Local vs FT IT Diploma holders


Only few days ago, my colleague Train Officer Arasu was relating his personal story to me. TO Arasu has been with us for about 5 years. Before that, he tried a few other non IT related jobs before landed here with us.

TO Arasu has got a diploma in computer science which he took more than 10 years ago in year 2000 and subsequently the same higher diploma two years later in year 2002. His good friend Param also took both courses conducted by TMC endorsed by Staffordshire University in UK. TO Arasu spent more than $20,000 for the course.
TO Arasu was then working in SATs. It was not recognized by that company. Param, on the other hand was working as a factory operator in a manufacturing firm. Even though Param was a Malaysian, he was immediately recommended by a Malaysian IT manager in the same company to take on an IT job in the same firm.

After few years of IT work in the company, Param went on to another company doing the same IT related job. He remains in the IT industry earning about $4,000 a month.

TO Arasu did not manage to land any IT related job. After a few other jobs, he found his way to this present company. His IT higher diploma is still not recognized.

TO Arasu and his good friend Param still stay in touch. Param is working the 5-day week earning about $4,000 in the IT industry. He used to call TO Arasu whenever he goes back to JB. Param lives in JB but commutes daily on weekdays to work here.

Train Officer Arasu told me that they both had the same qualification and about the same age in their mid 30s yet he earns only $1,400 a month and has to struggle on shift work with rotating off days!

When TO Arasu saw me few days ago, he told me that his friend Param just called him. Again, his friend Param who is a Malaysian teased TO Arasu that as a ‘Singaporean’, working as a Train Officer is earning so much less than him. He is enjoying every weekend with his family in JB whereas TO Arasu is working on shift with rotating off days like a “Baduah!”

As a Singaporean, his life is no better than a Malaysian even though they possess the same qualifications. It must be his bad karma or rather the Malaysian IT manager that opened up a valuable career path for his friend Param? Life is really full of little ironies as far as Train Officer Arasu is concerned. It appears that it’s better to be a Malaysian like his friend Param than a Singaporean. Really langgar!


“The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the official policies, practices or opinions of SMRT or any organisation with which I may be affiliated”.


About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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36 Responses to Local vs FT IT Diploma holders

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for writing my friends story. I did not mean to tease him but always encourge him to continue his studies. I have taken few IT courses from Singapore Polytechic through WSQ with goverment have given 90% subsidy 2 years ago. My salary increased 35% after completion the course and promoted to Senior System Engineer. Currently i am doing Specialist Diploma In Network Security at Singapore Polytechic with 60% subsidy for PR. I would like to thank you to Singapore and Singaporean for oppurtunity had given to me. We may dont get this equal oppurtunity at where we come from.

    • Hi Anonymous,
      Are you “Param?” If you are, you shld consider at least taking up citizenship since you say you are a PR if you grateful to the government. From a lowly factory operator 10 yrs ago, you have through Singapore’s educational system become an IT engineer! Keep up your studies and your good work here.

    • You are most welcome! says:

      “I would like to thank you to Singapore and Singaporean for oppurtunity had given to me. We may dont get this equal oppurtunity at where we come from”. Unquote. Very true and You need not have to tease any Singaporean; many are badly hurt, not by You but by their leaders in their employment, union and the country.

      Wish Anon lives well in Sin.

  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 20 June 2012 « The Singapore Daily

  3. NUS Boy says:

    This looks like a case here someone pull strings to get into a certain company right? Not so much of local vs FT. Who knows how many dozens of local and FTs were also rejected before them until param came along.

    • I don’t know if it’s true. I heard that if the HR of a company is dominated by certain group of FTs, they tend to favour their own kind over locals. Maybe readers can share and highlight this aspect with us? I would like to hear from them.

      • M says:

        It’s not HR (I believe you mean the “Recruiter”, as there are many HR functions that are not involved in day-to-day hiring) that decides who to hire. It’s the hiring manager. Recruiters only source and make recommendations based on specific requirements for the role that the hiring manager is recruiting for.

        • Thank you for your explanation. I think you are correct. It’s the recruiter. In this case, it’s the same company.

