But there is a shift in that mind-set looming, starting from the very top. In May, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
called for more workers, and less graduates – urging young Singaporeans to consider career paths that don’t require university degrees, but instead utilise the government’s new training framework, SkillsFuture, for instance.
And now HR teams in Singapore’s banking sector appears to be following his direction.
Students from junior colleges and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) – alongside first-year uni grads – are among those being targeted by local and foreign lenders for potential talent, The Business Times has reported.
This trend follows efforts from the Monetary Authority of Singapore
(MAS) to promote the expansion of a local base of banking talent, which included the government body engaging with the top leadership of key financial institutions.
This month Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam said MAS will extend a SkillsFuture programme aimed at helping polytechnic graduates secure employment in the financial sector.
“We will introduce several manpower and talent development initiatives to ensure a strong Singaporean core across the range of activities in the financial sector," he said at the 42nd annual dinner of the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS).
Major Singapore banks have already committed 200 places for polytechnic grads in the coming year, he said.
Some banks already have that working relationship in place. OCBC, for instance, takes in 450 polytechnic interns each year and has a Polytechnic Trainee Bank Officer Scheme.
JPMorgan has just launched its one-year apprenticeship for polytechnic graduates, welcoming its first intake of 14 in April.
Citibank offers internships, takes part in career fairs and offers advice about CV writing and interviewing techniques. They also target undergraduates by way of the Citi Mentorship Programme and the Citi Banking 101 Foundational Programme.
Some banks target an even younger demographic.
Last month, UBS unveiled its Youth Finance Academy to introduce pre-tertiary students to banking and finance, with an intake of 50 students from 18 junior colleges and polytechnics.
The sector’s shift in hiring and talent spotting platforms appears to match its ability to evolve generally.
And there is opportunity for further growth, if panellists at the DBS Asian Insights Conference 2015 conference in Singapore last week are anything to go by.
“My opinion is that every industry (has the potential), but some industries are going to be transformed much faster than others … and it’s the banking and finance industry,” said Soul Htite, founder of China-based peer-to-peer lending platform Dianrong.com.
“The reason is that it’s an information industry … There are a lot of things that couldn’t be done before, but today, we are able to do because of technology.”
Singapore HRDs know the value of a university degree in the island-nation – a candidate with one is often stronger than a candidate without.