Protest over hair to picking up new skills in book on shipyard 'learn-and-earn scheme' pioneers

(From left): Mr Lai Pak Shen, Mr Eugene Koh, Mr Wong Fook Seng and Mr Foo Say Nong were all participants in Sembawang Shipyard's apprenticeship programme which ran from 1969 to 1973, during the critical years of Singapore's push towards industrialisa
(From left): Mr Lai Pak Shen, Mr Eugene Koh, Mr Wong Fook Seng and Mr Foo Say Nong were all participants in Sembawang Shipyard's apprenticeship programme which ran from 1969 to 1973, during the critical years of Singapore's push towards industrialisation.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
(From left): Mr Lai Pak Shen, Mr Eugene Koh, Mr Wong Fook Seng and Mr Foo Say Nong were all participants in Sembawang Shipyard's apprenticeship programme which ran from 1969 to 1973, during the critical years of Singapore's push towards industrialisa
Mr Lai Pak Shen with his training certificate. He and others in the apprenticeship acquired skills that helped them across various sectors later on.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

New book recounts 1969-73 apprenticeship scheme by pioneer batch at shipyard

It was 1972 and Mr Eugene Koh found himself at the heart of a sit-in protest that made the front pages of The Straits Times and Berita Harian.

The then 19-year-old apprentice at Sembawang Shipyard had been suspended for a week over the length of his hair. Around 200 of his fellow apprentices organised a peaceful sit-in during their lunch hour to protest against the decision. This was not illegal.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2019, with the headline 'From protest over hair to picking up new skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe