“If I could meet my younger self, I would tell him to study hard. Education can open many doors for you. Without education, there is only so much you can do in life.”
Mohammad Shah Rizan Abdul Rani, 36, Tug Master Trainee
The tattoos on both Sha’s arms tell of a life so different from the one he lives today. He dropped out of school in Secondary 2 and he had a history of mixing with bad company.
For 12 years, Sha worked the bars in Singapore. As party-goers pulled their best moves on the dancefloor, he made the alcoholic drinks that fuelled them. Name any drink, and he can stir it up for you.
He was living the life and earning decent money. But something changed one night.
“A Chinese lady came up to me while I was working at the bar and bluntly asked, ‘Are you Muslim?’” recalled Sha.
“Yes, why?” he replied.
“Isn’t it Haram [forbidden] for Muslims to serve alcoholic drinks to others, let alone drink alcohol?” she asked again.
The incident left Sha to reflect on his life and the choices he made that led up to that point.
“I didn’t want to be a bartender for the rest of my life. There was more to life than dancing, drinking and partying,” said Sha, who is currently a staunch Muslim and a family man.
He left his bartender job and found employment as a rope access technician in shipyards, where he worked for two years.
Although the pay wasn’t as much as his bartender job, he was at peace with himself.
His job in the shipyards also sparked his interest in marine and maritime. And that made him determined to carve a career in the industry.
But because he lacked the qualifications, it seemed almost impossible.
Maritime Apprenticeship Scheme
That was until he came across the Maritime Apprenticeship Scheme (MAS) in 2017.
The scheme is part of the Adapt and Grow Programme launched by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS) and Workforce Singapore (WSG).
It allows individuals like Sha to embark on a month-long shipboard work trial with local harbour craft employers.
The scheme also includes a three-day foundational maritime training course that introduces candidates to basic shipboard safety and seamanship.
“I was on the work trial with Tian San Shipping company in May 2017. I worked for them for a few months after the trial. The experience opened my eyes to new possibilities and opportunities that I never had before,” he said.
Sha is currently on a 15-month Place-and-Train (PnT) programme to become a tug master. He is now employed by harbour tug service provider Keppel Smit Towage as he undergoes his training.
PnT programmes help individuals transit into new career paths by first placing them in companies, and then training them to acquire the skills they need for the job.
“My dream is to captain my own ship, just like my grandfather who was a vessel captain. But I know that is too unrealistic. If I could at least become a junior vessel officer one day, I would be thankful,” he said.