In the financial year which ended on 31 March 2021 (FY20/21), Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) forged ahead to prepare our students for an increasingly volatile and uncertain world. We continued to build and strengthen partnerships that open doors to exciting opportunities for our students, staff and the industry.
While the COVID-19 pandemic upended the way we work, teach and learn, it created opportunities in the area of automation and accelerated our digitalisation efforts. We made strides in improving our curricula to help our students ride the wave of change especially in emerging areas. We also stepped up our efforts to upskill and reskill our adult learners as they faced an increasingly uncertain job market.
In this annual report, we present our key initiatives and milestones that marked another memorable year.
The pandemic may have wreaked havoc on our lives, but it also drove us to be more creative. In all, we came up with about 90 Work Smarter initiatives, where we harnessed smart technology and our ingenuity to make learning meaningful and enable us to overcome the operational challenges posed by the pandemic.
During the circuit breaker last year, our academic staff successfully pivoted to full home-based learning (HBL) by April 2020. Enabled by a myriad of IT tools, they went to great lengths to ensure that online lessons remained effective and engaging. We tapped the use of technology to create immersive environments that make learning more rewarding. We also piloted e-proctored online testing with some academic schools. We are gratified that surveys showed most students were confident to learn through HBL, and there was no negative impact on their overall academic performance.
Freshmen onboarding programmes were conducted online and students had the opportunity to explore the various co-curricular activities (CCAs) through the e-CCA fiesta. Bursary application was also converted fully online, and for the first time, a virtual graduation week was held in lieu of the in-person convocation ceremony.
In addition, the IT Helpdesk team used a built-in quick assist tool in Windows 10 to provide IT support to students and staff remotely, helping NP save about $16,500 a year by negating the need for a third-party tool.
During the year, we continued to provide students with opportunities to acquire skills and competencies in emerging areas such as digitalisation and data analytics.
Our School of Business & Accountancy (BA) piloted the Business Digitalisation track for final year students in Business Studies in April 2020. Students received practical training in emerging fields like artificial intelligence, robotics and digital marketing through company-based projects and internships. This prepared them to facilitate digitalisation efforts in organisations, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Following the successful pilot run, the Business Digitalisation track is now also offered to final year students from the International Trade & Business and Tourism & Resort Management diploma courses.
Another diploma that underwent major revamp is the renamed Diploma in Data Science (DS) which restructured its curriculum to train students for emerging job roles such as data analysts and data scientists. Previously known as Diploma in Financial Informatics, DS has increased its focus on data analytics and data engineering, which are gaining traction with the rapid advances in digitalisation. Its new Industry Kickstart Project further enhances students’ career readiness by giving them in-depth industry exposure through working on a series of industry-based projects and an internship.
The need to reskill and upskill is especially urgent in a world that is changing rapidly. With the help of the enhanced training support package and the Government’s SGUnited Skills initiative, we were able to ramp up our Continuing Education & Training (CET) offerings over the past year. To further fuel the growth of our CET Academy, a new SkillsFuture Innovation Unit was set up to boost industry partnerships and expand the scope of collaboration with our partners.
In the academic year (AY2020), our CET Academy trained 47,000 adult learners, an increase of 50 per cent compared to AY2019. We achieved 1.3 million training hours and 55,000 training places, a year-on-year increase of 34 and 67 per cent respectively.
In particular, the highly sought-after Go programming language is now available in a suite of seven short courses called GoSchool, thanks to NP’s joint venture with OpenNodes and Indorse. Launched in mid-2020, GoSchool also forged partnerships with Shopee, FoodPanda and Zalora to provide apprenticeship opportunities for learners with IT background to acquire hands-on experience as a Go Developer.
Another noteworthy programme is the SME Digital Reboot programme, which was launched in partnership with NTUC LearningHub (LHub), UOB’s innovation accelerator - The FinLab, and NTUC U SME to help SMEs upskill their employees, digitalise their businesses and stay competitive in the new normal. NP and NTUC LHub will provide training across five tracks while our students, graduates and lecturers from the School of InfoComm Technology (ICT) will provide workplace learning and support during the implementation phase. The programme aims to help 500 SMEs transform their businesses through digitalisation by the end of 2022.
Building on our strength in nurturing entrepreneurship, we collaborated with United Overseas Bank (UOB) to take our entrepreneurship ecosystem to the next level. We jointly launched a new campus incubator called AGILE at Block 58 in December 2020 to drive student entrepreneurship, nurture start-ups and encourage partnerships. AGILE, which stands for Accelerating Growth in Innovation, Learning and Entrepreneurship, marks a milestone in our entrepreneurship journey since we started our residential incubator in 2013. Over the past seven years, more than 30 start-ups have passed through the doors of our incubator. Collectively, over $15 million revenue has been generated, and more than $8 million funds secured by these start-ups.
