Mr Lim Hong Jin used to skip classes to go home early and loiter at the coffee shop near school when he was a student at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) a decade ago.
"I was quite a lazy boy, a bit rebellious," said Mr Lim, who is now 26.
But the former Normal (Academic) student from Chua Chu Kang Secondary School knew he enjoyed practical learning, after taking design and technology classes in school.
Visits to his father's welding and ship engine repair workshop in his primary and secondary school years also sparked his fascination with machines, he said.
So he joined a Nitec course in precision engineering at the ITE's former Bukit Batok campus, and graduated with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.37 out of 4 after two years.
After national service, instead of taking the polytechnic route, he returned to ITE in 2012 to enrol in a specialised course - a Technical Engineer Diploma in Machine Technology - that would give him more practical industry knowledge.
The course on designing and building machine equipment is one of three niche technical diplomas ITE offers in partnership with institutions in Germany and France.
It was started in collaboration with the German Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in Baden-Wurttemberg, located in south-west Germany.
It consisted of two years of full-time training at ITE and a 1½-year work stint at a company.
"I was interested in the German style of engineering where they really do ground work and also learn theory," he said.
"ITE also gave me a good image. Lecturers did all they could to help groom us."
Lecturers knew how to handle students, especially those with bad habits "who were just itching to to go against the rules", he said.
"When you go back to class, they don't judge. They'll still teach you wholeheartedly.
"Over time, you start to listen. My class of about 30 students grew in respect for the teachers and we helped each other to finish our tasks so that we don't create so much trouble for them."
Mr Lim, the younger son of a welding supervisor and housewife, is now a sales engineer at a steel production firm in Tuas. He has an older brother who works in the medical industry.
"I know there is a perception that ITE students are naughty, that they are a bad influence. But for me it was a place to learn as much as I could," said Mr Lim, who graduated top of his diploma course with a GPA of 3.9.
"My parents let me decide what pathway to take. They didn't say 'Oh this school is bad, that school is bad'," he said.
"ITE provides other ways of learning, instead of just reading, when you're not that good in theory."