          • patriot says:

            IF the Employers require the HR Dept and or their Recruiting Agencies to select Singaporeans FIRST, then the Recruiter(s) shall have to comply.
            me am of the view that employers are more than happy to employ foreigners for
            the many reasons that have been explained in various blogs, especially in Transitioning Org. Sg by Gilbert Goh.
            This phenomenon of preference for employing foreigners has been going on for a long time
            and had our Authority not approved the practice, the recruiters will not be able to recruit them(foreigners) EVEN if the Employers PREFER the foreigners.

            Sori Gintai; a little shouting jus to emphasize, hope You can forgive.


  4. Daniel Lee says:

    I can see two issues here that needs to be addressed:

    1 – Where did TO Arasu get his qualifications from? Did he not do background check on the institution issuing the certificate? Also, did he check if the diplomas would be widely recognised in the industry?

    An example is that I was once told that a typical degree from Bangladesh is only equal to a ITE cert in Singapore, and while there are Filipino maids with undergrad degrees, they come from so poorly equiped universities, the standard is equal to the 1st year of a diploma course in any of the SG polytechnics.

    2 – Academic qualification is only the starting point, and a lot is up to the individual and their degree of effort and determination to rise. It is simplistic and even naive to expect a brighter future just from getting a higher diploma alone.

    Perhaps ‘Param’ was a real go-getter who was wlling to work smart and aggressively build his resume?

    • Thks for your comments. I merely present the facts as related by my colleague. The institution awarded him the higher diploma is clearly stated. As to background checks and other issues, I won’t know. It’s a story I feel worth sharing here. However, I do agree with you that paper qualification is only the basic step to a career. Luck also plays a big part.

  5. fish 'n' chips says:

    singaporean really deserve the government they vote for
    keep up the good work
    this would ensure the early demise of the ruling party

    • Anonymous says:

      This has got nothing to do with our government. The main problem is, TO Arasu is not “aggressive” enough. If he really wanted an IT job, he could have started low like Param and work his way up. If SATS did not value him, he could have found another company, rather than drag his feet and let the years go by. In Singapore, as you age, you become less marketable, especially if you want to start low.

      • fish 'n' chips says:

        this has everything to do with the government, especially so in singapore
        i believe arasu had served his national service obligation as a male singaporean for 2/2.5 years and is currently serving his reservist obligation till the age of 40/50 depending on his rank
        now what do you have to say about that
        and please refrain from labelling arasu with statements such as “rather than drag his feet and let the years go by” that you can neither verify nor prove
        oh before i go, you wrote “In Singapore, as you age, you become less marketable, especially if you want to start low”, try saying that to lee kuan yew, goh chok tong and a long list of other names
        now do you see what the msm aka the straits times has done to you
        these were phrases conceived, concocted and constructed just for the ruled
        and the rule does not apply to the rulers
        indeed they have succeeded in their mission
        forget about journalism
        it was never meant to be

  6. anon says:

    Pre employment training ( PET) is designed to equip people with knowledge & skills before they get employed. This is served by institutions such as polytechnics, schools and universities and also private providers.
    After completeing this, most people will look for jobs. They may stay working for many decades and not acquire new knowledge or new and relevant skills. This is where adlut learning takes over and in Singapore the system is Worforce Skills Qualifiactions or WSQ for short. It is a hybrid system adapted from UK and Austarlia.

    Param is certainly wise to have taken full advantage of this system: 90% subsidised by our Governement and the qualification is recognised in the whole of Singapore.( whether the employer considers it a plus or not it is accredited by the Workforce Development Agency WDA, something like the S’pore-Cambridge Exam board)

    The WSQ certifications are real and it validates current skills & knowldege. It is designed along with industry players, making it relevant to employers. Yet, as posted, our own citizens are being brushed aside. The only reason I can thinlk of is salary & perhaps bias.

    One way to address this can be:
    Employing someone with WSQ allows a 18 months free medical ( basic ) paid by the Gov.

    Working adults do not have the time to go for re training. They have no incentive to do so. They face disincentives for taking too much leave or time out. Employers in this new global world look for workers with ready skills. But since employers regard training as a cost and time consuming, why would they train workers? It is a chicken & egg situation.

