From cosmetics to construction

She had been working as a part-time cosmetics sales promoter when she decided to take her mum's advice and enter the construction industry. She decided to become a quantity surveyor - a job that never "dies", she says.

Miss Megan Lim enrolled in a one-year part-time Advanced Diploma in Quantity Survey with the Global School of Technology and Management (GSTM) in November 2012 after a friend told her about it.

A quantity surveyor works within the construction industry on different projects, estimating and monitoring construction and reproduction costs, tendering jobs, managing risk and estimating replacement cost.

"My mother, who does accounting and tendering in the construction industry, said that she would like me to try it. She saw it as a challenge for me," says Miss Lim, 23.

The quantity surveyor's job is an important one, she says, as buildings are being demolished and built all the time.

The Singaporean faced some challenges in the beginning. She says: "I did not know anything about this course and I was also one of the few females in the class. But slowly things got better. The teacher created group activities which helped the students bond and made learning more fun," says Miss Lim.

The skills learnt in the classroom have been useful to Miss Lim as she is able to apply them to her current job as a quantity surveyor.

"I used to hate maths when I was in school, but this industry is all about calculations. I learnt important skills in the classroom such as piling and retaining walls. I finished my course in January this year and a few months prior to that I found a job as a quantity surveyor.

"I am now hoping to get an honours degree with GSTM. My aim is to become a professional quantity surveyor," she adds.

Miss Lim is one of the many students who have enrolled in GSTM over the years. GSTM was established in 2007 by experienced professionals in construction and aims to equip adults with the necessary knowledge and skills for work in the industry.

GSTM has tied up with Birmingham City University and is recognised by the Chartered Institute of Builders, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Singapore Institute of Engineering Technologists and Singapore Institute of Building Limited. There are different levels of courses ranging from certificate, diploma, specialist diploma, advanced diploma, degree and BTEC levels 4 and 5. These courses are registered with the Council for Private Education.

Head of Academic Nathan Veerasamy says that an average of 200 students enrol each year. The students are of various nationalities.

Says Mr Nathan: "All the courses are part-time courses and are taught in English. They are held every weeknight and on weekends. Each class has about 25-30 students and the lecturers are industry practitioners.

"The courses are constructed to be more assignment-based and are suited for the working class. The higher levels usually make use of Moodle - an online learning management system.

"Students join through word of mouth. The management here makes sure that the students' needs are catered to and we counsel them and let them know what level they can gain entry in."

He adds that the construction industry is a niche market which is booming.

"GSTM aims to complement the Government's efforts in the construction industry. The Government wants all the employees in this industry to be equipped with knowledge so that they are able to climb the corporate ladder and have a better job prospect," says Mr Nathan.

GSTM is also looking to include work placement in its curriculum. Currently, there are many companies that sponsor their employees to study in GSTM. Many students have seen their careers advance after taking up the course. One such student is Samuel Sabin.

Mr Sabin, who hails from Kerala, has been working in Takashimaya's facility department for the past five years. Because of his prior diploma from India, Mr Sabin was placed in the Advance Diploma in Facility Management last year.

"The standard of teaching is higher in Singapore and the subjects are relevant. I have learnt new things from the facilities side.

"After completing my course, I submitted my certificate and received a salary increment. I was promoted from facility officer to shift-in-charge, which is a much bigger responsibility as I manage my colleagues who are mainly foreigners," he says.

Mr Sabin is so pleased with the courses taught at GSTM that he introduced two of his friends to the school. He also plans to further his studies next year.

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