A pre-school operator where people come first
Happy employees are proof that the award-winning NTUC First Campus promotes a positive work culture and a nurturing environment.
Many Singaporeans have fond memories of growing up at or sending their children to one of NTUC First Campus’ (NFC) 170 pre-school centres across the island.
Just as it focuses on supporting a child’s holistic growth, NFC also believes in providing a nurturing environment for its employees. The company’s positive work culture is key to generating employee motivation and engagement, which in turn, spurs employees to provide quality care for the children they work with.
In December 2021, NFC was recognised by Business Media International with two awards: Best Companies to Work For in Asia 2021 and WeCare: HR Asia Most Caring Companies Award 2021. This is the first time that a pre-school operator in Singapore has been listed as one of the best companies to work for in Asia for the third consecutive year. The WeCare award recognises the company’s exemplary effort in creating a culture of empathy and care amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two NFC employees, Ms Rozita Osman, a senior teacher at NFC’s Little Skool-House (On-The-Green), and Ms Evelyn Chan, a senior occupational therapist in NFC’s Department of Child Support Services, share how workplace support and engagement have enabled their work to flourish.
SUPPORT FOR BOTH HER WORK AND FAMILY
Ms Rozita, who has been with NFC since 2004 and teaches English besides working on curriculum development and centre operations, was drawn to the early childhood education sector by her love for children. “The little things that others may see as trivial, such as the progression of toilet training or being a pillar of comfort when children seek me out to play, are a big achievement to me.”
She shared that being a full-time employee with young children of her own can be challenging, especially when her children or her in-laws – who care for them when she’s at work – fall ill. However, the support from NFC has made navigating the challenges at work and at home much easier for Ms Rozita. “Having additional leave in the form of family care leave allows me to care for them when the need arises,” said the mother of two children.
Ms Rozita is also touched by her colleagues’ care. Her teammates sent her a hamper when she was hospitalised, while her supervisors catch up with her regularly to see if she needs help. NFC also organises wellness programmes such as vocal training sessions, which provide teachers with useful tips on projecting their voices correctly and care for their throats, as well as pilates. “Pilates is a form of self-care for me and helps me to wind down,” said Ms Rozita.
In addition, teachers’ workload and centre processes are reviewed regularly to ensure that employees are not overworked. “With the continuous support for teachers, I feel valued by the organisation and am motivated to do more in my role. I also have more time to plan my lessons and improve the way I teach,” Ms Rozita said.
Ms Rozita had the opportunity to go on learning journeys to Melbourne and Bali, where she picked up new teaching methodologies and ways to create conducive educational environments. Inspired by how Balinese schools encouraged a sustainability mindset in students, she brainstormed with her team in Singapore on how they could cultivate a similar mindset by involving both students and parents. Ms Rozita was heartened when the children began to bring reusable wet bags instead of disposable plastic bags to school for daily use. Parents even shared how their children were reminding them to take shorter showers to conserve water.
Ms Rozita also received guidance from her supervisors in adapting work processes to the COVID-19 situation. Aware that opportunities for face-to-face interactions with parents have drastically decreased, Ms Rozita invited parents to join her online for activities such as virtual storytelling and arts and crafts. Ms Rozita said: “Creating such communications online is a new skill that educators have to pick up to keep parents engaged and informed.”
As a veteran educator, Ms Rozita has simple and heartfelt advice on how to identify a healthy work environment: “It’s what keeps you happy and supported.”
AN OCCUPATION THAT BRINGS FULFILMENT
Another happy NFC employee is Ms Chan. As a new mother in 2019, she was looking for an organisation that could offer good work-life balance through part-time work. “I’ve always wanted to work in a school-based practice since I was a student. NFC is a perfect place for me as I can be part of the pre-school landscape, and it has family-friendly human resource policies,” shared the senior occupational therapist.
She started with a three-day work schedule at NFC and has now moved to a four-day work week since last year. Her supervisors and colleagues are understanding of her work arrangements and would schedule meetings around her availability, she said.
“There is mutual respect and I don’t feel any pressure being a part-time staff. Last year, I had to take extended leave to tend to my child when he was unwell. My boss and teammates reached out to offer words of encouragement, sent gifts to cheer us up and often checked in on us. It was very heartwarming.”
Like Ms Rozita, Ms Chan is appreciative of NFC’s leave policy. In addition to childcare leave, Ms Chan relies on family care leave to attend to her parents. There is also well-being leave, which Ms Chan took in December to bring her family on a Christmas outing. “This year, I plan to use my well-being leave on my birthday to take some well-deserved time off!”
At NFC, Ms Chan enjoys her team’s open communication. For example, with her therapy team’s input, their work processes were digitalised – a shift that has helped to improve productivity and communication between team members and school stakeholders.
Ms Chan is appreciative of the support NFC has shown in her professional development. In December 2021, she completed the USC Chan Sensory Integration Continuing Education Certificate Programme, which is funded by the company, offered by the University of Southern California.
Her recent promotion to a senior role is also testament to NFC’s holistic employee-centric policy. “I have been given opportunities to grow professionally over my three years at NFC. Despite being a part-time staff, my contribution was acknowledged and validated.”
Be part of the NTUC First Campus family and get more out of your early childhood career.