SINGAPORE - Ms Sharon Lee's interest in cyber security was piqued when, as a child, her online gaming MapleStory account was hacked and she lost all her in-game merchandise.
In secondary school, she decided to take up computer studies where she learnt basic computing concepts, and went on to read cyber and network security at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
Next April, the 19-year-old will take up a newly-launched work-study diploma in cyber security and forensics.
It is one of 10 new work-study diplomas ITE will offer its graduates from next year, bringing the total number of course offerings in this programme to 24.
Altogether 268 companies will work with ITE on the programme for the 2020 intake, up from 114 companies previously, to ensure they are relevant to the industries.
Representatives from the companies signed letters of acceptance signifying their partnership at a ceremony on Tuesday (Nov 26) at ITE College East in Simei.
The ceremony was also attended by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.
The new diplomas include aircraft engine maintenance, automation engineering and maritime business management.
About 600 trainees are expected to begin training across the 24 courses next year.
The work-study diplomas were first launched in April last year to give ITE graduates an alternative pathway to upskill themselves.
In-service employees at companies who are on board the programme can also enrol.
The work-study stints typically last between 2½ and three years, with 70 per cent of curriculum time conducted at the workplace.
Ms Lee, who graduated from ITE College East in March this year, will be working at content delivery network solutions provider Toffs Technologies, which helps its clients guard against data breaches and cyber attacks.
She said: "Having my gaming accounts hacked made me want to know how to secure even bigger things, like a website or business.
"This diploma programme also gives me a lot of flexibility because in a way, I'm getting paid to study and train.
"In the IT industry, it's hard to do that, as part-time jobs would mostly be lower-level jobs, which means I won't get to learn as much."
Mr Ong said in a speech at the event: "We want to acknowledge and recognise that every student has different strengths. It is an ideal that is driving through the reforms in our education system."
As they move up to the institutes of higher learning, there should be diverse pathways that appeal to them, and can bring out the best in them.
"Every child is different. Every child must have hope that they can do their best," he said.