When Ms Shirley Goh first set foot in Republic Polytechnic (RP) as a student three years ago, she had no idea how far she would come or how much she would grow.
Today, the fresh-faced 20-year-old is a proud graduate of RP’s School of Hospitality, holding a Diploma in Hotel and Hospitality Management (2019).
Instead of enjoying a well-deserved post-graduation break, Ms Goh decided to plunge into the workforce straight after graduation. She joined Park Hotel Farrer Park — where she had earlier completed her six-month internship — as part of their housekeeping team in September.
Impressed with Ms Goh’s professionalism and keenness for learning, Mr Michael Tang, the hotel’s executive housekeeper, had offered her a full-time position as a housekeeping coordinator, even before the end of her internship. He says: “Since Shirley joined the team, I’ve had to work closely with her. She's a hardworking and responsible person, who is never afraid to tackle the many challenges she faces.”
Working in the service industry gives Ms Goh a deep sense of satisfaction — especially when she is able to exceed her guests’ expectations. And this, she says, comes down to having had a holistic education at RP, which not only allowed her to develop the necessary industry skills through hands-on learning, but also helped her to grow as a well-rounded individual.
She explains: “One of the reasons why I applied for my diploma at RP was because of its wide variety of modules that encompasses the different facets of managing a hotel. Besides the operational aspects, modules such as marketing or consumer behaviour provide insights into the management of a hotel as a whole.
“It made me realise that there is more to running a hotel than just the day-to-day work that most people see. A lot more goes on behind the scenes, like figuring out how to market the room or setting the room rates, even before a guest actually steps into the hotel.”
Valuable lessons for the real world
Ms Goh also credits her internship experience, as well as RP’s Problem-based Learning approach, with preparing her for a career in hospitality.
“As an intern, I was provided a training plan, where I would be rotated around the different housekeeping sub-departments. This was something I found valuable, as it allowed me to obtain as much first-hand knowledge as I could about the hotel industry, right from the start. When my internship ended, I had gained a better understanding of how the housekeeping department runs internally,” she says.
Apart from real-world learning, RP also provides ample opportunity — not just during internships — for its students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Through its unique curriculum with a focus on problem-solving, students are encouraged to work in groups to analyse problems and devise innovative solutions — a method which proved especially useful to Ms Goh in her learning journey.
She says: “RP’s emphasis on teamwork taught me to be more open to different ideas and opinions contributed by others, as well as how to adapt to the working styles of my group members. I also learnt to think on my feet and come up with creative ideas to solve problems, which is a crucial skill in the workplace.
"For instance, there were a couple of loopholes in the laundry processes and the systems we use in the housekeeping department previously. I then worked with the IT staff and a representative from the systems provider to devise solutions to close the loop and reduce the number of potential issues that might arise if the problems were not fixed."
For Ms Goh, the daily presentations she had to deliver in class also did wonders for her self-confidence. “I slowly became comfortable when it comes to speaking in front of a crowd. At work now, I am able to confidently voice my ideas and thoughts to my team,” she adds.
Personal growth outside the classroom
But life at RP is not all work and no play. As a matter of fact, it was through her participation in co-curricular activities that Ms Goh discovered a passion for service.
Joining Deafining — an interest group under the school’s Service-Learning Club — in her first year, Ms Goh worked tirelessly with her group mates to increase awareness of the hearing-impaired community and its culture, as well as to promote inclusivity among RP’s student body and the public.
She picked up sign language to better communicate with the hearing impaired, and took part in activities such as song-signing outside school hours. Together with some of her group mates, Ms Goh also participated in various charity song-signing performances.
Elected president in her second year, she led Deafining with pride. And even after stepping down to focus on her internship in her final year, she continued to support and guide her juniors as a student advisor.
Ms Goh says her time with Deafining taught her to be more aware and accepting of the needs of others in society. “I learnt to be more patient and empathetic to the needs of my group members, and to be more proactive in assisting them with things that they may require help with.”
For her unwavering dedication and contributions to the group, Ms Goh was awarded RP’s Republic Award in 2018. The award recognises outstanding students who excel academically and demonstrate excellent character.
Recalling her vibrant student days fondly, Ms Goh has this to say to prospective RP students: “Have fun, make new friends, experience new things and just put yourself out there, for you will only go through student life once. Live every day to the fullest and make the best of every situation.”