Ms Shireen Shafikah Mujibur Rahman had not heard of local firm PS Food & Beverage until her polytechnic assigned her to the company for an internship last year (2021).
She delved into the company's operations for five months, from product marketing to learning about the shipping process and working with overseas partners.
"I was very inspired by my bosses and how they worked. They also provided a safe space for me to ask as many questions I wanted," said the 21-year-old, who graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic last month (May).
Since the launch of the Global Ready Talent programme by government agency Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) in 2019, more than 15,400 young individuals like Ms Shireen have been matched with nearly 2,400 local firms on both local and overseas internships.
The top three industries in terms of companies on board the programme are infocomm media and digitalisation, business services, and marine and offshore (engineering services).
Ms Lin Lixin, EnterpriseSG's director of industry human capital, told The Straits Times: "Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, companies did not let up on growing talent, and we saw an increase in the number of interns and companies joining the programme."
Last year, EnterpriseSG supported about 6,500 internships and more than 1,500 companies, up from 5,000 internships and 1,300 companies in 2020.
The firms come from a range of sectors and offer varied internship roles, from engineering and information technology to business services.
Ms Lin said the scheme aims to help local enterprises attract talent and expose students and fresh graduates to local firms.
"This could also kickstart their career, as some are then employed full-time by the participating companies," she said, adding: "Talent is key for companies that want to compete effectively, both locally and overseas. However, it can be challenging for local enterprises to stand out in a crowded talent marketplace."
The internships also show young individuals that they can have meaningful career development and growth opportunities within local enterprises, she added.
This could be through supporting companies in their business strategies and operations, creating new solutions, or being involved in overseas projects.
Ms Lin said that more than 90 per cent of interns in the programme reported positive experiences.
Due to the pandemic, students did remote overseas internships, supporting projects from here.
"As global markets reopen and companies shift gears to resume growth, we hope to see more local enterprises come on board the programme and encourage more young talent to pursue internship and overseas career opportunities," said Ms Lin.
Ms Shireen, who studied business management, had the chance to work with overseas colleagues in Vietnam during her internship stint.
"At first, I thought my job would be customer-facing. I didn't expect to learn from scratch about the shipping process," she said.
"In a small company, you'll have to handle different job aspects and at least understand parts of it, even if you don't specialise in it. It's a good thing, as I saw the behind-the-scenes of a product," she added.
Mr Teri Teo, business development director at PS Food & Beverage, said: "As a small and medium sized enterprise, we don't recruit 50 to 100 staff. It doesn't make sense to set up at a job fair to look for one person to fill a role.
"We're also competing with bigger companies for the same talent. The EnterpriseSG scheme gives us some backing and helps us build up a track record of employing interns over the years."
Ms Ang Hui Wen, 24, a data science and analytics graduate from the National University of Singapore, is now working full-time at Swat Mobility, a local smart mobility company, after an internship there in 2020.
"I was challenged to think further. Being in the transport space was quite unique as I wasn't exposed to it in university," she said.
Part of her job entailed working closely with partners and the sales teams in countries such as Thailand and the Philippines.
"It's a close-knit environment in a smaller company. Sometimes we need to support other departments and for most projects, you have more ownership because you usually see it through from the start to the end," said Ms Ang.
Mr Clement Ho, Swat Mobility's head of solution delivery and services, said the firm has converted five interns into full-timers through the EnterpriseSG programme.
"The interns provide us with fresh ideas on how to do things and we don't limit the scope of what they can do," he said.
"There's a lot of collaboration across departments and interns get a full view of deploying tech on the ground, and see it go live and help businesses and people."
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.