SINGAPORE - Mr Michael Teh Hock Beng, 66, the managing director of Nature Landscapes, has been in the horticulture industry in Singapore for 40 years.
On Wednesday (Jan 20), both he and his firm were the recipients of SkillsFuture awards.
Mr Teh, an advocate of lifelong learning, received the SkillsFuture Fellowship Award, while his company got the Employer Award.
"Lifelong learning is truly what it means - life; long. You need to just tell yourself that you cannot stop learning. Otherwise, you will become a relic of the past," he said before receiving the award.
Mr Teh is now keen to enrol in two programmes: an arborist programme to be certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), and the Certified Practising Horticulturist Programme.
Both these programmes are joint initiatives by ISA and the Australian Institute of Horticulture respectively with the Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE), a division of the National Parks Board (NParks).
Mr Teh said that he wanted to enrol in them to be a "responsible practitioner" and to provide a good example to his colleagues that it is "never too old to learn".
Inspired by his mother's love for gardening and his own interest in plants, the horticulture veteran has a degree in estate management from the National University of Singapore (NUS).
He set up Nature Landscapes in 1981 and it employs over 500 people today.
Mr Teh and Ms Jacqueline Allan, 53, an executive director at Nature Landscapes, developed an exclusive training curriculum for their employees with the intention of becoming a premium landscape company.
The curriculum, which was revised in 2017, involves on-the-job training, learning from fellow colleagues and "off-the-shelf" courses in things such as soft skills.
Mr Teh and Ms Allan said that they found the revised curriculum to be more effective.
Ms Allan said that 460 employees had undergone the training programme and 98 per cent of them had experienced some form of training.
During the circuit breaker and to overcome the shortage of foreign workers, Nature Landscapes employed an additional 100 Singaporeans on a part-time basis. All were facing the prospect of wage cuts or unemployment.
Speaking about the contributions of his industry over the years, Mr Teh pointed to the greenery in Singapore.
"If you look around at what Singapore has done today, we would not have achieved all this without having the technical abilities to become a garden city. All this does take skills, technology and knowledge."