How 2 S'poreans adapted to new job roles amid Covid-19 pandemic

Ms Joyce Seah and Mr Veeragoo Suppiah Guruswamy enrolled in professional conversion programmes.
How 2 S'poreans adapted to new job roles amid Covid-19 pandemic
Published 27 Sep 2021

SINGAPORE - When Ms Joyce Seah left her job at an oil and gas multinational corporation (MNC) last July, she was afraid she would not be able to secure another job amid the weaker hiring market.

The company where she worked as a senior buyer restructured during the Covid-19 pandemic and she was assigned a new role which she felt was unsuitable for her. So she resigned.

It was a tough time, admitted the 43-year-old, who trawled through job sites and sent resumes every day to boost her chances of getting hired. "Many people were unemployed and the competition for jobs was very high."

Thankfully for Ms Seah, who wanted to try a different career path, she found a job as a logistics executive at personal care products distributor Corlison last September.

"I felt that I was too comfortable in my old career path and wanted to further develop myself.

"I also wanted a role that has more breadth in job scope, which was not possible in my past MNC environment where every employee performed a narrow and specific function," she said.

Her previous job role included managing supplier relations and supporting business units on procurement matters.

In November, she was enrolled in a professional conversion programme (PCP) for supply chain professionals to help her ease into the role and pick up new skills, including handling customer relations and offering innovative solutions in managing a supply chain. The programme has also allowed her to connect with other professionals from the sector and stay up to date with industry best practices.

Currently, Ms Seah, who will complete her PCP next month, manages day-to-day operations, negotiates pricing and evaluates variable supply sources to minimise costs.

While the industry is fast-paced and relies heavily on technology, she has been able to pick up the relevant skills quickly. She now challenges herself by thinking of new ways to help in her work.

Ms Seah believes she has made the right decision to switch fields.

"It has provided me with new experiences and perspectives that I would not have been able to get by sticking to the same career," she said.

Becoming a newbie again in aerospace at age 60

At age 60, most workers would be planning for retirement.

But ST Engineering principal technician Veeragoo Suppiah Guruswamy decided to pick up new skills in aircraft modifications through a professional conversion programme (PCP) so that he could be redeployed to work on passenger-to-freighter conversion assignments.

Before, he supervised and carried out structural repairs on passenger aircraft.

Many passenger planes remain grounded as travel slowed amid the pandemic. This has led to a dip in demand for maintenance, repair and overhaul works, said Mr Veeragoo, now 61, who went for an aerospace officer and aerospace executive PCP last August.

A shortage in air cargo capacity has led to more planes being converted into freighters.

Mr Veeragoo, who completed the redeployment PCP in January, is now in charge of a team of technicians that performs such modifications on passenger aircraft.

This comes as his company ramps up its passenger-to-freighter conversion capacity, by setting up new conversion facilities and reskilling its technicians, to meet the demand.

Mr Veeragoo, who joined ST Engineering as a trainee technician in 1981, jumped at the opportunity.

But he also had some reservations. "I asked myself whether I could get used to learning in a classroom setting again based on a structured curriculum," he said. "Another worry was if I can still perform these new skills at the same level as my younger colleagues."

While aircraft maintenance is not new to him, the requirements and technologies in passenger-to-freighter conversion are relatively new. The PCP, which focuses on on-the-job training, gave him the necessary exposure and allowed him to apply what he learnt.

After completing his PCP, Mr Veeragoo was tasked to lead a group of technicians, given his supervisory experience, although he felt like a "newbie", he recalled.

The training, however, boosted his confidence.

Apart from assigning duties to his team, he also helps evaluate defects on the aircraft structures during the conversion process.

Mr Veeragoo believes age is not a barrier for those who want to learn and contribute more at work.

"I never thought that it would be possible for me to pick up new skills at this stage and at the age of 60," he added. "I think others can do it too if they are willing and are given the opportunities to step up."