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Looking For Community Leaders


• Yam Ah Mee •

Scholarship Guide talks to Yam Ah Mee, Chief Executive Director, People’s Association

What is the vision you have for the People’s Association (PA)?
PA’s vision for Singapore is that we are a great home and a ­caring ­community; where we share our values, pursue our passions, fulfil our hopes and treasure our memories. Having grown up in Singapore, it ­resonates with me to build a community where residents feel a strong sense of belonging and pride, and where neighbours know and care for one another.

Why is PA introducing the Youth Leaders Scholarship and what does it have to offer?
PA is committed to developing and grooming talents for ­positions of management and leadership.  We consider both external and ­internal ­candidates for management positions while balancing the career ­development and progression of in-service staff.
Earlier this year, PA introduced the PA-UniSIM Master of Community Leadership and Social Development programme.  The first of its kind in the region, this programme aims to develop and equip candidates with the knowledge and skills in community leadership and social development to prepare us to respond effectively to rapid changes in our society and the world.

We will be taking this one step further with the PA Youth ­Leaders ­Scholarship. This undergraduate scholarship will give youths the ­opportunity to make a difference to the community. The scholarship aims to attract talented youths who are passionate about social ­development and the community.  The scholar will be able to choose an area he is passionate about such as youth development, active ageing, ­community sports, arts and culture, community service and leadership.

There will be opportunities for overseas attachment to expose scholars to the different facets of community development in other countries.  In PA, scholars will help to shape the social environment through strategic planning for the constituencies and designing and implementing programmes that benefit the community. They will also have regular engagements with community leaders as well as PA senior executives.

What skill sets would the scholar ­develop through all these opportunities?
We will help our scholars build and develop their expertise in community ­leadership and organisational skills in practical ways. They will be exposed to wide areas of our social and community networks and programmes. They will work with people on the ground as well as ­policy and decision-makers. The scholars will be people who are sensitive to people’s needs. Hopefully, they will be problem-solvers and influential in the community.

In your opinion, what is the most ­attractive aspect of the PA Youth ­Leaders Scholarship?
We are looking for youths who want a career that make significant ­changes to others and the society.  With the wide network of PA, the scholar will be able to choose at least an area that he is ­passionate about in the organisation.  This could be youth ­development, active ­ageing, sports, arts and culture, community service and leadership.  PA will help them build and develop their domain knowledge and ­expertise in community work.

Who best qualifies for this ­scholarship?
The PA Youth ­Leaders ­Scholarship aims to attract ­people who are passionate about their community and its social ­development. They are likely to be youths who are ­already ­leading and making an impact in the ­community. They aspire for ­positive changes in the ­community and among the ­people they live with. They must also excel ­academically.
Aspiring scholars should possess ­leadership qualities displayed through active participation in CCA and/or ­community or voluntary service, especially in leadership positions. The scholar must love people and love to work with them.

What are the ­possible ­career paths for the ­scholar in PA?
To connect them to people, scholars will start their career with a stint in the constituency office to gain ground experience. They will learn the ­general ­management ­perspectives of PA through job ­rotations and developmental ­programmes.  With the people skills, the scholar will be able to do a better job at policy ­development.

Our scholars will be mentored by ­senior ­officers who will support them on ­career and leadership development. They will participate in or lead PA strategic ­projects.  Scholars may also be seconded to other public agencies. Such diverse leadership training opportunities will help them ­develop both their personal and ­professional leadership in community ­development to take on strategic roles in PA.

What are some of the challenges you foresee our new generation of youth leaders will face in the years ahead?
With the changing youth ­landscape and higher expectations from the ­residents, there is a need for leaders to connect with the youths and inculcate a sense of ­ownership and belonging among them. With the evolution of the social ­media, youths are exposed to a wider range of ­information. It will be challenging to ­engage them in national and ­community affairs and take ownership in building a ­resilient and caring community.

What about the choice of university?
The undergraduate scholarships are ­applicable to courses at renowned overseas universities and the four local universities, namely NUS, NTU, SMU and SUTD.

Will the scholars be expected to serve a bond?
Scholars studying at local universities have to serve a bond of four years, and those going overseas, six years.