He may be 67 years old, but Mr Francis Chew had no qualms about going back to school to pick up a new skill.
After four decades in the food and beverage (F&B) sector, he left his job this year as a senior manager with a company that runs restaurants, to start a year-long SGUnited Skills maritime business management programme at Singapore Polytechnic.
He began the course after securing one of the 1,000 training and attachment opportunities in the maritime industry for recent graduates and mid-career individuals under the various SGUnited Skills programmes.
The Government had announced 200 openings in August.
Yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs Chee Hong Tat said an additional 800 openings in the maritime industry are now available.
Mr Chew had worked for various F&B establishments, including McDonald's, over 40 years.
In 2017, he was entrusted by a company he worked for to fly to Australia to set up an eatery.
But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the industry hard, Mr Chew sensed a lack of prospects and decided to part with the company, leaving on good terms.
Instead of retiring, he chose to explore a new industry. At a career fair, he learnt about the course at Singapore Polytechnic.
The part-time diploma course allows Mr Chew, who has an A-level certificate, to pick up new domain knowledge while receiving a monthly allowance of $1,200.
After subsidies, he paid $1,000 to attend the course. Of that sum, $500 came from his SkillsFuture Credit.
Those in the programme learn skills in shipping operations and logistics, and offshore management.
Mr Chew said his interest in the maritime industry was piqued during the circuit breaker that began in April. He also learnt that it is a growth area.
"I need to keep on learning to maintain my mental and physical health, and my active lifestyle. At 67, I'm still active, I can still run and swim. I want to live happily and healthily," he said.
Mr Chew lives with his wife in a Housing Board flat in Woodlands.
He started the course on Oct 5, but has already looked for jobs. "The maritime industry is very wide, and I want to at least know what roles I can take on in the future."
Like Mr Chew, Mr Luqmanul Yusof is new to the maritime industry. He has taken up a nine-month traineeship position as a technical assistant at Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, where he supports the procurement and certification of vessels.
The 23-year-old started in July, after graduating from Britain's University of Plymouth with a maritime business and logistics degree.
His interest in the maritime sector was aroused in secondary school by friends and family members who worked on vessels in various roles, including engineering ones.
"I believe that interest in the maritime industry is slowly gaining exposure among young people," he said.