AGILE currently hosts 10 start-ups which have access to mentorship provided by our Innovation & Enterprise Office, The Sandbox (TSB), as well as The Finlab by UOB. It also features a community space called Hangout@UOB, where students run a café under the guidance of TSB and UOB.
In the past year, four NP alumni, whose start-ups had their beginnings in our incubator, were featured in Forbes’ 30 under 30 Asia list of must-watch young entrepreneurs, leaders and changemakers in Asia. They are Koh Kai Xin and Eugene Cheng from HighSpark, and Terrence Goh and Jasper Yap from Eezee. Jasper was also included in the 2020 EDGE 35 Under 35 list, which celebrates young entrepreneurs who have contributed significantly to Singapore’s start-up ecosystem.
While the employment outlook for our diploma graduates was generally bright, we did not forget those who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We offered a Career Jumpstart support package, which included close to 400 employment and learning opportunities, for these graduates.
One of these was through the GoSchool programme which secured job placement opportunities and apprenticeships for IT graduates. We also created close to 80 campus job placements, providing fresh graduates with gainful employment.
Another pathway was the Work-Study Programme, which made available close to 200 Work-Study Programme placements for graduates to embark on a rewarding career while deepening their professional skills and knowledge.
The NP COVID-19 Fund was also set up to appeal for donations to support students affected by the pandemic. By 31 March 2021, about $630,000 was raised from organisations, foundations, individuals as well as NP staff and alumni. More than $500,000 has been disbursed to about 1,000 students who received immediate cash grants of between $200 and $800 per student in AY2020.
Having been an environmental advocate for over 20 years since 1992, NP continued to initiate eco and sustainability projects on our campus.
One of the projects was a collaboration with students from the School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HMS) to raise awareness of the impact of plastic waste on the environment through an online game.
A number of eco projects were also completed in the past year, including a rain garden with toxin-absorbing plants at Block 51. Designed by our own staff, it will be used both as an outdoor classroom and for research purposes. The solar panels fitted on 16 of our buildings started operating in January and now convert 8 per cent of NP’s energy consumption into renewable energy. Our green clubs carried out a number of environmental sustainability projects ranging from recycling competitions to self-produced videos on daily green habits.
We are heartened to have met the environmental targets we set for ourselves. Almost half of our 36-hectare campus has been “greened up”. We have planted more than 1,000 new trees, and introduced more than 300 plant species as part of our efforts to encourage biodiversity on campus. By December 2020, we have reduced our electricity and water usage by 39.5 per cent - the original target was 25 per cent - using 2013 as the baseline. Twenty-five of our buildings have also been awarded the Green Mark Certification presented by the Building and Construction Authority.
Notwithstanding the challenging times, our students, graduates and lecturers brought home a string of awards and accolades.
Our students bagged six medals including three golds, and 10 medallions in one of our biggest wins ever at the WorldSkills Singapore Competition in 2020, a national skills competition for youth held once every two years.
Our graduates continued to do us proud with their achievements. For instance,
Andrè & His Olive Tree, a documentary on Michelin-starred chef André Chiang by Film, Sound & Video (FSV) graduate Josiah Ng, was the highest-grossing documentary in Taiwan in 2020. Another NP alumnus, Ian Ang, co-founder and CEO of Secretlab, was named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 Singapore and included in 2020 EDGE 35 Under 35 list of outstanding young entrepreneurs.
Similarly, our lecturers were recognised for their good work. One of them was Scottz Lip from our School of Life Sciences & Chemical Technology (LSCT) who won the 2020 Ministry of Education (MOE) Outstanding Innovator Award for promoting multi-disciplinary collaborations among students and staff in NP. One such collaboration led to the development of a creative system to control the mosquito and rodent populations in the community.
We will continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation and do our part to help the NP community adjust to the new normal while staying safe.
Last but not the least, we thank our staff, students, parents, alumni, advisory committees, industry and community partners, as well as colleagues from MOE for their unstinting support. We are grateful to our fellow Council members for their wise counsel, and in particular, we would like to acknowledge the contributions of former Principal and Council Member, Clarence Ti, who left the polytechnic on 11 May 2021. With the continued support of our stakeholders, we will remain positive as we navigate the challenges ahead.
Tang Kin FeiChairman
Lim Kok KiangPrincipal & CEO