MS MIKA Swee had a high-flying career as an air stewardess with Singapore Airlines. But after more than a decade of flying, she ditched her sarong kebaya to help people advance in their careers.
The decision to ground herself wasn’t made while she was serving drinks 9,000m up in the air. It happened in 2006, when she was asked to deliver a preparatory training session for potential recruits. It was then that she discovered her skills — and passion — for adult education.
For Ms Swee, 49, helping potential recruits to secure employment with Singapore’s national carrier proved to be a very rewarding experience. This prompted her to explore a possible career switch to adult education.
Seven years ago, she took a leap of faith to enrol in the Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment (Acta) course developed by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA).
This decision was no flight of fancy for Ms Swee. In fact, she was fully aware that she had to leverage on the Continuing Education and Training (CET) system in order to pilot her way towards a new job in adult education.
She knew that it was imperative to upgrade her skills via CET to take ownership of her career, seize new employment opportunities and stay relevant in the job marketplace.
The Acta course suited her needs perfectly because it is a nationally accredited Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) skills upgrading programme which ensures that the course curriculum is aligned to real-life workplace needs. The substantial subsidy provided by the WDA further motivated Ms Swee to enrol in the training.
After completing the Acta course, she enrolled in the Diploma in Adult and Continuing Education (Dace) programme, another WSQ-certified skills upgrading programme developed by the WDA.
Thanks to skills upgrading efforts, Ms Swee’s second career has taken off and she is now working as a freelance adult educator. The skills that she picked up during her CET journey have allowed her to easily navigate the occasional pockets of turbulence encountered at the workplace.
For example, her background in a very service-oriented work environment meant that she was not used to challenging authority.
Thus, when conducting a particular module on problem-solving, decision-making and workplace conflicts, Ms Swee was unable to empathise with students who were having conflicts with their management team.
She compensated for her lack of first-hand experience by interviewing friends, conducting research on conflict management via the Internet and poring over books on the subject. She has since developed the ability to look at such modules more objectively and reassess workplace issues for her students more effectively.
Ms Swee also draws on her years of experience as a Sunday school teacher to skilfully overcome the jitters associated with public speaking. She has managed to transfer her innate ability to connect with people at church to her workplace, where she enjoys interacting with her students.
The learning does not stop with her students, as she believes that education is a lifelong journey. She embarked on a degree in psychology in February this year, which she believes will enhance her ability to understand the mindset of adult learners.
This will, in turn, allow her to better deliver training and develop programmes that are more learner-centric, for the benefit of her students.
Looking back on her career path, Ms Swee reflects that she has always been interested in teaching and lifelong learning. The CET programmes are the stepping-stones she needs to soar even higher in her career.