At 52, Tay Lye Huat seemed to be at the top of his career game. He was a specialist toolmaker leading a team at an electrical manufacturing firm.
Yet, after 30 years of fitting metal parts into electrical connectors, the sheer physical exhaustion of the job was taking a toll on him in his mature age.
As Lye Huat searched for what to do next, an enjoyable dental medic stint in the army and his nursing student daughter’s inspiring healthcare stories spurred him to consider a career switch to the healthcare industry.
“I learnt a lot of things about teeth and equipment because I assisted the dentist for operations [in the army].
“Age was catching up, and I wanted to switch to a more stable and challenging job in the medical line,” Lye Huat shared.
The Job Search Process
While hunting for a job, Lye Huat responded to NTUC’s e2i’s (Employment and Employability Institute) Facebook recruitment advertisement for healthcare positions in February 2023.
He was promptly connected to e2i career coach Lim Xiao Yu, who got to know his interest in an operating theatre position.
Having no prior healthcare work experience, Xiao Yu conducted a comprehensive speed mock interview with the jobseeker to improve his chances of acing an interview.
Xiao Yu also shared with him strategies on addressing challenging questions and interpreting interview inquiries effectively, and illustrated how to connect his current job functions seamlessly.
The focus was on highlighting pertinent strengths, transferable skills and achievements, and ensuring a well-prepared and confident approach for the new role.
e2i also sent him invitations to their job fairs, and Lye Huat attended one with Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), which had openings for operating theatre technicians.
With his career coach’s support, Lye Huat successfully landed an operating theatre technician job at TTSH in April 2023.
“e2i’s help is very good; I’m very grateful for it. Xiao Yu also followed up with me to find out how I was doing,” he shared.
A Healthy Start
From dealing with electrical equipment, the new healthcare worker now works with medical equipment like tools and machinery, ensuring these are prepped, in working condition, and properly sterilised for a surgeon to perform a patient’s operation.
Lye Huat’s other duties include prepping the patient for surgery and making sure the operating theatre is safe and sanitary before a procedure begins. He can also stay for the duration of the operation.
The mid-career worker’s positive outlook and comprehensive on-the-job training helped ease his transition to the new role and overcome the challenges that came with it.
“A job in the operating theatre is quite challenging, but I like challenging jobs. It is a job very few Singaporeans are doing.
“You cannot fear blood, and you need to be physically strong to carry heavy stuff. It is a very sterile environment, and we cannot touch this or that. I can see different kinds of operations in progress.
“With the guidance of the senior [operating theatre technician] and preceptor (instructor), I caught up very fast.
“I get job satisfaction seeing the patient have a successful operation and is discharged,” Lye Huat elaborated.
He also credits the friendly work environment for making him feel welcome.
“I find it interesting to work with people of different backgrounds, and it’s been a great learning experience.
“I also realised that people always greet each other no matter what rank they are, even if they don’t know each other. It is a very friendly culture,” he revealed.
Although he is new in the healthcare line, Lye Huat relishes it enough to want to make a career out of it.
He aims to become a preceptor or an instructor/mentor who guides new or junior operating theatre staff and certifies them ready for work.
In the healthcare setting, preceptors are usually senior staff with the necessary experience and knowledge to teach the next generation of workers.
Having made a successful transition, Lye Huat has some advice for mid-career switchers like him.
“The first thing is the job must be stable. If the job is people-related, you must have patience and passion, otherwise it may not be suitable for you.
“Personal character and attitude [towards the new job] are also very important,” he said.
The support given to Lye Huat in his successful transition is an effort of the Healthcare Academy, an initiative set up to help workers and jobseekers transition to the healthcare sector.
The academy is a collaboration among the Healthcare Services Employees’ Union (HSEU), e2i and NTUC LearningHub.
The academy functions as an ecosystem to synergise connections between stakeholders like employers, e2i, and training partners to match jobseekers like Lye Huat to healthcare employers looking to hire.
Click here to find out more about e2i.
Click here to find out more about the Healthcare Academy.