“Tough but not impossible” – Father of two shares his upskilling journey

So often, we find ourselves on autopilot- wake up, commute to the office, start work, complete the tasks, and then commute back home. Many of us tend to remain stagnant when we repeatedly do the same things.

And while it’s perfectly normal for us to get into a routine, there is much to be discovered outside our comfort zone.
And taking on the path less travelled was precisely what 48-year-old Swee Kian Yang did.

Almost three years ago, this father-of-two decided to make a radical move, took a chance, and embarked on a learning journey by enrolling in a diploma program at Temasek Polytechnic. 

Kian Yang, the General Secretary of the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU), shared that the decision to take up this was mainly inspired by what NTUC Secretary-General (SG), Mr Ng Chee Meng, said during a visit to the union.

“He was visiting CMPU and asking each of us (Exco) when was the last time we went on a course on our own. While we were pushing for lifelong learning, most of us could not come out with an answer. So I thought hard, and then it happened.”

Kian Yang recently graduated with a Diploma in Business Practice (Business Administration) with Merit. This achievement was even more special because he graduated at about the same time as his youngest daughter.

He said, “We got to attend each other’s graduation, which is cool, right? At least this is how we feel.”


Another ‘cool’ fact about this family- Kian Yang’s eldest daughter, who graduated a year earlier, attended the same polytechnic as he did.

“I shared it with my classmates, and even the lecturer felt cool about this. Yes, I remember I bumped into her once, and I shouted across, and she just coolly acknowledged me and told her classmate while pointing to me, “My dad, and he studies here”.

Besides his daughters, Kian Yang added he felt truly blessed and grateful for his wife’s strong support.

“She is an accountant, and she helps me with those modules on accounting and Excel. There is this episode that my dad’s health took a turn, and she had to help bathe him and change his diapers so that I could concentrate on my classes.”

Studying part-time and working full-time is not for the faint-hearted. But, like Kian Yang said, “it was tough, but not impossible.” He admitted he had very strong reservations in the early days about whether he would be able to overcome the challenges.

“Can I manage between work, studies and union work? Then, of course, family time. Midway through the course, I was posted to the Jurong site (for work), and it was a total change in the work environment. I had enrolled my course in TP (in Tampines). So I had to learn everything at work and rush to class from Jurong to Tampines. Fortunately for me, everyone is accommodating and supportive at work.”


According to Kian Yang, Business Administration was not his first choice. However, he felt the diploma programme was the right fit for personal development and his union work.

“I wanted to do data analytics, but there is a prerequisite for a basic diploma. Then I thought maybe it would be good to understand things from the business perspective when discussing certain policies with our HR partners.”

Kian Yang added, “I work in the traditional print media business. As a union leader in a sunset business like print media, we always urge our fellow workers to upskill to enhance our employability. As a parent, I shared with my kids that the learning journey is like a marathon. No need to make a sprint but never stop and keep going. If I don’t do it, how can I convince them? I really hope I can lead by example as a father and as a leader.”


In his May Day Speech this year, Mr Ng said NTUC would double its efforts to upskill workers. It is only through upskilling can workers earn a good wage and create better work prospects, as this is the most sustainable way to deal with rising prices and high cost of living.

To do so, Mr Ng shared that NTUC will continue to leverage the Company Training and Transformation Committees (CTCs) launched by NTUC in 2019. There are currently more than 900 CTCs. The number continues to grow, especially with the government’s support with its $100 million grant to NTUC to scale up efforts to help companies implement concrete training and transformation programmes.

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