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Training the trainers

Mr Wong trains SAF instructors on how to deliver their lessons in an effective and engaging manner.
Mr Wong trains SAF instructors on how to deliver their lessons in an effective and engaging manner.Photo: Chong Jun Liang

AS A senior manager (learning design and development) at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Institute for Military Learning (IML),Mr Wong Choong Min’s job is to design training courses for the armed forces' instructors.

Mr Wong, 39, who has a background in biology and a Master of Science, had spent a decade in research and teaching when he decided he wanted to “do something different for new experiences” that was still relevant to his skillsets.

He turned to the Careers @ Gov website to search for teaching and training-related jobs, and joined Mindef in June 2011.

Strong support network

Mr Wong confesses that when he first took on the job, he was not entirely sure of what was required of him. Neither was he very familiar with the work culture.

“The only experience that I had of the military was through my national service (NS) days in a combat vocation,” he says.

Thankfully, he had — and still has — superiors who were willing to share their experiences, provide guidance and coaching, ease him into the work culture and empower him to perform his job well.

His role involves designing, developing and reviewing courses and programmes to train instructors in SAF.

He trains instructors on how to deliver their lessons in an effective and engaging manner.

Mr Wong provides the course design (for example, the teaching methodology to be used and course content) for theSAFIML, which also develops Singapore's military’s leaders in the training institutes and schools through courses, programmes and workshops throughout the year.

These SAF instructors are the first point of contact for recruits entering military service, and play an important role in training the nation's soldiers, sailors and airmen to meet operational needs, he says.

They also impact the NS experience of numerous national servicemen, batch after batch, year after year, he adds.

Since it was established four years ago, IML — the modern successor to the 1974 School of Methods of Instruction — has been conducting milestone programmes such as the SAF Instructor Course and SAF Senior Instructor Course, both of which are recognised by the Workforce Development Agency.

Other courses include the SAF Master Instructor Course, as well as the SAF Training Developer Course and the SAF Training Leadership Programme, which were both introduced last year.

A fulfilling path

Mr Wong's work extends to various other training institutes in SAF.

To cater to a diverse range of instructors from different vocations, he reads internal forum papers, visits the training institutes and seeks the advice of their staff as well as fellow defence executive officers with military experience.

He also communicates closely with external partners, such as SkillsFuture Singapore and the Institute for Adult Learning, to keep pace with the latest developments in the training industry.

Mr Wong says the evolving nature of the job energises him.

He explains: “The design of our courses has to cater to a diverse range of learners, such as those who are better-educated, tech-savvy, used to engaging media and have higher expectations of how lessons are conducted.

“Technologies that support learning are developing at a very fast pace, with useful products and apps that come out regularly.

"Internally, Mindef/SAF uses the LEARNet portal — which is regularly refreshed — to enhance lessons with interactive media, online discussion and sharing.”

He even has a hand in revising various processes.

"If standard operating procedures no longer work well, change them" was one of the first things his boss emphasised when he started the job, he recalls.

Mr Wong has not neglected his career development either, utilising the many training opportunities available.

He has attended courses under the SAF Continuing Professional Education (Instructional) programme, in collaboration with the National Institute of Education.

He has also gone for generic courses on effective management skills, project management skills and systems thinking to enhance his day-to-day work performance.

To excel in his role, one should be meticulous and provide clear instructions, work collaboratively with trainers of varying competency levels and be teachable — this means being open to learning new things, understanding one’s limitations and finding ways to overcome them, he says.

He adds: “Additionally, having a teaching or training-related portfolio and/or certification, such as the Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment or the Diploma in Adult Continuing Education, will come in useful.”

This story was first published in The Straits Time's Careers in Public Sector on September 30, 2017.