    We educate for the futiure. We learn for the future. But the capitalist world regards it as useless ventures best left to others. They fail to see it as an investment, they ignore that they are part of an eco-system.
    I encourage TO Arasu to acquire a WSQ certiciation. Better if his employer supports him by allowing him to attend and yet pay him his salary.. it is an investment… not a cost. The ROI is known: Arasu will add value to his job, and will stay longer than Param will. ( Param will return to JB, spend his money there and thus not add to consumption here )

    • Anonymous says:

      Pray tell me if he needs to work often or frequently 18 hrs a day with no off days to support his old parents and family on such low pay, does he have the luxury of attending courses? U are right to say that profit motivated enterprises do not view it as an investment!

      • anon says:

        Because private enterprise ( the market ) is not doing anything about training, a 3rd party needs to pick up this role. The Gov has the resources, and they can either compel or induce industry to partake in this role. This cannot be left to chance otherwise Singapore’s skill sets will diminish.

        But because the Gov sees it fit to comply with industry to supply cheap labour, our
        citizens will not have the relevant skills that employers need. They have the machinery
        to deal with this, but it seems they have chosen to let market forces decide.

        I believe in free enterprise and survival of the fittest. However, a balance of intervention and market is the best way forward. Much of the skills required in the financial sector is in mathematics, statistics and analysis. ( where the earnings,or pay is the highest). And it is the sector that is the limelight. But who are these people who work in it? Not Singaporeans I can say. Mostly FT. Where did they get these skills? Why cant we provide the workers in this industry? Something wrong with our education system?

        If companies have been attracted here to set up operations, they should also be tasked with training or contributing to train our citizens. After all, we provide them the infrastructure and the security.

        What happened to the partnership?

  7. Salt Fish says:

    Gintai, why waste your time trying to convert outsiders (malaysians or not) to become Singaporeans. You highlighted the good ones, but there are also many bad ones out there that needs to be booted out. Is those crooked ones that this country can do less. Why not ask Mr K. Shanmugam what he is going to do about it, instead of talking shop and numbers that don’t stand up to scrutiny?


  8. Anonymous says:

    Hi Gintai,

    I understand the plight of Arasu. What happened to Arasu happened to me as well.
    Let me share my story. I am engineering by trained; graduated in 2003 and joined the industry in 2006. Due to economic circumstances (i.e. many cheap unskilled labours from China and India offered them cheaply), like many of my friends switched their career into business related like trader, financial adviser, accounts etc, I took up accounting.

    Many of us who hold engineering diploma already taken a low pay (ie.1200/mth in 2006) has to suffer another round of pay cut due to career switch. During that time, the wave of immigrants has hit our shore.

    I went into accounting thinking that there would not be a lot of foreign talent in that industry as our government mention FT only dominate in specific industry. I got a diploma equivalent professional certification and started searching for job.

    That time was the year 2008 and the job market pay a fresh account assistant at $1100. Biting the bullet, I started working; not in one company but “hopping” around the companies (job hop is culture motivated). I see many horrible things that employers have done to me (i.e. breaking my rice bowl without thinking) but I will share just one with you guys.

    This company is a home grown fashion company. They have many ladies fashion stores around Singapore. Directors are all Singaporeans and some Malaysians. Finance manager, a Malaysian, Singapore PR holds two titles assisting on administrative matters. Marketing Manager is also a Malaysian, SPR. When I join them, I heard the group of hiring managers mentioning that they have exhausted the quota and need to hire Singaporean which incidentally is me. I was with them for 3 months only and they got me fired.

    During these 3 months, I spent most of my time calling MOM to request for more foreign staffs. I am not surprise because almost all the employees are Malaysian. On the same month, I saw the recruitment of one SPR who is a Malaysian to work as marketing assistant manager (If my memory do not fail me). Thereafter, two more administrative staffs holding W.P. just graduated from Malaysia, sitting beside me. I was told to teach them my work. I smell something fishy and I know my appearance was a transition period to the Malaysian, SPR hiring manager.

    Finally, I was asked to the office and with a simple excuse they asked me to leave. I was totally disgusted. I spent 15 years of education in Singapore and I am no superior. I am in no hate to foreigners but Malaysian taking up SPR to screw my life is totalling unacceptable. There should not be any bias in recruitment. Bias exists and happens to me not once but twice.

