Sunday, August 20, 2006

Holiday Stints

Holiday stint helps students understand civil service better

MR KURT Ma had always heard stories about how civil servants are stuffy, unfriendly people.

But after having interned for a month at the Public Service Division, he found this to be untrue.

'Everybody is really friendly. People are always buying food to stock up the pantry, and the whole office always goes out to lunch together,' said the final-year literature and law student at Cambridge University.

Mr Ma, 24, is one of 29 overseas students spending their summer holiday here doing internships with the civil service.

They are here as part of a new Public Service Commission (PSC) programme. It seeks to attract top Singaporean and Singapore permanent residents - who are not scholarship holders - to consider the civil service as a career option.

PSC Secretariat director Choo Lee See said: 'We hope that, through the six- to eight- week stint, the interns will understand better the work done in the civil service and be more open to considering joining us in shaping Singapore's future.'

The students were informed of the new internship programme through e-mail and those interested were asked to submit their resumes. The e-mails were sent to Singaporeans and PRs studying in top schools such as Harvard, Cambridge and Wharton.

There is another carrot for these top students - a mid-term scholarship to pay for the rest of their studies.

The scholarship was set up because 'not all talented students at 18 years of age may be ready to commit themselves to a civil service career'.

Usually, scholarships are taken up before undergraduate studies begin.

But none of the four students on the internship programme who spoke to YouthInk will be taking up the scholarship.

Their reasons vary: Two are in their final year, and the others do not want to be tied down to a bond.

The bond would require them to work in the civil service from four to six years upon graduation.

All four want to gain some experience working overseas before 'coming back to Singapore to contribute'.

Cool. They want Singaporean undergraduates to intern with PSC and they invite only people studying overseas. What about the folks in NUS/NTU/SMU?

Oh, which nut is going to take up the Mid-Term Scholarship? The bond is just as long as that of the full-term version but he will only be compensated for half of the cost of his overseas studies. No wonder none of the interns interviewed wanted to take up the Mid-Term Scholarship.

This reminds me of my NUS days when I tried to intern with DSO between my second and third year. I had sent in emails with my resume to DSO but I never got a reply. A JC classmate who was studying in Cambridge told me that he had applied the year before and promptly got an offer after some correspondence. Oh, he got a chance to work on aerodynamics in DSO for his holidays after his first year while after two years of undergraduate work, no one had the basic courteosy to reply to my email. By the way, I believe my A-level results are better than his. I had also asked a couple professors in the department about any paid research positions but was kindly informed that they did not have the budget. The budget got eliminated because of the downturn in the economy.

And the university talks about encouraging undergraduates to pursue postgraduate studies...

Anyway, in the end, poor Fox had to go sell educational software for a friend that summer to earn his keep.


takchek said...

Some (under)grads are more equal than others.

Fox said...

I forgot to put in the punchline: my friend in Cambridge was a scholar from a local organization that has absolutely nothing to do with engineering and science.

The fact is local degrees don't open as many doors even in Singapore as some overseas degrees.

Anonymous said...

I think you didn't miss much not interning with DSO. When I interned with them, I was shocked they paid 800 a month. Take CPF out of that, and it was barely enough to cover my lunch and daily commute across the island.