SINGAPORE - He had years of experience under his belt but zoo worker Abdul Halim realised his career would go no further unless he hit the books.
After dropping out of secondary school, Mr Halim worked as a mechanic before joining the zoo as a junior keeper in 1995, despite having no experience working with animals.
He slowly worked his way up to head keeper at the Night Safari in 2008.
"Basically, I had to learn everything on the job," said Mr Halim, 45.
Last year, the position of assistant curator at the River Safari became available but even with 17 years of experience at the zoo, he could not get the job.
He said: "To take that position, you need at least a diploma."
Mr Halim then decided to enrol in the Recognition of Prior Learning programme, where credits were given for work experience.
Having left school more than 30 years ago, Mr Halim worried about struggling with the coursework.
Instead, he managed quite well.
Of the 14 units needed to complete the diploma, he was exempted for five because of his prior work experience while the other units required hands-on learning, where he did well.
The course taught him human resource management skills such as hiring and training people.
He also picked up computer skills, needed for drawing up budgets and writing reports.
After he completed his diploma, Mr Halim was promoted to assistant curator at the River Safari earlier this year.
Among his tasks is to prepare for the park's opening early next year.
One of his main responsibilities is to look after pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia and help train new employees.
Asked if he could have risen to this position without a diploma, Mr Halim said: "No, experience counts but you need the paper to show that you are qualified."
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