    2 years of wondering around the companies ended in 2011. Now I have joined a big Japanese MNC with a equal representation of different races be it local or foreigner. My manager is a Singaporean. I am happy with them. I share my stories with my manager and he mention that he understands me totally.

    Well, I have been through the hard time. I appreciate what the opportunity that he gives opportunity to me because we best understand each other as we “fight” in the same jungle, share the same culture and the same worries about our future generation.

    This current government has increasing convincing me the current policies do not make citizen feel that they are better off then 10 years ago. Should there be no significant fundamental change in the current policies I will definitely exercise my right in 2016. Policy which will have an impact on me, my family and my future generation will be the driving factor on who I will vote for. I care for the standard and quality of a candidate; however, if the opposition party can have sufficiently good representative as compared, with unfavourable policies, I will definitely give the opposition a chance. We all need a lion roaring with substance but not a kitten meowing in the parliament, period.

    • Hi,
      Thks for sharing your story here. I agree that it’s unacceptable that locals shld be discriminated in terms of job opportunities. It’s quite a wonder that you could switch from an engineer to accounts. It’s not easy. They are totally diff. Glad to hear that you are now doing well. Keep up the good work.

      • Anonymous says:

        One must have the determination and constant encouragement from your friends as well as ex-colleagues. Ups and downs is definated it is how good or how bad the environment. I am definately worried for my future generation. I may struggle through may be there are others that did not.

        I would say we should not allow local population to combine with SPR population when generating statisitc result . Our SPR, I believe mostly are here for money. Statistic result will be wrong. Nevermind. Our government neer and will never listen.

        • I think they are beginning to listen now. It takes time to change. The fact that they are reaching out to the ground shows that they trying. They still have 4 years to go. Hope they could improve and do better. Thks.

          • Anonymous says:

            My bad. I mean the statistic is not wrong. I am trying to say this kind of statistic will not be able to explain citizen concern. I do not think it is helpful to craft good policies. Well Gintai, I do not hope but will like to see what our government can do to manage this situation. Its is 4 years too long.

          • patriot says:

            Beginning to listen now?
            Did they not listen the last 20 years or did they simply ignored everyone cos
            they believed/believing they are the best? I do agree that they have the
            greatest authority, much liked the emperors of yore.
            Have You not heard of White Deaf Frog? It was from the White Horse Mouth
            not too long ago.

            For those hoping for change within the Rulers; I say leaving Sin is a much
            better option. It is quite true that in Sin, many are hopelessly hopeful.


    • fish 'n' chips says:

      so all these while, you were voting for the pap
      am i correct to make this guess

  9. Joey Foo says:

    I’m a little confused here, where did TO Arasu get his Diplomas from?

    • Hi Joey,
      The courses were conducted by TMC but endorsed by Staffordshire University in UK. It’s just like your GCE O levels where the certificate is issued by Cambridge University after they examined your papers. Just click TMC on my blog to get to the website. It’s approved by MOE but the certificate issued is not recognized by most companies. Hope that clears your doubts.

  10. Lohcifer says:

    Of course qualifications being legit or not is critical but what is also important to be aware of is that some company’s HR departments have their own policies. I have known people who invested good money and studied part-time/at night classes earning themselves MBAs from good, reputable, recognized, accredited tertiary institutions – even from so-called Ivy League ones – but their HR department’s response was “So what? Just because you now have an MBA doesn’t mean we’re going to promote you or give you a pay rise.” Net net: individuals themselves must be smart enough to take control of their own careers.

    • patriot says:

      Other than the usefulness of ones’ certificate, there are the elements of charisma, initiative, diligence, integrity, look and of course the ability to make superiors happy(adulate). How many a man has lost out to dainty lass for marketing/sale/retail and public relation jobs?
      So, a certificate by itself has oni fulfill a basic requirement in one’s career, it is important but not vital. Even, if one got a job and due to lack of the other attributes, replacement of the employee can be expected and it will repeatedly happen.


      IF THERE ARE NON, WHY ARE CERTIFICATE GOTTEN IN SIN NOT RECOGNIZED? Heard too much of such problem and just as much, were students fleeced by dubious educational companies(schools). Whose failure is it for such a situation?


      • annon says:

        Recognition of certification is left to the employer, as much as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder ( the admirer).

