The diverse exposure Mr Kang Aik Meng got on his Spring Singapore Executive Development Scholarship (EDS) has helped him go beyond academic learning.

From a young age, he has helped out at his dad’s renovation firm and his relatives’ small businesses. Through these experiences, he found more about the difficulties faced by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and realised how important SMEs are to Singapore’s nation, both economically and socially.

He says: “Spring’s oversight of the local industry ranges from the hardcore manufacturing and engineering companies that I was familiar with, to the retail and food manufacturing companies that were household names. This is diverse exposure for a young graduate to experience.”

Mr Kang, 30, was awarded the EDS scholarship in 2009. He graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 2011, with a Bachelor in Engineering.

The scholarship covers up to four years of full tuition and compulsory fees, annual maintenance allowance, annual book allowance and an overseas exchange programme.

All EDS scholars undergo an internship during their studies to familiarise them with Spring’s work and culture. Mr Kang was posted to the technology innovation division where he interacted with high-tech start-ups and learnt about the various policies and programmes that helped to support the growth of technology companies in Singapore.

He says: “As a result of the exposure and management’s coaching, my perspective of issues has broadened tremendously. I have learnt to appreciate the complexity of policymaking, its effect on the business community and the challenges that SMEs will have to surmount in order to stay competitive.”

Abundant career opportunities

Spring officers have abundant opportunities to be rotated and exposed to the different aspect of the agency’s functions, from policy formulation to frontline engagement with industry players and even to other industry verticals.

Mr Kang started his career at Spring Singapore with the technology innovation division in June 2011, setting up Centres of Innovation in Singapore’s polytechnics and seconding technical experts from Singapore’s institutes to SMEs for technical assistance.

Recently, he was appointed as the head of precision engineering (PE). He works with numerous PE SMEs, helping them develop capabilities and also does business development to help companies grow new revenue stream. This covers the aerospace, automotive, medtech, semiconductor, robotics and surface engineering sub-sectors.

It has been a meaningful and satisfying career for him.

Mr Kang says: “Many external organisations understand the significance of Spring’s work and constantly provide their support. SME bosses also often seek our opinions on their growth plans to ensure that they remain competitive.

“Ultimately, we know that our work will have great impact on the entire enterprise ecosystem, including policy makers, government agencies, start-ups and SMEs, and hence, nothing must go wrong. It is this challenge that is the most fulfilling and one that I fully embrace.”

Pursuit for passion

He quotes Spring Singapore’s chairman Philip Yeo — “Read wide, think deep” — and encourages prospective applicants to be relentless in the pursuit of knowledge and constantly look for new challenges to grow.

“Discover your passion and work on it. And lastly, remember to give back to society in every little way you can,” he says.

Mr Kang has found his passion in innovation and helping others in pursuing it. One of his longterm goals is to run a business that is technology- or innovation- oriented, creating new thing that others have never done before.

“I hope I can plant the Singapore flag in the global manufacturing and innovation arena,” he says.