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Conversation with Ben Chong: Upskilling is not just about the paper chase

By March 21, 2020Current, People, Perspectives, Work

TL;DR – Upskilling is no longer a good-to-have, it’s a must-have in today’s society. 

An advocate of training and upskilling

So we spent an afternoon chatting with Mr Ben Chong, who holds the portfolios of General Manager at Poh Wah Group and Director of Education at Global Training Services Pte Ltd, and left inspired by his open sharing, drive and hunger for knowledge!

Armed with a Diploma in Building & Property Management, a Degree in Business IT and Masters in Occupational Workplace Safety, Ben Chong is well-placed in his roles at both organisations.

A strong advocate of training and upskilling, Ben is the perfect fit at Global Training Services Pte Ltd, and this marries beautifully with his role as General Manager at Poh Wah, a firm that serves as a one-stop shop for clients looking for construction-related services.

As a passionate trainer, he leads the organisation in running trainings. Ben himself recently went through the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Leadership Course organised by Singapore Institution of Safety Officers (SISO) with support from NTUC & Employment And Employability Institute (e2i).

This is a programme that creates opportunities for the participants to enhance their technical skills and further develop their leadership and management skills. It also allows participants to deal with unique and emergent circumstances in ways which they would otherwise not experience in formalised learning.

Attending courses as such allows Ben to network with liked-minded individuals and build up his network – something he strongly values.

The hunger for more knowledge

Learning is a lifelong journey. To Ben, one can never stop learning because the more you learn, the more you will realise how much more you lack. In fact, the most dangerous thing is to think that we know everything.

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“Training is about the hard skills, it’s also about learning from one another and peers from different industries. The value-add is more than you can imagine. I enjoy learning but it is not about collecting certificates, though I have to admit, it gives me a lot of satisfaction!” Ben added.

Juggling career, training and family

“I won’t say it’s easy to wear so many hats. But I’ve done this ever since I started with my degree. Ultimately it’s about your priorities and if you’re willing to set aside other things for a while at that point in time. I am thankful that I have strong family support. The weekend is when I make up for ‘lost’ time with my family! Grateful for their understanding,” Ben shared.

Ben recently went through the WSH Leadership Course organised by Singapore Institution of Safety Officers (SISO) with support from NTUC and e2i.

 

The WSH Leadership Course took Ben 6 months to complete, of which he had to commit 2-3 evenings a week. He shared how the course taught him skills like how to negotiate with management, co-workers and how to develop stronger leadership skills.

“The C-suite sharing also helped me a lot in my career. The course definitely resulted in both tangible and intangible benefits! Through the in-depth sharing with people I meet, I figured out different perspectives and angles on approaching issues at hand. In terms of networking, I still keep in contact with my course mates, that’s the beauty of it. The opportunity to learn and connect with likeminded individuals is priceless,” Ben said.

The more you share, the more you learn

During the course of his work, Ben works with a lot of foreign workers who would tell him to confirm a job for them before they go for training. It’s hard to convince them otherwise. When they have issues putting food on the table, it’s hard to think about upskilling.

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“At the end of the day, we have a very supportive system here in Singapore. Take the recent Budget 2020 for example, workers get SkillsFuture Credits for training, upskilling and even reskilling. These opportunities open up doors for you and me, but of course, don’t expect the door to come to you!”

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The Starfish Effect and his determination to make a difference

Training to Ben has always been about making a difference. Pointing to a starfish lapel pin that he was wearing, he shared, “You probably have heard of the starfish effect and how we all have the opportunity to help create positive change. Many people are always saying how busy they are and doubt the difference one can really make. The answer is, every bit counts.”

“When I train others, and when I attend courses myself, I know I’m making a difference. Time spent on upgrading yourself is never wasted. We’re fortunate to be in Singapore where upskilling is very much encouraged. You know, there are people I work with in developing countries who see training as a luxury! If they make USD300 a month, how do we expect them to pay 1/3 of that on upgrading themselves? The country’s system just doesn’t support that.”

On the horizon

On the challenges one might face in considering whether to go for upskilling courses, Ben thinks it’s really about effective time management. For example, in the past, he used to execute almost everything himself and take on everything within his capacity at work. He has since learnt to delegate, a precious takeaway from his recent course.

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“My time has become so precious that I need to consciously make the best use of it. But you know what, it actually becomes more efficient for everyone. I manage key tricky issues and my team – my heroes – helps to execute the day-to-day work. I do have a strong team,” he maintained proudly.

So what’s next for this 36-year-old go-getter who’s on a never-ending quest to learn, relearn and share? “I’m looking to do my PhD next. That’ll drill myself more on research. I’m actively looking for a good mentor before I get into it. It’s not about the paper chase,” Ben shared.

Truly motivating! The next time you lament about not having enough time or funds to go for personal development programmes. Think again, time is what we make of it! 😊

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