She juggled part-time work with school since 14 and excelled in ITE
Ms Jade Yeo was just 14 years old when she started her first part-time job as a party host at a Nerf play centre, during the school holidays and on weekends.
The former Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School student wanted to earn her own pocket money, so she did not have to rely solely on her grandmother.
An only child, Ms Yeo was raised primarily by her grandmother since her parents divorced when she was born.
The 18-year-old also took up freelance make-up jobs while studying at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), and has joined her grandmother as a part-time server in a ramen joint near their home in Marine Parade.
“It made me more mature in the sense that I had to be very dependent on myself and I couldn’t really depend on my dad or mom financially. I don’t see it as a bad thing,” she said.
This instilled discipline in her.
“I would try to leave one to two days per week free to study. When I get into work mode and I want to finish a project, I always manage to do it ahead of time,” she said.
Despite her circumstances, the Nitec graduate in beauty and wellness emerged as one of ITE’s top performers in 2023, with a perfect grade point average of 4. She also won multiple awards, such as the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal, which is given to an outstanding graduate from each of the three ITE colleges.
In April, Ms Yeo started ITE’s technical diploma in beauty and wellness management and is part of its pioneer batch of 30 students.
Choosing ITE over polytechnic was the right decision, she said. “I’m a very hands-on person… but I find that a lot of courses in polytechnic focus on science and maths. It’s not my thing.”
She knew she wanted to pursue a career in make-up and the beauty industry.
“I was introduced to cosplay in secondary school and started to practise doing make-up on myself and dressing up as anime characters. Make-up allowed me to express my creative freedom,” she said.
At ITE, she learnt a range of beauty products and services, from bridal make-up and facial treatments to massage and nail services.
“I’m not a very talkative person, but in the first week alone, my class advisor, Ms Shuner Leong, noticed that I had potential leadership skills and immediately got me to be class representative,” said Ms Yeo. “From then on, I managed to gain confidence in leadership and entrepreneurship skills and especially in learning in general.”
She hopes to explore other areas like product creation and marketing or being a beauty adviser in sales as part of cosmetics companies in future.
Finding his path later in life
When the food and beverage industry came to a halt in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Tan Chong Boon decided to call it quits.
“I had nothing much to do,” said the 46-year-old former manager in a bistro pub. “It was a difficult time and I was worried about whether I could find a new job.”
The highest qualification he had then was an O-level certificate.
Mr Tan took up his friend’s recommendation to take the chance to upgrade himself.
“Most of us were staying indoors, and I was reading online articles about cybersecurity and how many victims were falling for cyberattacks. It seemed interesting, and I wanted to know more,” said the father of four children, aged 14 to 23.
“My kids laughed when they found out that I was considering going back to school,” he said. “My wife was very supportive – as long as I’m doing something to upskill myself, she’s okay with it.”
Still, he had doubts.
“I was worried about whether I could adjust back to school because it’s been more than 20 years since I’ve touched any school materials,” said Mr Tan.
His fears were laid to rest when he stepped into his part-time Higher Nitec in Cyber and Network Security course in April 2020.
“My classmates were a mix of different ages,” said Mr Tan.
He also began to score As for his modules, to his surprise.
“I just followed and applied what the school taught us, and kept practising. I’m not a super student,” said Mr Tan, who scored a perfect GPA of 4.
One of ITE’s top graduates, he won the e2i Gold Medal, which was introduced in 2016 to encourage lifelong learning among adult learners.
Mr Tan’s schooling journey has not ended – he began a work-study diploma in cybersecurity and forensics at ITE in April.
As part of his training, he works as an associate support engineer at cybersecurity firm Netpoleon Solutions.
“Initially, the lessons didn’t really make sense to me. But over time, as I studied more and put in effort to understand the foundational concepts, I started to understand more and see the connections,” he said.