Home voices My Learning Diaries: Studying part-time while handling family crises as I moved from RSAF to a 'green' job was tough but worth it

My Learning Diaries: Studying part-time while handling family crises as I moved from RSAF to a 'green' job was tough but worth it

My Learning Diaries: Studying part-time while handling family crises as I moved from RSAF to a 'green' job was tough but worth it

The fast-changing nature of work has prompted many Singaporeans to upgrade their skills to stay relevant. TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts of young Singaporeans who have recently done so to give their careers a boost, or even pursue new paths in life.

In this instalment, Mr Sunilprashanth Rajendran, 29, describes how his goal of furthering his studies was not easy. The former Air Force regular had to secure sponsorship for a part-time degree to ease the financial burden on his family. Then, he juggled his studies while working to provide for them. Now a health, safety and environment facility executive, he says he is grateful that things panned out despite the uncertainties.


Published June 4, 2023 Updated June 4, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

I signed on with the Republic of Singapore Air Force in 2014 after graduating with a diploma in Aerospace Technology at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. 

Following six years as an Air Force maintenance engineer, I was contemplating a mid-career switch and upgrading my skills. 

Deciding on a course of study was no simple feat, especially at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

My thoughts about the future were bleak, but eventually, I felt a strong calling towards nature. I’ve always loved the outdoors, and I’ve been monitoring how human actions have affected the environment. 

So I decided I could play a part in fighting climate change by equipping myself with the knowledge and skills to make a difference.

I completed my service in the RSAF in June 2020 before pursuing a part-time degree in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety from the University of Newcastle in Australia via PSB Academy. 

Coping with the challenges of learning while handling work and family responsibilities wasn’t easy. 

I was my family’s sole breadwinner until my sister started working in 2019.

I tried hard to secure a scholarship to fund my education. I applied to various organisations and consulted many people for advice. 

Finally, I secured a sponsorship by PSB Academy and the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) and enrolled in August 2020. 

This was crucial in helping me further my education as the financial burden would otherwise be too great.

I felt grateful that things panned out despite the uncertainties. This motivated me to excel in my studies.

I also had to find another job during that period, which was equally challenging. 

After multiple interviews and applications, I became a duty manager for a foreign worker dormitory for about five months. 

Then from February 2021 to October 2022, I worked as a safety engineer at a semiconductor plant.

It was a gruelling two years, supporting my family, concentrating on studies, balancing work, and being president of the university student council. 

On top of that, my dad was admitted to hospital for a heart operation in December 2020. 

Two of my uncles passed on in 2020 and 2021. 

I also got injured while doing callisthenics and had to go through an operation and post-op weekly physiotherapy. 

All this happened while I juggled assignments, group projects, exams, tests and presentations.  

Thankfully, my dad is doing better now after physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

I believe that your habits define you, and your perseverance determines how you tackle obstacles. 

So, I never gave up. I successfully completed my studies in November last year and was even chosen as a speaker for our graduation ceremony. 

I never thought I would get such an opportunity, and I’m grateful for the programme and the lecturers who guided and motivated us. 

I also could not have achieved this without the support from my loved ones and friends who encouraged me to strive for the best.   

Last November, I was hired by facility management company ISS. It is a contractor at Roll-Royce Singapore’s manufacturing facility for aero-engine fan blades in Seletar.  

My role is to lead the implementation of various health, safety and environment programmes at the plant. 

Through comprehensive risk assessments, implementing green initiatives, and advocating for sustainable practices, I actively contribute to ideas minimising environmental footprints and mitigating the effects of climate change.

It helps that the job is directly related to what I studied, and my degree has equipped me with knowledge of the regulations, requirements and code of practices that govern health, safety and environment issues in businesses — not only in the local context but globally too. 

Indeed, my degree has become a stepping stone for me to explore more opportunities in this field. 

If you’re a young Singaporean who wants to embark on a similar journey, my advice would be to master your daily habits and be disciplined about them. 

Adopt an open mindset to venture into new and exciting opportunities. This will help you to be prepared so that when an opportunity arises, you can seize it with ease. 



Mr Sunilprashanth Rajendran, 29, is a health, safety and environment facility executive for ISS at Rolls-Royce Singapore. He also volunteers at the Global Compact Network Singapore Youth Alliance programme, which provides youths with learning, volunteering and career development opportunities in sustainability. 


If you have an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.