        HR personnel will only say that the applicant is not suitable. No interviewer ( except for American Idol and other spin-offs) will provide feedback about why there was rejection.
        They may say that the qualifications or certifications do not meet their requirements but they will never challenge it.

        Education is regulated in Singapore by means of Edutrust & Casetrust. Both protect the student by insuring them from losses of school & tuition fees and to resume studying in another provider. Their certifications are not inspected. This is left to the individuals to decide.

        Do you inspect Raffles Institution’s claim that they offer GCE A level certifications issued by Cambridge Examination Board?

      • Anonssss says:

        I have experience with employers saying that they want to employ me but my ‘base pay’ is not according to my private diploma I attained. Employers (local companies) said it’s not recognized although I took it locally with MOE registered private institution.

        • annon says:

          For some types of occupation, recognition of certificates is clearly stated by legislation. For example, accountant, lawyer, aircraft pilot, ship pilot, doctors, pharmacists and even driving a vehicle. Recently real estate agents have to be certified too.

          Some HR practitioners lack professionalism and may give incorrect, inappropriate responses to applicants.Many companies do not have well constructed HR practices, thinking it is merely for monitoring pay, CPF, annual leave, and claiming subsidies from the Government.

          They do not connect the dots with HR and company branding = product quality.

          Sorry to learn about your experience.

  11. wmulew says:

    Simi FT vs local. This is just the local guy who don’t know how to look for a job. Where got IT job so lowly paid one. Even the lvl 1 helpdesk pple are higher paid then that idiot. It’s his inability to look for a proper job that’s the issue, not his “unrecognized” diploma.

    • [TO Arasu is not “aggressive” enough. If he really wanted an IT job, he could have started low like Param and work his way up. If SATS did not value him, he could have found another company, rather than drag his feet and let the years go by]

      TO Arasu did his national service! In his tour of duty, he has achieved ‘best soldier, best PT, Marksman etc’ to name a few!

      He believes in the mantra of constant upgrading – coincidently it was the ‘ buzzword of our leaders as well’.

      So at the age of 29, ‘O’ level being his highest qualification, he had decided to take up IT as a full time student, supporting myself working as a security officer on permanent 12 hrs night shift!

      He entered SATs as a low ranking ‘operating assistant’ after numerous failed attempts to penetrate into IT!

      It’s the attitude not aptitude that decides one’s altitude. From low ranking OA, he worked up the ladder as Flight officer in Silkair, Flight coordinator in Swissport.

      Swissport had left the scene! Once again he had to start low in the present company as a TO! Never have the opportunity to go next level! BUT the question here is why both well established companies is not recognizing his educational qualification!!!?

      If its a local poly diploma then it won’t be an issue. Langgar!

  12. Langgar says:

    Let me tell you why companies esp small business enterprises reluctant to employ locals. Not only they have pay the extra CPF but also got to entertain his 2 week of reservist in camp training every year. Imagine if all of his local employees have to report for reservist training? This will disrupt the business operations and also much paper work to submit the reservist back pay claims. The business enterprise is only concerned with it’s bottom line and business operations. They are not bothered about defence of the country. After all they’re paying taxes. Tell me then what should they give preference to locals? Esp if the locals are women where they do get pregnant then it’s even more worst. Nightmare for the company. Now you know why our fertility rate is so low? I say I better get FTs to rid of all these nonsense. Do you all see the points? But the govt doesn’t seem to know all these! They only know how to bring in tons of FTs to flood the labour market! After all, they make levies out of them.

  13. roy says:

    1.Conclusion PR can sponsor parents on long term pass.

    2.Long term pass holders can work in Spore. and later apply for PR

    3.PR once they get citizenship can sponsor parents as PR.

    4.So how many citizen we gained and how many became our liability.

    5.Later they all go back home to India as OIC.Overseas Indian Citizen with all the capital gains from selling HDB flats and CPF and live happily ever after and living locals in disaster1.Conclusion PR can sponsor parents on long term pass.

    2.Long term pass holders can work in Spore. and later apply for PR

    3.PR once they get citizenship can sponsor parents as PR.

    4.So how many citizen we gained and how many became our liability.

    5.Later they all go back home to India as OIC.Overseas Indian Citizen with all the capital gains from selling HDB flats and CPF and live happily ever after and living locals in disaster

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