Opening old doors to new opportunities
Opening old doors to new opportunities
After 5 years away from the electronics sector, Jacob Ong was able to bridge the skills gap and return to his previous employer with the help of a Professional Conversion Programme.
min read Published on 19 Nov 2020

Growing up, Jacob Ong, 36, had mentors guiding him through his teenage years. That experience inspired him to leave his first job as an associate engineer at GlobalFoundries, to pursue teaching instead.

“I found it quite meaningful – like a service back to society,” he said, recalling his time as a design and technology and computer applications teacher in a secondary school.

But Jacob found that the relatively fixed holiday seasons were not quite suitable for him. So, after five years of teaching, he decided that he needed to spend some time searching and reflecting on his calling.

 “Leaving teaching wasn’t an easy decision, because I really enjoyed it. But my wife encouraged me, and I needed a change in work life balance. I had been in other sectors before, and I found that I could plan my life a bit more outside of teaching sector,” he adds.

Re-igniting the spark

His search brought him back to his previous employer, GlobalFoundries, this time as a Senior Engineer.

 “Engineering was a sector that suited my personality a bit better," Jacob explains.

" There are a lot of things that are new, there are things that are very sensitive in terms of the way they are executed. "
- Jacob Ong, on returning to the electronics sector after 5 years

The challenges, he adds, were mainly with the technology and the tools. “That appealed to me. I felt that those were my strengths.”

But it wasn’t all that easy. Coming full circle with the electronics sector meant re-learning a whole host of new technologies, given his time away.

“There are a lot of things that are new, there are things that are very sensitive in terms of the way they are executed,” Jacob says. “It’s really an art to perform and get good data that customers can use.”

True grid

What helped Jacob assimilate back into electronics was Workforce Singapore’s 6 month Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for electronics engineers.

The programme provided a structured on-job-training programme where experienced engineers shared relevant knowledge and skills.

Through the course, Jacob picked up academic concepts like scattering parameters, as well as practical skills, like how to use certain software and how to do calibration.

But Jacob’s years of teaching weren’t all for naught. He had picked up skills that his current employer valued.

" Those soft skills I picked up in teaching helped me in terms of client and stakeholder management. "
- Jacob, on what skills were transferrable as he moved across sectors

“For instance, teaching teaches you something like customer service. You learn how to present yourself and manage a lot of stakeholders,” says Jacob, adding that those skills came in handy, particularly in one of his projects where he had to take charge of lab renovations.

“I had to liaise with many departments and those soft skills I picked up in teaching helped me in terms of client and stakeholder management,” he says.

Current affairs

Janice Lee, Vice President and HR Lead for International Fab Operations at GlobalFoundries notes that while many mid-career workers may not possess the specific skill sets required, there are transferable skills and knowledge which they have gained through their past professional employments.

“These experienced workers may bring diverse and fresh perspectives into the way things could be done differently,” says Lee.

While the pandemic has impacted GlobalFoundries – business dropped by around 5 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 – it continues to be resilient with a strong demand for mobile devices, Wi-Fi, medical devices due to telecommuting and healthcare needs.

According to Lee, travel restrictions impacted the workforce, so the company had to accelerate digitisation to offset the physical labour shortage.

“COVID-19 has put the focus on the role digital transformation is playing in society and in businesses, which has then accelerated the growth of our industry and by extension the demand on our solutions,” she explains.

According to the Jobs Situation Report released by the Manpower Ministry on 19 October 2020, some 2,800 opportunities are available in the electronics sector.

Government initiatives are available to match jobseekers to these opportunities. These include:

  • Professional Conversion Programmes
  • SGUnited Traineeships
  • SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme
  • Place-and-Train Programmes

For more details, click here.  

Watt matters most

Now dad to a 1-year-old son, Jacob has no regrets about taking that step back into his passion for electronics.

For those who have been in his position and facing difficulty in their employment, he has encouraging words, “It’s ok to gather yourself, spend some time to reflect. Then we can stand back up and move forward with our lives.

“Life goes on, regardless of difficulties and set backs.”