IMPACT 0550: EMPOWERING YOUTH THROUGH MENTORSHIP AND SELF-DISCOVERY
Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.
Wesley Tan, 20, has a passion for youth empowerment and the idea of scaling up sustainable businesses. He has been serving as the Head of Education and Career Guidance for SGExams, as well as the Country Director for the ASEAN Youth Organisation. In addition, he’s also been working as the Partnerships Manager at Reactor School for the past year.
Today, he shares more about the work that he does with SGExams!
What was your role within your YAC project?
As the Head of Education and Career Guidance of SGExams, I played a key role in onboarding university and industry mentors. I had previously organised webinars and workshops hoping to guide students in their education or career guidance journey, but our ECG Pathfinding Programme was an ambitious way to further expand our ECG efforts.
Our YAC project was the ECG Pathfinding Programme, an integrated education and career guidance tool. The ECG Pathfinding Programme comprises a Mentorship Programme and Community Compass Programmes.
The first phase of the Mentorship Programme is self-discovery, where a primary mentor helps mentees define their interests and academic or career goals. Once those goals are defined, the second phase involves connecting the mentee with other mentors who can advise them on those specific goals. Our Community Compass Programmes are a set of community programmes that aim to raise awareness about ECG to a broader audience, ranging from articles, webinars, fireside chats and other initiatives.
As the Head of ECG, I was involved in establishing these industry partners, but in a nimble team, one must be prepared to wear multiple hats. For instance, on top of liaising with industry partners and organising webinars, I was overseeing the charting strategy, planning our go-to-market strategy and prototyping our minimum viable product (MVP). Additionally, I recruited and onboarded new team members into SGExams and our YAC team to aid in our expansion efforts.
What motivated you to join YAC?
I’d previously been involved in other organisations that benefitted from YAC. Prior to SGExams, I had served as a Marketing Executive and Editor for the ASEAN Business Youth Association (ABYA). I was greatly impressed by the calibre and the breadth of projects that benefitted from YAC. As such, while serving as the Head of ECG for SGExams, I saw this as an opportunity to scale a project that I had been thinking about. From a survey we did, we realised that a majority of students still face issues in education and career guidance despite existing programmes. SGExams targets a unique niche in the ECG landscape, targeting both education and career guidance, as well as facilitating the multidirectional transfer of information. As such, I felt compelled to join the YAC to address this problem. I saw a gap in the existing ECG landscape, and SGExams is now often seen as the first touchpoint for youth outreach.
SGExams is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about student communities in Singapore. As ourreach consists a large number of students, we have run cross-promotion campaigns with many organisations and partners, which include ECG initiatives (e.g. Advisory, Sparked, Halogen). As such, I saw YAC as a golden opportunity to take these principles one step further through webinars, roundtable sessions and leveraging on our existing social media platforms to facilitate this.
Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?
It was a highly dynamic experience. I’ve been serving as the Partnerships Manager at Reactor School and I’ve seen a few Reactor alumni go through YAC and scale their ideas even further. As such, I entered the competition wanting to learn more about the social impact space in Singapore, as well as how one would feasibly scale a project.
As the YAC was co-organised by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), National Youth Council and 500 start-ups, the workshops often covered concepts found in the start-up world and venture capital (e.g. GTM strategy, MVP, etc.). I really enjoyed how YAC has enabled me to explore this intersection between social impact and entrepreneurship. We had many mentors in the process from various industries and sectors, from public servants to entrepreneurs. I found that the way the different mentors approached problem-solving was often diverse and I liked this multifaceted aspect of mentorship.
Besides, talking and working alongside our many partners from student societies (NUS Entrepreneurship Society), non-profits (The Astronauts Collective) and public sector organisations (Mentoring Alliance SG) gave us a wider view of ECG and the existing career/industry guidance scene. Overall, I really enjoyed my experience because it exposed me to different styles of approaching social impact.
What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?
Firstly, getting mentors on board was pretty challenging as we needed to convince student groups about the viability and potential of our project. I had to cold email many organisations, with some being less receptive than others. Nonetheless, I treated the rejections as opportunities for learning because each organisation that didn’t want to work with us was an opportunity to further improve our value proposition.
Secondly, the need to learn new skills like pitching on the fly. As mentioned earlier, as Head of ECG, I was primarily involved in establishing these industry partnerships, but in a start-up environment, it’s inevitable that I had to do more than that. Picking up skills on the fly was challenging but rewarding and dynamic!
Thirdly, time management was really important as I was juggling my National Service commitments as well as my other leadership positions. In the months we were under YAC, I served as the Country Director of ASEAN Youth Organisation Singapore and headed the Future Economic Forum, a unique conference educating youths about Singapore’s economic policies. However, this also taught me the value of finding synergies. For instance, the main sponsor of the Future Economic Forum was a media company comprising multiple start-ups called Potato Productions. I actually established a collaboration between them and five other JCs to organise EntreConnect, one of our Community Compass Programmes. As such, finding these possible synergies were useful. In addition, I found that prioritising my time and close communication with the rest of the team was particularly valuable.
Could you share more on how your project has a positive impact?
For our pilot mentorship programme, we received over 80 signups even though we kept the final pool to 20 primary mentors and 20 mentees for closer observation. SGExams currently has an outreach of 90,000 students. We are also working with other partners and will be featured on the Mentoring Alliance for Action’s WEConnect application. As such, we anticipate our Pathfinding programme to have a wide reach. Speaking to the mentors and mentees has been rewarding and I’m particularly touched by the mentees’ desire to learn.
Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?
Firstly, what struck me was the intersection between social impact and entrepreneurship as both involve similar principles of problem-solving.
Secondly, I’m appreciative of being part of the journey of conceptualising the ECG Pathfinding Programme and having to scale it.
Lastly, I was impressed by the breadth of ideas from the other participants and I have learnt a lot from the people I have met as well. Participating in the YAC has really opened my eyes to the possibility of social impact. I love taking an idea, scaling it upwards, and potentially benefiting the lives of youths (and beyond!). I’ll definitely participate in YAC again, or serve in a related capacity, be it through NYC or the YCM Curator programme.