62-year-old SBS tech specialist rose up ranks with commitment to skills training

SINGAPORE – SBS Transit senior technical specialist Hainee Abdul Rahman, 62, joined the public transport firm with an O-level certificate when he was 20.

He climbed the ranks by taking part-time courses and upgrading himself, and that helped him keep pace with the rapidly evolving technological changes in his field.

SBS Transit, which operates a fleet of more than 3,400 buses, is making the leap from conventional buses to hybrid and electric vehicles.

The company also plans to fully replace its taxi fleet with hybrids by 2023 and accelerate the addition of fully electric cabs.

Mr Hainee, who received the SkillsFuture Fellowship from President Halimah Yacob in a ceremony on Friday (Dec 10), said workers young and old should not be afraid of trying out new things and picking up new skills.

The award comes with a $10,000 cash award to be used for skills training.

Mr Hainee said: “I want to use the award money on courses on computer literacy and leadership, which will help me in my role as a mentor.”

Altogether, 18 Singaporeans were given the award this year for their skills mastery.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, in a speech at the ceremony held at Marina Bay Sands, said workers need to take ownership of their own skills development.

He also highlighted the example of two award winners, calling them exemplary individuals.

Ms Shirley Tan entered the early childhood care and education sector 10 years ago without any experience in the sector, and today helms the Catholic Pre-school Education group.

The other, Mr Mohamed Nazree Suhaimi Nazree, works in pest management.

Mr Chan, in his speech, said Mr Nazree attended a course on cleaning, disinfection and the use of personal protective equipment before the onset of the pandemic, anticipating higher demand for such services.

The skills he acquired from the course enabled his company to venture into disinfection services, contributing to revenue growth, the minister added.

Mr Mohamed Nazree Suhaimi Nazree is among the 18 Singaporeans who received the SkillsFuture Fellowship this year. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Mr Chan said: “In time to come, I hope that we will see more Singaporeans like Shirley and Nazree, who are passionate about lifelong learning and are committed towards their continuous pursuit of skills mastery.”

Madam Halimah on Thursday visited Japanese eatery ToriYard in Bishan Park, and spoke to management staff and workers, including young people on work-study diplomas from the Institute of Technical Education.

She also talked to older workers nearing retirement age, and asked them about how the restaurant is training them in new digital technology such as automated punch cards, in addition to their cooking.

ToriYard’s parent firm Deli In the Park is among 11 companies that received the SkillsFuture Employer Award, which recognises support for continuous learning.

President Halimah Yacob accompanied by Deli In the Park chief executive Lee Kian Chong (right) during her visit to ToriYard on Dec 9, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

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Madam Halimah, on the sidelines of the ToriYard visit, said the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the food and beverage sector and other industries but the slowdown is an opportunity for workers to upgrade their skills.

She added that skills mastery is a two-way process, and both workers and employers have to make the effort in training so that employees remain relevant while industries rapidly digitalise.

Deli In the Park chief executive Lee Kian Chong, 28, said training is a massive priority for the firm’s employees, who number between 50 and 60.

“Whether it’s basic skills mastery which we can do in-house or training programmes for our trainers to get better at mentoring, it is very important for us to constantly upgrade our workers,” he said.

Another winner of the SkillsFuture Employer Award was landscaping firm Toh Chin Leong Construction.

Toh Chin Leong Construction’s executive director Edmund Toh (left) receiving the SkillsFuture Employer Award from Education Minister Chan Chun Sing. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Its executive director, Mr Edmund Toh, said about 90 per cent of its roughly 500 workers have been trained or accredited.

The potential losses from time spent on training and the possibility of losing trained workers to poaching from other companies are not as much as the cost of losing customers due to poor or inconsistent service, he added.

Mr Toh said more funding support for training would be one way to give employers more support.

Another way to get more businesses to adopt more skills training would be to enable in-house trainers to be certified to accredit other workers, he added.

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