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No degree, no problem: ITE graduate

Imagine getting promoted three times in a span of just four years. That's the experience of a graduate from the Institute of Technical Education, now a superintendent at Keppel FELS.

SINGAPORE: Mr John Kartigan, a 27-year-old graduate from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), says a degree does not make a career - a view his employer shares.

Mr Kartigan, a Superintendent at Keppel FELS where he is in charge of about 20 workers, was promoted three times in a span of just four years. He joined the company as a Technical Associate and rose up the ranks, now earning almost double from when he first started. An ITE graduate with a Higher NITEC in Marine & Offshore Technology, Mr Kartigan never imagined he could have progressed so well in his career.

"Because it's a big industry, I was worried about how well I was going to perform. So I didn't expect it. I just did what I was told to do. The managers gave me the confidence - they built confidence in me, they gave me their trust; they said 'You can do it'. Just because you're from ITE, don't look down on yourself," said Mr Kartigan.

In his National Day Message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the academic route is not the only way up. He also pledged to give every Singaporean the opportunity to reach his full potential, no matter his family background or circumstances.

Observers have said that as Singapore's economy restructures, more emphasis will be placed on applied learning - or hands-on learning - where theory taught in the classroom can be applied directly at the workplace. A committee reviewing polytechnic and ITE education is expected to announce its recommendations soon.

Keppel Offshore and Marine hires about 200 local graduates every year and about half of them are from polytechnics and ITEs. The company says these graduates are suited for the industry because they come with the required technical skills and know-how and many of them here have also progressed to become managers.

Mr Max Goh, Deputy Shipyard Manager at Keppel FELS, said: "You can see that we are working in a harsh environment, so being able to have hands-on experience and skills is actually very important. So we do acknowledge that it's not just based on paper qualifications. Even with the necessary skill set, we encourage them to do their career progression, in terms of going for more training, more development, in terms of overseas exposure, to keep their experience aligned with what is required for the job."

Keppel Offshore and Marine trains between 20 and 30 Singaporean employees for NITEC and Higher NITEC qualifications every year.

ITE says through its "holistic development in moulding work and world ready individuals", many students have gained recognition and career progression.

ITE graduates have also received higher salaries over the years. From 2009 to 2013, their gross mean salary rose some 20 per cent from S$1,391 to about S$1,700 a month. As for Mr Kartigan, he has not stopped upgrading himself. He is now taking a Diploma in Marine Engineering with Ngee Ann Polytechnic, under a scholarship awarded by Keppel FELS.

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