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Taking up a diploma, and a new career path in his 40s

At the age of 45, Mr Vimalan Shawn might not seem like a typical polytechnic graduate. However, his enrolment in a diploma programme in Applied Science (Medical Laboratory Science) at Republic Polytechnic was a big step forward in his steady pursuit of his dream career in medical research.

Taking up a diploma, and a new career path in his 40s

Mr Vimalan Shawn's polytechnic diploma is a big step forward in his pursuit of his dream career in medical research. Photo: Republic Polytechnic

For Mr Vimalan Shawn, a Continuing Education and Training (CET) diploma programme at Republic Polytechnic (RP) offered him a second chance to reskill, switch industries and chase his dreams

At the age of 45, Mr Vimalan Shawn might not seem like a typical polytechnic graduate. However, his enrolment in a diploma programme in Applied Science (Medical Laboratory Science) at Republic Polytechnic was a big step forward in his steady pursuit of his dream career in medical research.

Mr Shawn has been working since he was 18 years old. After completing his contract in the Republic of Singapore Air Force, he joined the financial services sector, embarked on business ventures and then entered the logistics industry, where he is currently a senior marketing manager.

While he had completed his O-Levels prior to signing on with the Air Force, he did not further his studies – beyond attempting the A-Levels as a private candidate – until two decades later, when he took up the Continuing Education and Training (CET) diploma programme at RP.

“The focus, guidance and family support were not ideal at that point in my life,” explained Mr Shawn. “When the CET diploma was offered, it presented me a second chance to fulfil my dreams. I saw it as an opportune moment to equip, reskill and enrich myself to meet the demands of an increasingly demanding society.”

LEARNING TO EMBRACE LEARNING AGAIN

It was his wife who found the RP CET course online and suggested that he enrol, as she felt he could succeed given his lifelong fascination with science and research.

Mr Shawn liked the course’s focus on medical laboratory science and the multi-campus delivery format, where lecturers from all five polytechnics conduct lectures and tutorials. He was especially drawn to RP, citing its active collaboration with the National Healthcare Group in providing an educational platform for developing clinical science and biomedical research talent.

He signed up for the part-time Diploma in Applied Science in 2018, juggling work and studies throughout his upskilling journey. Although time management was a challenge, he felt that the opportunity to learn was too good to pass up. Mr Shawn said: “I had the chance to nurture my desire to contribute to the healthcare industry and to be trained in something I am passionate in. It was an opportunity I did not want to miss.”

His wife was his chief source of motivation as he juggled work, family, classes and assignments. “She even spent hours testing me and helping me to prepare for exams. She has inspired me and stood by my side through everything. She has been my rock in life.”

Reflecting on his overall experience as a student, he added: “Though it seemed daunting and challenging in the beginning, I learnt to embrace and enjoy the journey. It gave me a new, youthful zest for life.”

A FOUNDATION OF KNOWLEDGE AND SUPPORT

Having completed his diploma earlier this year, Mr Shawn feels that he has gained a solid foundation in medical laboratory science, as well as the practical experience and knowledge needed to join a variety of subfields in healthcare.

The module that most interested him was Histotechnology and Cytotechnology. He enjoyed learning about pathological diagnosis and having the opportunity to handle tissue biopsies – an experience that went beyond his expectations.

“I never expected to learn how to navigate critical challenges in the laboratory with confidence,” he said. “The lecturers ensured all of us were competent in every task.”

He cited one lecturer, Ms Malini Thyagesan, as an example of a dedicated educator who went the extra mile to mentor another student who had quit an earlier diploma course.

“This student remained motivated throughout the years with Ms Malini’s help,” said Mr Shawn. “She was encouraged by her to join our course and she finally completed her diploma. Lecturers like Ms Malini add an important dimension of support to CET programmes, as encouragement is crucial for students to complete their journeys.”

CONTINUING TOWARDS HIS DREAM CAREER

Mr Shawn has since been accepted to various universities in Australia and Canada. He intends to take up an offer from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada to pursue a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Health Studies, majoring in biology and health development. His course starts next year and he intends to study in Canada.

“The diploma from RP has provided me with a fantastic platform for furthering my education and opened so many options,” he said. “My ambition is to become part of a clinical research environment, in immunology, pathology or microbiology. Health research has proven to be important to the overall development of healthcare and public health – I want to contribute towards that.”

Interested in reskilling and joining the growing community health and healthcare sector? Visit rp.edu.sg to register for RP’s October / November intake for part-time diplomas, specialist diplomas, and work-study programmes today. Two new full-qualification courses will be offered for the October intake: A part-time Diploma in Design and Media (Digital Entertainment and Events) and Specialist Diploma in Agritechnology and Agribusiness.

Related topics

Republic Polytechnic tertiary education Continuing Education and Training (CET) programme

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