Turning Setbacks into Opportunities for a Career Change

Aslam Jamal was his own boss for 15 years. He had owned a textile business in Arab street since he was in his 20s.

Over the years, he gained a wealth of knowledge of the textile industry. He knew the ins and outs of the industry, its suppliers, products and customers.

But a wealth of knowledge doesn’t necessarily turn into profits, as Aslam came to find out.

He was in a business where he was comfortable, but the hand of disruption had been looming over the textile industry since the early 2000s.

Economists called the industry a sunset industry, and Aslam’s business was affected. He was already 40 then, and the business was all he had.

“Initially we were doing well. But since it’s a sunset industry, we didn’t stand a chance,” said Aslam, now 45.

No matter how hard he tried to make his shop stay afloat, he eventually had to draw its shutters permanently in 2014.

“I was helpless when my business failed. I was in a dire situation and I didn’t know what to do. It was actually my friends who told me that I should do a mid-career change,” he said.

Never Give Up

Thankfully for Aslam, he had one characteristic every worker faced with disruption needs – a never give up attitude.

Armed with a renewed determination to bounce back from his failed business, he looked for ways to upskill himself and a new way to earn a living.

“My friends who knew me told me that I might excel in doing safety as a career. It suited my personality. I thought over it. I initially had my reservations, but at the end decided to give it a try,” said Aslam.

He asked around about where he could go to get employment in workplace safety and health (WSH). It was during one these enquiries at the Community Development Council (CDC) near his home where they pointed him to training provider NTUC LearningHub.

Skills Upgrading Journey

Aslam started his upgrading journey by taking the basic WSQ Certificate in WSH (Level A) at LearningHub.

“I quickly enrolled myself for the Level B course after completing Level A in 2014. I didn’t want to waste time sitting around. I needed to quickly get new employment. But one thing I want to point out is that these courses were heavily subsidised by the Government. Because I had some money problems, these subsidies helped,” he said.

By the time he completed his second WSQ Certificate in WSH (Level B) in 2015, he almost immediately landed a job as a WSH lead safety coordinator with construction company Sato Kogyo.

With a renewed love for learning and developing himself professionally, Aslam went on to take two diploma programmes related to his job.

“Looking back, I believe I made the right decision to upgrade myself. I’d like to advise workers who are my age to upgrade themselves. Knowledge is important, especially in a changing environment we are in now. We need to upgrade throughout our lives. Lifelong learning – that is important,” said Aslam.

Now, after four years into his safety coordinator job, he is comfortable. But being comfortable isn’t a reason to be complacent as he can never know how his new industry will be disrupted.

“I’ve learnt that I need to keep pace with the changes in my industry. So you’ll definitely see me going for more courses soon,” said Aslam.

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