Mr Andy Kong is no stranger to parades and flag-raising ceremonies. In fact, they have been a regular fixture of his last 28 years with the uniformed service. Today, instead of looking out at a sea of uniformed personnel, his charges are students at a secondary school in Pasir Ris, where he is Vice Principal (VP) of Administration.
His transition from the military to the education sector was a natural one. A common thread lining both careers was his affinity with the built environment (BE). His mission is for cadets and students alike to thrive in conducive learning spaces – by making sure infrastructure and facilities are up to par.
For example, as a serviceman, he had to help oversee military camps. His job scope included managing a wide range of operational and building-related issues, from identifying safety hazards to liaising with contractors. This stirred a passion in him for the Facilities Management (FM) job role, as he saw meaning in ensuring the safety of end-users.
He also linked it to a larger calling. “I wanted to continue serving the nation even after retiring, so finding a job in the public service was a straightforward decision for me,” said the 49-year-old father of three.
To equip himself for his new role, he took up the Specialist Diploma in Facility and Energy Management offered by BCA Academy, training arm of the Building and Construction Authority.
An intense yet rewarding three-month journey followed, when he honed his skills in building management and operations.
He graduated in November 2022 as valedictorian, just in time for his new job. His responsibilities are largely behind the scenes, but are nevertheless important in ensuring the secondary school adheres to structural integrity guidelines and that critical safety features, such as fire protection, are in place. Much of these were learned in the Specialist Diploma programme.
Andy Kong receiving his specialist Diploma at BCA Academy's 2022 Graduation Ceremony
Upskilling and Reskilling Advantage
Mr Kong’s new career in the BE sector is a testament to BCAA’s strong offerings. Some 80 per cent of its diploma graduates landed jobs in the industry within six months, with 63 per cent receiving two or more job offers.
A big part of this success, he believes, is due to the relevance of the courses.
“One of my considerations was whether the skills and knowledge gained would be useful for my role, as well as for personal advancement if I pursue higher qualifications in the future,” he said.
After speaking to his peers and scouring the Internet, he concluded that BCAA’s industry-wide recognition would be an advantage.
And so it proved. Fresh in his role after graduating from BCAA, he was caught up in a flurry of activities as the school prepared to move to a holding site while the permanent campus at Pasir Ris underwent upgrades.
“I knew what to look out for when contractors briefed me on designs,” he said. Indeed, he was used to assessing building designs and pinpointing potential pitfalls, given that his course instructors made it a point to share real-life examples with students.
His experience of immediately having his skills put to the test is also in line with that of other BCAA students: 44 per cent of its Specialist Diploma graduands are given expanded or new job roles, reflecting the trust placed in them by their employers.
Graduands from BCA Academy's 2022 Graduation Ceremony
A bonus point was that his chosen course featured a module on energy management, making it highly relevant to the current local and global sustainability trend.
Making a successful mid-career switch
He admitted that it was not easy to transit to a new sector
“Making a mid-career switch is not a trivial decision,” he said. “Once you have set your mind on what your next step is, have a concrete plan to acquire skills and knowledge that will actually add value to your new job.”
In fact, this could be exactly what employers are looking for – not just hard skills and knowledge, but the determination to plan and achieve.
Besides the course he attended, BCAA has also launched three new integrated work-study diplomas this year to better equip graduates with tech skills to thrive in an increasingly digital landscape.
With the first intake set for April 2023, prospective students can look forward to internships and workplace attachments in relevant fields, from digital architecture to smart facilities management.
As Mr Kong put it: “Have the resolve to step out of your comfort zone.”