Ability is integral for career advancement. But what if moving forward depends more on will than skill? According to NTUC LearningHub Security Trainer, Collin Mah Yew Fook, attitude is everything.
A former member of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and a 2nd Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo, Collin spends his days teaching students the ins-and-outs of being a certified Security Officer (SO) — imparting the basics through the WSQ Basic Licensing Unit and WSQ Recognise Security Threats, all the way up to Senior Security Officer (SSO) requirements in WSQ Manage Disorderly Conduct and Threatening Behaviour and WSQ Operate Basic Security Equipment.
Training everyone from mid-career switchers to retirees, Collin strongly believes in always giving your best. Because no matter your age, experience or circumstances, the right attitude is your best antidote to overcoming difficulties and challenges.
Transitioning from trooper to trainer
Similar to a number of his trainees, Collin was a mid-career switcher, trading in law enforcement for his current role as a trainer. “Before joining NTUC LearningHub in 2015, I was part of the SPF for close to 29 years,” reminisced Collin. “I was once asked to conduct a joint training session with NTUC and the National Environmental Agency (NEA) in Physical Violence Response and Intervention Techniques, so I guess you could say that sparked my interest in joining as a trainer.”
While Collin may have stumbled upon his calling by coincidence, the fire that has kept him burning is a by-product of the impact he makes every day. “It’s nice to use my knowledge and experience to enrich the lives of people, specifically those who aspire to be SOs,” grinned Collin. “I love seeing my students get their license, and most importantly, the wide smiles on their faces when they pass.”
Age is a common barrier when it comes to lifelong learners, but is it really ever too late to learn? In Collin’s experience, the answer is no. “I’ve had a young lady, 22 years old, attending my course for knowledge,” recalled Collin. “And I’ve also had a senior, who was nearly 73 years old and owned his own business, who was studying to keep his mind active with lifelong learning!”
He even had a student who was left wheelchair-bound after a stroke paralysed half of his body. On the verge of giving up due to failing a couple of courses previously, Collin persuaded him to keep going. “Don’t view your disability as a disadvantage,“ he urged. “Just because you struggled with other topics, it doesn’t mean that you will struggle with this one. You do your best and I’ll do mine.”
While they sometimes had to resort to communicating via writing, Collin’s unwavering belief galvanised him to work hard, and in the end, he passed with flying colours. “No matter how hard the challenge, it’s your own ability that decides the results,” Collin declared.
Consequently, Collin often tells his students that it’s not about the challenges they face, but how they see and deal with them. “Some of my students tend to doubt themselves,” said Collin. “They think, ‘I’m too old for this,’ or ‘I can’t do this,’ and it’s up to me to tell them, ‘Look, you’re not — you need to believe in yourself.”
“Some of my students tend to doubt themselves,” said Collin. “They think, ‘I’m too old for this,’ or ‘I can’t do this,’ and it’s up to me to tell them, ‘Look, you’re not — you need to believe in yourself.”
An education that focuses on the real-world results
When asked about his own mentor, Mr Francis Tay, Collin noted that he held quite a different approach to teaching. “He’s a really patient and understanding man who provided me with a lot of guidance in my role…but in contrast, I’m more strict and no-nonsense,” laughed Collin.
Of course, his disciplinary demeanour stems from good intentions as he strives to instil a never-say-die attitude in his students. “Some of my students can’t speak or write in English very well, so during lessons, I’ll put in more time and effort to assist them through translations,” said Collin. “There can be a fair bit of friction, but I’m trying to get my students to produce results.”
Ultimately, learners need to be able to thrive in the workforce. “We ensure that we roleplay as many scenarios as possible during lessons so that students can prepare for their assessments and get a feel of what the daily life of a SO is like.”
A career that’s ready for the future
Although a career in security is often viewed as a dead-end job, Collin contends that it is rife with opportunity. “From a SO, you can go up to a Senior Security Officer, and once you’ve passed the more advanced modules, you can become a Supervised Security Officer — you can even go for a Diploma in Security Management!” he remarked. “Being a SO is more than just sitting in a guardhouse; there are other roles such as Aviation SOs, InfoTech SOs, Border Screening SOs, and more!”
He also welcomes the technical advancements of Industry 4.0, showing that your future depends on your outlook. “Due to technology taking over manual processes, SOs have more time to themselves nowadays, so they are freer to pick up and upgrade their skills,” enthused Collin. “I don’t think technology can completely replace manpower in the security sector. It still requires a human touch, especially when it comes to responding to emergency situations. There is a very emotional and human aspect to security.” Asked if he had any final words of wisdom for upcoming SOs, Collin offered the following. “You must be physically and mentally prepared for the challenges,” advised Collin. “While you may face humiliation and scolding, always take a professional and people-first approach, and put the safety of the public first.”
This year, NTUC LearningHub celebrates 15 years of transforming people through accessible education. Since 2004, we have fulfilled over 2.3 million training places and transformed over 16,700 organisations.
Regardless of collar, age or nationality, we are here to help you acquire the right skills to progress in your career. For more information on how we can help, talk to our friendly Course Consultants at NTUC Trade Union House, Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability, LHUB @ Tampines Mall or any of our roadshows islandwide.