Many people associate the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) with the issuance of passports and identity cards, but its responsibilities go far.
The agency and its officers are responsible for securing Singapore’s borders – a duty Mr Aloysius Thum upholds every day. The 26-year-old is currently serving as Team Leader at the Woodlands Integrated Operations Centre at Woodlands Checkpoint, one of the world’s busiest border crossings.
Priorities include protecting Singapore’s borders from the illegal movement of weapons, drugs, contraband and people.
“Our borders are the first and last line of defence for these syndicates entering and coming through Singapore. Having effective border security is not only essential in ensuring the safe and secure clearance of goods, passengers and conveyances, but it also acts as a strong deterrent against transnational crime, ensuring the security of both Singapore and the region,” says Mr Thum.
What ICA does also ensures that Singapore stays connected to the outside world through facilitating the movement of people and goods, he adds. In fact, ICA’s remit covers everyone’s life – from cradle to grave – from the issuance of birth certificates and identity cards to passports and death certificates.
“This makes a posting at ICA a very unique job opportunity because the agency covers many aspects of life in Singapore,” he says.
Combating transnational crime
A recipient of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Uniformed Scholarship, he graduated from the Public Policy and Global Affairs (PPGA) direct honours degree programme at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2021.
The programme covers the interdisciplinary studies of politics, international relations, public administration and public policy.
For his undergraduate thesis, he delved into the workings of terrorist networks, the mindset and strategies adopted, and the implications for national and cross‑border security issues.
“Once we better understand how these organisations work, wecan develop strategic policies to counteract them,” Mr Thum explains.
“This is very close to my work at the borders where we have to understand the evolving tactics of smugglers so as to counter new smuggling attempts,” he adds, giving a glimpse into the day-to-day operations at the Woodlands Checkpoint.
In today’s digital age, smart technology is changing border control systems. ICA’s more recent advancements include using video analytics and live tracking technology at the Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints, providing officers with tactical and decision support tools to respond to incidents such as armed attacks and bomb threats.
Learning new technologies is part of the job and will ensure that Mr Thum is constantly upgrading his skills. “That’s what makes the job so exciting!” he says.
Mr Thum leads a team that includes officers who have more years of experience than him. The trust that is placed in him is not lost on the young officer, who recognises that it is not common for a new graduate to assume a leadership role so soon.
In fact, it could take years, if not decades, for an executive to work up to a supervisory or managerial level overseeing a large team.
“Being a team leader is about how you value-add to your officers, being able to provide insight and help them do their job well,” says Mr Thum, who served in the St John Ambulance Brigade from secondary school through university.
It was his experience as a St John Corps Staff Officer that first showed him the meaning of being a leader and inculcated in him the values of giving back to society and community.
Since joining the ICA in 2021, Mr Thum has found that it is leading a team of up to 30 officers that he finds most rewarding. “The best part of my job is working with my group of dedicated officers. They are also the reason why I push myself to give my best in what I do.”
ICA officers can experience different deployments across both staff and ground postings such as being posted to the Land, Air or Sea domains, the Service Centres or staff units at ICA headquarters.
Such a system ensures new officers experience various postings, allowing them to fully understand ICA as a whole and enable them to make impactful contributions.
For students considering their future career options, Mr Thum suggests looking beyond prestige and pay packages. What is much more important are the different opportunities the organisation can provide in the long run.
“It’s also important that your values and the things you believe in are aligned with the organisation’s goals and values,” says Mr Thum.
“The idea that my family and loved ones are safe because of the work I do resonates with me. MHA and ICA provide me with a dynamic and challenging career that is meaningful and serves the greater good.”
Unrivalled internship opportunities
As a Ministry of Home Affairs uniformed scholar, Mr Aloysius Thum had the opportunity to serve internships at Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and gain insights into various departments within the agency.
His first attachment, for example, was at Changi Airport Terminal 4 a few months before it opened in 2017. He was part of a team running trials, stress-testing the immigration clearance systems and facilitating the familiarisation of new facilities for ICA officers.
“When Terminal 4 was officially open in October 2017, I felt a great sense of satisfaction,” he says.
After that first attachment, he served other internship stints with the ICA during his undergraduate days, followed by a six-month training programme when he officially joined the agency after graduation.
Grateful for these experiences, he says: “They eased me into my role as a Team Leader and allowed me to appreciate the challenges our officers at ICA have to face, both at the micro and macro levels. These insights enabled me to act as a bridge between the ground and management, articulate these issues and find solutions to resolve them.”
|About the Ministry of Home Affairs Uniformed Scholarship|
Depending on your interests and aspirations, this scholarship will allow you to kick-start your leadership journey as a uniformed officer in one of these five Home Team departments, namely Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, Singapore Prison Service and Central Narcotics Bureau, or as a paramedic with the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
This article is brought to you by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority.