Skilio and its founder, Felix Tan, wants to help youth understand the value of their soft skills
Winners of the Youth Action Challenge Season 2, Skilio wants to help as many students in Singapore as possible.
Two years ago, Felix Tan set out to make a change in the education system: He wanted to change the perception that one can be successful only if he or she achieves good grades in school.
From that desire, Felix founded Skilio, a digital softspace portfolio that aids students in developing their soft skills.
Skilio allows students from secondary schools, junior colleges or polytechnics to document any soft skills they picked up in their educational journey.
“We want Skilio to be something that every student can be proud of in their own digital identity and their own development, especially in the area of soft skills,” Felix said.
By creating an identity for themselves, Felix hopes that this will act as a confidence booster for students as something they can rely on when they enter the workforce.
“We realise that the challenge for a lot of young people going into the workforce, be it their job or an internship, is how to articulate their experiences on their skillset,” Felix said, noting that most graduates don’t necessarily have much experience either.
“In Singapore, we live in a very grades-driven society where our own value as an individual is tied to the grades we get on our report card or major exam.”
That’s where Skilio comes in – to allow students to store information about soft skills they developed either from school programmes or outside of school. This way, even students who aren’t academically inclined have something to show when they try to secure their first jobs.
Felix, a “mediocre student” in Junior College by his own admission, hopes that these will help students to realise that they have qualities which, while not necessarily applicable as they pursue their education, can be useful in the workforce.
Using himself as an example, Felix said: “What I realised from my secondary school and JC days was that I was lucky to be given opportunities to develop my soft skills through student councils or my co-curricular activities. I learnt a lot about how to be a good leader and team player. I think these skills are helping me a lot in what I’m doing today and to prepare me for challenges.
“For us at Skilio, what we want to do is to help students shift that mindset of success away from grades to other qualities they have demonstrated in school and outside of school. Using these qualities, they can secure more opportunities by being more prepared for an interview or school of choice.”
After serving his national service, Felix interned at the Ministry of Education as a teacher. That was when he realised making a change from within the educational system would be tough and something had to be done from the outside.
He started working on Skilio while preparing to enter university after his internship ended. He also enlisted help from his teachers, friends and students by getting them to provide feedback.
It was at university that he finally enlisted help from two others, Ho Zi Hui and Dody Senputra, who became co-founders of Skilio. Dody is now the chief technology officer, while Zi Hui is the chief operating officer.
“We needed somebody to look at the science and psychology so that’s how we got into a team. Both of them also had some passion for education and the complementary skill sets to come togethers to form this team.”
However, the team quickly found out that starting a company from scratch was not as easy as it sounded. They faced a huge stumbling block – clients were not ready to support Skilio, as all three co-founders were still students.
“They were like, ‘will you give up six months later?’,” shared Felix. “So that was one of the bigger challenges – to convince people that even though we are students, we want to take this seriously to make an impact.”
Other challenges came along the way, including one that saw the team close to giving up on their dreams. In June 2020, after a year spent on working on a mobile app for Skilio, the team realised the app was not feasible as students were not allowed to use their phones during school.
They were hesitant if they should continue with the idea, as chances of it being successful were low. The team chose to take a break for a few months and put it on a pause, while they cleared their minds.
“What helped me during this critical moment was that some users told us that it was effective and it really helped them. Those words of encouragement really helped, and helped me to pull myself together,” Felix recalled, adding that he wanted to use his three years in university to really do something meaningful.
The team pressed on eventually, learning from their mistakes along the way, and their efforts paid off eventually. They were awarded the highest tier of $50,000 in the season 2 of the Youth Action Challenge, which sets the stage for passionate youths to work together to provide solutions to important social issues prevalent in Singapore.
“We were pretty surprised and it gave us the validation that what we were doing was very important and that we should continue so that we can see this impact come into fruition in society. I think that as much it was a surprise, it was also a morale booster for us,” Felix answered.
The team plans to use the prize money to expand Skilio into the region and increase the manpower by hiring interns and full-timers. They also plan to form partnerships to spread awareness of Skilio among youth.
“For us, the future plan is scaling this beyond Singapore because we believe soft skills is not just something that is unique to us in Singapore but every youth in Southeast Asia or in the world can be more intentional about when it comes to building their soft skills,” Felix elaborated.
“I think it’s just to get as many young people as we can to be more mindful in building their soft skills before entering the workforce.”
In the long run, he hopes that Skilio would be able to aid students in creating a digital identity they are proud of in the area of soft skills.
More importantly, he wishes to empower every youth by helping them to understand how they are unique in their abilities and how they can achieve anything in their lives once they put their mind to it.