Budget 2016 - Shaping our future together: Supporting our workers

Helping people with special needs inspires lifelong learner

About five to six years ago, Ms Yap completed a diploma in disability studies with the Social Service Institute. She then went on to take up a higher diploma in social service three years ago. Now, she is doing a part-time degree course in social wor
About five to six years ago, Ms Yap completed a diploma in disability studies with the Social Service Institute. She then went on to take up a higher diploma in social service three years ago. Now, she is doing a part-time degree course in social work, which she aims to complete in three years.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

After working seven years in an IT firm, Ms Yap Chui Hoon quit.

She found little fulfilment in her job as a senior account executive.

That was 13 years ago.

Today, the 42-year-old works with people with special needs. The work has so inspired her that she has never stopped learning, upgrading her skills with a series of part-time courses.

Now, she is doing a part-time degree course in social work, which she aims to complete in three years.

Her endeavour was highlighted yesterday by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to illustrate how the SkillsFuture scheme has encouraged lifelong learning and helped Singaporeans develop expertise in their areas of specialisation.

Said Mr Heng: "She has been a lifelong learner. After graduating with an ITE certificate... she learnt on the job with the help of multiple part-time courses, including diplomas in social service and disability studies."

Ms Yap's journey in social work began when she started volunteering at the Association for Persons with Special Needs Centre for Adults after leaving her job at the IT firm, she told The Straits Times yesterday.

NON-STOP LEARNING

She has been a lifelong learner. After graduating with an ITE certificate... she learnt on the job with the help of multiple part-time courses, including diplomas in social service and disability studies.

MR HENG SWEE KEAT, on Ms Yap Chui Hoon

Soon, she was asked to be a part-time instructor, helping those with special needs with their vocational training in commercial handicraft. The fulfilment she found led her to take up a full-time position at the centre.

She said: "I am someone who always seeks a challenge. I completed the diploma in disability studies five or six years ago with the Social Service Institute, and three years ago, I took up a higher diploma in social service."

In January, she began her Bachelor of Social Work studies at UniSim, and last month, received news that she had been given the SkillsFuture study award of $5,000, for people to develop specialist skills.

She is also using her SkillsFuture Credit of $500 to help pay for her university fees of about $35,000.

In addition, she has tapped the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy, which subsidises course fees for mid-career workers who upgrade their skills, by up to 90 per cent.

After the various grants, including one from the Ministry of Education for students taking their first degrees, Ms Yap has to pay only about $300 for her part-time degree. She is thankful for it.

Of her decision to further her studies, she said: "It is necessary to get the degree to be a registered social worker.

"I feel this special calling to work with people with special needs, and to support the caregiver."

Rachael Boon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Helping people with special needs inspires lifelong learner'. Print Edition | Subscribe