Mr Esmond Lee, Deputy Secretary for Education, Hong Kong Education Bureau Mr Tony Tai, Chairman, Vocational Training Council (VTC), Hong Kong Mr Andrew Chong, Chairman, Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Singapore Mr Donald Tong, Executive Director, VTC Mr Ong Siew Gay, Consul General, Consulate-General of Singapore in Hong Kong Ms Low Khah Gek, CEO, ITE Staff and Students Ladies and gentlemen Introduction 1. Good morning to all who are here physically, and those who are joining us virtually. I am very pleased to join you today at the Opening Ceremony of the eighth ITE-VTC International Student Seminar (ISS) 2022. 2. It is heartening to witness the strong friendship and collaboration between VTC, Hong Kong and ITE, Singapore, for more than two decades now, since 1998. The partnership between VTC and ITE started with the sharing of expertise and experiences in technical education and training, and has expanded over the years to include staff and student exchanges. ITE and VTC have enhanced their collaboration further, with plans to jointly develop new Technical Diplomas. 3. This Seminar is also one of the many examples of the close collaboration between VTC and ITE. Over the next two days, students from VTC, ITE and other participating institutions will explore this year’s Seminar theme, ‘Post Covid-19 World: Towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Future’, with three sub-themes, ‘Reimagining’, ‘Inclusivity’ and ‘Sustainability’. 4. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only wrought disruptions in the past two years, but it has also forced us to rethink fundamentally how we should better organise ourselves for a more inclusive and sustainable future. In line with the seminar theme, I would like to share with you my thoughts on these three areas. Acceleration of Innovation 5. First, on acceleration of innovation. Over the past two years as the international community sought to mitigate and manage the effects of the pandemic, individuals, governments and industry have generated new ideas and new solutions. There have been many scientific breakthroughs, including the development, testing, manufacturing, and global roll-out of vaccines, demonstrating the power of innovation, science and public-private partnerships. COVID-19 has also led to businesses pivoting to new domains and implementing innovative strategies to meet the changing needs of consumers, underscoring the importance of companies maintaining a growth mindset and agile business model. 6. This pandemic is not the first, nor unfortunately is it likely to be the last. There will also be other global disruptions. We must continue to encourage innovation and technological adoption to transform and adapt to post-COVID norms swiftly. At the same time, we must redesign jobs to meet the longer terms challenges of boosting workforce productivity and reducing reliance on foreign labour. This is critical for densely populated and fast aging societies like Singapore and Hong Kong while at the same time enabling us to remain agile and nimble to handle the challenges of the future. 7. Let me share an example of how a team of ITE students seized an emerging opportunity presented by the pandemic. The team made use of their training in AI to propose an algorithm that uses information in surveillance videos to evaluate an individual’s likelihood of COVID infection. The algorithm combines facial recognition, data analytics and machine learning to determine the extent of an individual’s exposure to a COVID-infected person. It then determines the risk levels of the people around the infected individual, based on the proximity, interaction and duration of contact with the individual. The team’s proposal emerged as one of the Top 10 winning proposals in the “AI vs COVID-19 Ideation Challenge” organised by AI Singapore. 8. The success of the team of ITE students is testament to the strong foundation that the students possess. ITE students are in a good position to leverage your training to think of new and better ways of doing things, step up to tackle real-life challenges around you, and make positive contributions to Singapore and the world. A Greener Future 9. My second reflection relates to the move towards a greener future. Sustainable development will be one of the key driving forces of the future economy. 10. Singapore is taking decisive actions with the announcement of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a ‘whole-of-nation movement’ to advance the national agenda on sustainable development. The Green Plan positions Singapore to achieve net-zero emissions, by or around mid-century. 11. As we pursue sustainable development, there will be career opportunities in several sectors, including civil and structural engineering, green finance and high-tech agriculture, just to name a few. In 2021, ITE and SembCorp launched the ITE-SembCorp Centre for Sustainable Solutions which includes an emphasis on photovoltaic systems and monitoring of performance of solar systems. The centre aims to train more than 400 trainees annually to build up the skilled manpower needed for the growing solar industry in Singapore. 12. Moving forward, we can expect new jobs to emerge, and existing jobs to adopt green practices. There will be a high demand for relevant skills to navigate the complexities of the green transition. ITE and VTC are well placed to develop sustainability-related skills and competencies among your graduates to enable them to seize opportunities in the green economy. With relevant skills training, our youth can then contribute to our green future by leveraging research and innovations to develop solutions to tackle sustainability challenges. At the same time, our graduates must be ever ready to be reskilled and upskilled while in the workforce, to continue to be relevant to the economy of the future. Growing Inclusion 13. My third point is the need to build an inclusive and caring society, and through our curriculum and training to build up students’ character and citizenry. The impact of the pandemic has been felt disproportionately by those in lower-income groups. We must continue to step up efforts to look out for one another and strengthen our social fabric and resilience. 14. Youths can do their part. One such student is Muhamad Imran from ITE who stepped up to support the community during the pandemic. He took on various roles such as assisting individuals whose jobs and livelihoods were affected by the pandemic in applying for the Temporary Relief Fund as well as guiding members of the public on safe distancing measures. We are proud of Imran and students like him, and hope more youths will step forward to give back to the community in different ways. We have a shared responsibility to look beyond our own needs and reach out to others, including our family, friends, neighbours and even strangers, to ensure we emerge stronger from the pandemic. This includes taking care of our seniors and persons with disabilities. 15. We can all contribute towards enhancing the physical, mental and social well-being of these vulnerable groups within our society. We can do this by showing concern for them, helping them stay connected to the community, co-designing facilities to aid mobility and universal access, and much more. 16. During the last ISS, we saw the exchange of innovative initiatives by ITE and VTC students such as the use of Mixed Reality solutions to better engage and empower the elderly towards active aging and a mobile app that promotes neighbourliness by connecting the different stakeholders within the community. In this year’s ISS, we will also see how ITE and VTC students make use of AI to develop an app to help the visually impaired navigate their way during their daily commute and also a social media platform to better connect the elderly with their loved ones. 17. All these efforts that enhance their daily experiences will come a long way in creating a more inclusive society. I also encourage ITE and VTC to explore and build future partnerships that focus on inclusivity to benefit Singapore, Hong Kong and the wider international community. Conclusion 18. To participants of the Seminar this year, over the next two days, you will have the opportunities to make new friends, share ideas and learn about each other’s cultures. The ideas and thoughts shared over these exchanges will help broaden your minds, facilitate mutual understanding and build ties for the future. Although we cannot meet in-person this year, I am sure the exchange of ideas and experiences will enrich you, deepen your understanding of the issues, and catalyse a broader spirit of innovation. 19. This biennial International Student Seminar remains a cornerstone of the ITE-VTC partnership. In the years ahead, I am confident that ITE and VTC will continue to explore new areas of collaboration and forge new ways to enrich their programme offerings, staff capabilities and students’ learning. 20. I am also happy to note that both institutions are celebrating significant anniversaries this year. So, let me wish ITE a Happy 30th Anniversary, and VTC, a Happy 40th Anniversary! 21. I wish all of you an inspiring and engaging Seminar. 22. Thank you.