MR MUHAMAD Firdaus Ahmad has always loved a challenge. In 2007, after working in the hospitality sector for two years, he longed for a career switch to another industry.

He took the bold step of returning to school with the aim of building a career in the technical field. This big challenge he set for himself paid off and today, Mr Firdaus, 28, is a technician of staging at The Esplanade — Theatres On The Bay.

His leap of faith began when he was a part-timer at The Esplanade, where he quickly demonstrated great initiative and a natural flair in the technical staging field. He was soon encouraged by senior technicians there to upgrade his skills via the Continuing Education and Training (CET) system.

Doing so would allow him to acquire knowledge and expertise to stay relevant to workplace needs, as well as fully realise his potential as an employee at The Esplanade.

In 2010, Mr Firdaus signed up for the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Higher Certificate in Technical Theatre.

Rolled out by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) in partnership with industry players, the WSQ Higher Certificate in Technical Theatre has theoretical and practical components.

The theoretical aspects consist of classroom-based work on a variety of subjects such as working in theatre lighting and sound, while the practical sessions require hands-on work, which tests the trainees’ ability to understand the theoretical concepts, as well as their ability to apply classroom knowledge to real-life work scenarios.

From worker to student

For Mr Firdaus, the transition from the workplace to the classroom was not without its difficulties, as he had left school several years before taking up the WSQ course.

In addition, as an adult learner armed only with hospitality-related qualifications, his lack of technical knowledge in the field of theatre also proved challenging.

However, thanks to careful guidance from the WSQ course mentor as well as support from his workplace supervisors, Mr Firdaus managed to complete the course successfully.

After graduating from the programme, he continued to work part-time at the Esplanade, but shortly after, he moved up to become a full-time employee there.

Success factors

Mr Firdaus says the small class size of the WSQ course, with its high student-to-mentor ratio of 4:1, allowed trainees like him to benefit from close supervision from the course trainer. It also enabled him to develop close ties with his peers; they helped and supported each other throughout the course.

While the WSQ course was challenging, Mr Firdaus says that at no point did he regret pursuing a different field and upgrading his skills via CET.

He says: “This unique journey I have undergone has not only developed my career, but has also made me incredibly proud and happy to be where I am at this point in my life. Today, I have a career I am proud of and there are no dull moments as I keep learning new skills every day.”

He attributes the skills upgrading through CET as a key component of his success, enabling him to perform above and beyond the call of duty. For example, nowadays, Mr Firdaus can assist in areas beyond his expertise, such as sound and lighting.

He adds: “For those seeking a rewarding and challenging career, CET can be a valuable tool to help them recognise their potential. I think it is important to continue upgrading my skills so I can stay relevant in the context of changing workplace needs, and remain competitive in today’s environment.”