yadda, we’re underachieving. (I also count myself among the underachievers.) We keep hearing: How come Singapore can’t produce an HTC, let alone an Apple?

People attribute this to a culture of risk aversion, bolstered by a system of carrots for conformity and sticks for deviation. And the usual remedies that critics demand are for the Government to change the education system and grant more political freedom.

While I have great sympathy for these views, expecting the Government to make the first move only seems to compound our drive deficit. We’ll never acquire drive if all we do is sit back and play victim. Because drive, passion, motivation – whatever you want to call this mysterious force – ultimately comes from inside ourselves alone, shaped by our own unique circumstances.

This doesn’t mean I believe in Social Darwinism or letting the Government or whoever off the hook. We, as individuals and communities, have a responsibility to foster the right environment for our kids too. After all, drive is built over a life-time and not something we acquire at the flick of a switch.

Having grown older, I’ve also learnt you can never predict the future and so we should never prescribe a dream. I’m increasingly persuaded that the best solution is to allow kids to find out what makes each of them unique and support them in building upon their uniqueness.

Here in New York, where there is no shortage of driven people, there are interesting experiments being done in some schools, such as evaluating students not on grades in standardised tests, but on portfolios based on their own interests that their teachers have helped to craft. So if a kid is into music, her portfolio is built around music, but the teacher ensures that in the course of her work, the requirements of subjects such as mathematics and language are also fulfilled.

Additionally, external professionals with experience in the portfolio’s theme are brought in as evaluators. Ultimately, though, New York, despite its many problems, retains its reputation as a crucible of creativity because its people have access to diverse perspectives. Having only one definition of success breeds conformity, group-think and prejudice. We need possibilities to give us inspiration.

We all know parents who are forever telling their kids to do this, do that, and yanking them to wherever they want them to be. I’ve found that these youngsters invariably have difficulty developing their own sense of direction because there’s too much noise. Exploration is too leceh; it’s easier to just go where you think daddy or mummy wants you to be.

Simply put, our children will never learn to drive properly if we continue to be backseat drivers.

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