After spending 10 years as an educator and trainer, Mr Shah Jehan Haniffa made a mid-career switch to join ST Logistics as an operations manager.

If you had told Shah Jehan Haniffa two years ago that he would leave his 10-year career in the learning and development sector for a job in the logistics industry, he would have laughed it off.

Back then, he had just begun enhancing Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) online teaching platform to ensure the efficacy of course materials, and to support new features such as animations and simulations.

Now, the 49-year-old finds himself at the centre of a logistical supply chain, utilising technology to make processes smooth. It is an entirely different job, albeit with some parallels to his previous role.

“You don’t know where life will bring you, and this change just happened to be a natural transition for me,” he says.

It was towards the end of his contract at NTU in November 2019 that Mr Shah decided the time was right to head for greener pastures outside of the education industry. Although he had enjoyed being an educator and trainer, he believed a mid-career switch would greatly benefit his professional and personal development.

“I wanted a brand-new challenge where I could still apply my mechanical engineering knowledge and the skills acquired from my previous career.”

Mr Shah attends a Professional Conversion Programme course, conducted on top of his regular duties at ST Logistics, to help him quickly learn the ropes of the logistics industry.

His job search led him to a logistics role at ST Logistics, which he describes as very different and unique compared to his education career. Despite being a novice in the industry, Mr Shah’s project management skills and experience in managing clients and students convinced the company that he was a right fit for the role.

Being in a critical industry with so many moving parts and requiring technical knowledge would be daunting for a newbie, especially for new hires like Mr Shah who has spent majority of his career in other industries. To ease his transition into his new job, ST Logistics placed Mr Shah on the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Logistics Executives. The company has been hiring workers through the career conversion programme offered by Workforce Singapore (WSG) since 2017.

The nine-month programme started in December 2019, and comprised lectures and on-the-job training that were conducted during work hours. Given the COVID-19 crisis, these classes are currently held online. Through the PCP, Mr Shah gained a fundamental understanding of the technical aspects of the logistics industry, including warehouse layout design and transportation management. These classes were conducted by trainers with more than 30 years of experience in the field, which Mr Shah found immensely helpful to his learning.

“I enjoyed the sharing sessions with the trainers because they offered real-life stories which complemented textbook learning. Talking to experts who have been in the field for a long time definitely helped me assimilate into the industry,” he says.

Mr Shah doesn’t have to worry about his lack of experience, as he can count on his supervisor and trainers for knowledge and advice.

He adds that after being an educator for so long, it was nice to return to the classroom and be the student for a change. “In life you never stop learning, it’s an ongoing process. I found that there was always something new and fulfilling to learn; there were interesting topics and group discussions that I really appreciate.”

All these learning tools and processes are crucial to helping Mr Shah learn the ropes quickly for his current role as an operations manager. This includes managing secured logistics services for one of ST Logistics’ clients, and overseeing the automation technology that ensures the supply chain runs smoothly. For example, paperwork is now reduced to a minimum when it comes to tracking inventory. Instead, Mr Shah’s team now uses various technological tools to enable accurate accounting of their stock.

Mr Shah is unfazed by the challenges of new technology or even interacting with his peers who are younger than him. “I’ve always been comfortable with technology since my mechanical engineering days, so it wasn’t too difficult to get acquainted with my job scope. I also get a buzz when I interact with different age groups and learn from them. It’s been swell!”

Having the support of his family also made his transition easier and kept him focused on his goals. “They encouraged me to embark on this new path and were confident that I would excel in a different industry.”

Gone are the days of excessive paperwork as different technological tools such as real-time analytics, embedded systems and handheld devices enable accurate accounting of inventory.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the current job market with a slew of challenges, there is also some cause for optimism. As Singapore adjusts to shifts in global supply chains accelerated by the pandemic, there will be opportunities to fill new and unmet demand.

Drawing on his own experience making a mid-career switch, Mr Shah shares that how employees and jobseekers react to the current situation depends on their mindset, and that tapping on career conversion programmes to switch careers is one way that can help them emerge stronger from this crisis.

“They should be willing to acknowledge that despite their years of working experience, there are still certain skills that they lack, and they should be open to learning,” he says. “Have a goal and work towards it. Wherever that goal brings you, it will determine where and how you will concentrate your efforts.”

Despite facing new challenges in an entirely different industry, Mr Shah cherishes the opportunity to take on a unique job that still allows him to apply his skillsets.

While he recognises that his career background may be different from others, he hopes that more Singaporeans would try to adopt a continuous learning approach to life.

“I’ve been blessed in the sense that for the majority of my previous career, I’ve had to continuously learn and upgrade myself. We should all be open-minded about change and not shut ourselves off from possibilities.”

Mid-career Singaporeans and jobseekers can access reskilling programmes under SSG and WSG to boost their employability. To support workers to get good jobs and protect livelihoods, the Government will ramp up career conversion programmes to more than 14,000 places. Singaporeans aged 40 to 60 can also tap on their additional $1,000 SkillsFuture Credit to pick up new skills during this downtime, and be ready to take on new opportunities when the economy recovers. The new SGUnited Skills programme will also offer training opportunities for up to 30,000 jobseekers to enhance their employability.

The Government will also pay up to 40% salary support for up to six months, capped at $12,000 in total, to encourage employers to hire reskilled local jobseekers.

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