Enabling staff to be more
NTUC First Campus has built a team of engaged and happy early childhood professionals by prioritising their well-being and providing ample opportunities for them to learn and innovate.
Ms Rita Lim, Ms Dawn Hu and Ms Wu Yingshan each has a different job scope and unique experiences within NTUC First Campus (NFC), but they all have something in common: A satisfying and rewarding career.
Their workplace was recognised as one of the best companies to work for in Asia at The HR Asia Awards in 2019 and 2020. Scoring above the Singapore average across measures, the company was acknowledged as an organisation that creates purposeful job opportunities and one that encourages continual learning.
With four decades of experience in the early childhood care and education sector, NFC currently supports over 20,000 children and their families. Even as it creates a nurturing learning environment for young children during their formative years, the organisation places a strong emphasis on building an engaging and enjoyable workplace through various initiatives. Coupled with NFC’s vision that every child deserves equal opportunities to a good start in life, these efforts have kept the passion for work going strong for its team of staff comprising early childhood and corporate professionals.
WORKING AS A FAMILY
“There is no ‘I’ but more of ‘we’ moments,” Ms Hu, principal of The Little Skool-House At-Kent-Vale, said of the work culture at NFC. “Teachers support one another when they have difficulties in coping with a challenging child by sharing ideas and checking in with one another. Teachers share their teaching experiences and collaborate to find better ways to deliver lessons.”
Ms Hu first joined NFC as an English teacher in 2010. Interning at My First Skool and The Little Skool-House while pursuing a diploma course in early childhood education sealed her decision to join the organisation, she said.
“The positive experiences I had with my mentors and centre principals led me to view NFC as a company that values the importance of working with parents, staff and children,” recalled Ms Hu, who shared that NFC’s work culture is collaborative and everyone works towards a common goal.
Echoing this sentiment, Ms Wu, 40, an assistant director of marketing, said NFC functions like a “big family” where communication takes centre stage.
“Such a culture has encouraged me to grow in a professional capacity because it sends the message that each of us is important. Staff feedback gathered through surveys and townhalls is taken seriously and is acted on once the results are collated,” Ms Hu said.
ALWAYS LEARNING AND GROWING
Ms Lim, 35, joined NFC as an English teacher in 2009 as she was drawn to its mission to make quality child development and care services accessible to working families, including those from disadvantage backgrounds.
She has since experienced an exciting, progressive and varied career. In 2013, she helmed My First Skool as a principal for six years before joining NFC’s headquarters, where she now works as a manager at the child support services department.
Part of Ms Lim’s work involves managing a joint three-year research project with the National Institute of Education to study the effects of NFC’s Child Support Model, a testament to the wide range of professional development opportunities available for staff. The NFC Child Support Model is a three-pronged approach aimed at supporting the well-being and learning of children from low-income families and children with learning needs.
Ms Lim said: “When I first joined NFC, I never thought I would one day be doing research management. Initially, I was a bit worried about managing the project as I wasn’t sure if I was up to mark. However, I was given support and guidance as the project went along, which was very helpful.”
For Ms Hu, the exposure to various learning and training opportunities at every stage of her career has enabled her to grow professionally from a teacher to a centre principal.
“I am always learning and growing. I have benefitted from many learning opportunities in Singapore and beyond,” she shared, citing a training stint in Hungary when she was a senior teacher.
“I also attended overseas learning trips to Bali and Australia to gain more insights into sustainable education and nature pedagogy, which are in line with Early Childhood Development Agency’s focus on outdoor learning,” she added.
Her appointment as a vice-principal years ago opened her eyes to her role in maintaining a positive work environment and influencing her colleagues to continually improve. To support her development as a leader, she joined the three-year Professional Development Programme (Leaders) with support from NFC. “I learnt to apply different leadership styles and engage in meaningful conversations with my colleagues. Through engaging in conversations with my team, I have gained a deeper understanding of how to align their personal goals to the centre’s,” Ms Hu explained.
For Ms Wu, having the opportunity to lead and champion new initiatives at work has been immensely fulfilling. Not only did she have the chance to pick up digital marketing skills, but she was also tasked to lead a digital marketing automation project to better engage different customer segments.
“NFC has a conducive environment where staff can try new ideas, which leads to a greater sense of achievement and empowerment. Working with NFC has truly been a fulfilling journey for me,” said Ms Wu.
PROMOTING HOLISTIC WELL-BEING
Beyond work and professional skills, NFC also offers support for employees’ personal self-improvement and well-being.
As a working mother of three children aged seven months, five years and seven years, Ms Lim said NFC’s family-friendly policies have helped her maintain good work-life balance. Besides child care leave, the family care leave scheme allows her to care for family members when the need arises.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, NFC stepped up efforts to make sure its staff were well taken care of. Ms Lim recounted how touched she was when her boss expressed concern after sensing she was pushing herself too hard during the circuit breaker period. “My boss was very understanding and encouraged me to take some days off to spend time with my children. I appreciate that she takes an interest in my family life and has the view that life is not only about work,” she said.
During the circuit breaker, the company conducted exercise workshops to motivate staff to stay physically healthy as well as other free workshops to encourage staff to explore interests such as leather crafting. These efforts have continued even as the COVID-19 situation in Singapore stabilises.
Besides workshops, NFC provides its staff with articles, videos and podcasts on physical and mental well-being through its website to equip them for better self-care. On top of that, employees can tap on the resources available in the employee portal and call the dedicated counselling hotline NFC had set up in conjunction with Singapore Counselling Centre to support their mental well-being.
“Being a part of the NFC family is not just about work. The company looks into our physical well-being and finds ways to motivate us to stay healthy. This makes me feel treasured,” Ms Hu said.
Be part of the NFC family and get more out of your early childhood career.