Employers are starting to break out of conventional thinking to design placement programmes for out-of-school youths in order to meet their unique needs and wants. Whilst we’ve found that common success factors exist, there are many ways of putting them into practice. How do successful organisations do it? We spoke to Hatch, a Singapore-based social enterprise focusing on out of school youth, to understand their model.
Run by a group of National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduates, Hatch trains and matches youth from all walks of life for fast-growing industries. Founded on the belief that anyone who is driven and motivated can be nurtured to enter meaningful careers, they make it their mission to prepare young jobseekers for the workforce. Participants attend a 2 month in-house training programme before proceeding on to a 3 month placement.
Founder Victor Zhu, 24, gives us an insight into Hatch’s approach.
Hatch aims to help youths overcome barriers to employment
Hatch has a clear mission: to break down barriers to pursuing a meaningful career. What are the barriers that out of school youth commonly face and how Hatch is helping to overcome them?
Our mission is to provide anyone who wishes to pursue a meaningful career with the realistic opportunity to do so. And we really do mean it when we say anyone.
Qualifications are a traditional barrier to employment that out of school youth often lack. Hatch works very closely with our hiring companies to design a training programme aligned with the skills they demand. This way, someone with zero experience and qualifications can progressively develop their skills to a professional level by moving from a classroom setting to an internship to possibly a full-time conversion. This addresses a significant uncertainty faced by youth who are just starting out.
Another common barrier is financial. Many young people want to pursue a career but cannot afford to enrol in studies or upskilling programmes. Before starting Hatch, I thought that older siblings dropping out of school for financial reasons was a thing of the past. Then I realised that the problem is as real as it was decades ago.
We make a committed effort to make the course accessible to those who fall within this group, with funding help from the National Youth Council and Infocomm Media Development Authority. (They have been tremendous partners who understand and support the work we do, for which I am extremely thankful!) From our past intakes, we’ve seen that these are some of the most driven, adaptable, and resilient young people. Companies see a lot of value in these qualities and have continued hiring with us for that reason. In that sense, our social mission is also our strongest competitive advantage. To me, that is one of the best parts of an impact-driven business.
Your programme focuses on digital marketing and UI/UX, an industry which strikes us as a great balance between “what companies need” and “what youths want”. What were the reasons for this choice?
Objectively, there is a steady and growing demand for these skills, which will benefit Hatch graduates as the jobs they are prepared for remain relevant for the years to come. Also, digital marketing and UI/UX are skills and portfolio-driven industries where success is largely determined by one’s motivation, drive, and openness to growth, as opposed to hard qualifications. This aligns with our mission to empower youth from all walks of life.
For the youth, I think they are similarly drawn to the growth prospects in these sectors. Office jobs are often regarded as cooler and more professional, and for many of them it’s the first time being valued and rewarded for the quality of their work instead of just being compensated for their time and labour. For the young and driven, that feeling of satisfaction is a significant pull factor to enroll with us.
Hatch students go through 2 months of digital and design training
One of our key findings has been that programmes really need to build not just technical skills but also internal assets and life skills in youth. How does Hatch do this?
Confidence is definitely one of the key areas we focus on. There are several ways. The design of the programme itself - being very hands on - helps to build confidence. Throughout the training, the youths create products such as websites and marketing collaterals. They can visibly see the fruit of their labours and take pride in their ongoing improvements.
We also insist that out of school youth are treated exactly the same as other interns in the company even if they may not have equivalent qualifications. Firstly, from a sustainable employment point of view, we want jobs that are matched through Hatch to be those that truly add value to the company, so as to encourage businesses to convert our candidates into full-time employees. Secondly and more importantly, it is essential for the youths’ self-esteem and personal development that they are treated the same.
We know that mentoring is another highly effective way to build these skills. How does mentoring work at Hatch?
Students on the program are matched to an industry mentor whom they meet monthly. The mentors offer industry advice and personal check-ins at various stages of the program. Entering into a new stage in life can be very intimidating, and having someone who believes in you makes all the difference. Many mentors with Hatch form strong personal bonds with their mentees and it is heartening to see our mentoring arrangements develop into lifelong friendships.
Hatch students are matched to industry mentors in the digital and design professions Credit: Hatch
What are your plans looking forward?
We have been working on a new service to help younger students build self-worth and understand career aspirations. This will build upon what we have found to be effective, customised to the needs of a younger audience. Using hands on teaching, we want to help youth see the value and potential of their skills and thought processes. The focus of the workshop will be on growth careers, such as the ones we offer in the Hatch Immersive, and how one can better prepare themselves for them.
Anyone who would like to find out more or work with us in any way can reach out to me directly. It’s always nice to speak with people in this space with similar missions!