Undergrads laud pro bono mentorship programme with top professionals

Undergrads laud pro bono mentorship programme with top professionals
Front row, L-R: Mentees of the MentorsHub Mr Fred Ng, second-year marketing student at SIM University, Ms Diana Lim, second-year sustainable infrastructure engineering student at SIT, and Mr Derrick Ong, second-year business analytics student at NTU. Back row, L-R: Mentor with MentorsHub Ms Isabella Tan, vice-president and general manager for Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines at Cerebos Pacific, Ms Candice Goh, management committee member of MentorsHub, Dr Candice Chee, MentorsHub founder, and mentor Mr Lam Pin Woon, former CEO of the Health Promotion Board. Photo: Robin Choo/TODAY
Published: 9:16 PM, April 3, 2016
Updated: 11:53 PM, April 3, 2016
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SINGAPORE — Weighed down by doubts about whether majoring in business analytics was the right choice, undergraduate Derrick Ong poured out his concerns in a phone call that lasted over an hour. On the other end of the line was Mr Lam Pin Woon, the former chief executive of the Health Promotion Board.

Mr Ong, 23, who reads business at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), had turned to his mentor Mr Lam, 57, as he found it a “daunting” move to venture into a subject unfamiliar to him. But his fears were quickly assuaged.

“(Mr Lam) played a pivotal role in assuring me that taking a step forward is always better than being stranded and (not making) a decision,” he said. “(He told me to) just go for it first, and even if it doesn’t suit you ... you can always switch. There’s no dead end in life.”

Mr Ong is among the pioneering batch of mentees under a pro bono mentorship initiative that pairs professionals accomplished in their fields with undergraduates, particularly from less-privileged and single-parent families.

Launched last May, MentorsHub equips students between the ages of 21 and 27 with industry knowledge and soft skills to help ease their transition from schools to workplaces. Mentors meet their mentees at least once every quarter throughout the one-year programme. Mentees also attend bimonthly workshops on soft marketplace skills, such as professional grooming and financial planning.

Interest in the initiative has been growing. Its second cohort of 18 mentees started the programme on March 5, joining the pioneering batch of 13 mentees.

Mentees are recruited through SIM University, the Singapore Institute of Technology and NTU and by word of mouth. Among other things, they undergo online psychometric tests and a two-day mentoring retreat, for which they pay an S$80 “commitment fee” to defray part of the costs, before being matched to their mentors. The fee will be waived for those who are in financial difficulty.

Founder Candice Chee, 50, saw the lack of financial and social support for undergraduates from less-well-off families as perpetuating a “vicious cycle” that prevents them from reaching their potential.

“They underperform, they’re not getting into the school that they want, (and) they can’t enter the universities,” said Dr Chee, managing partner at consulting firm MetaCore Asia.

With their wide circles, the mentors, who number 22, have also linked their mentees up with people in their networks. For instance, mentor Isabella Tan, 50, had arranged for her mentee, who was keen on starting a business but had no clear plans, to meet a former e-commerce entrepreneur.

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