8 Life Lessons From TMTA’s Learning Journey 2019

There’s no doubt that education is important, but at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for experience. So every year, our TMTA cadets get to attend a “Learning Journey” alongside industry veterans.

Specially for its first-year TNTA and TETA cadets, this year’s learning journey was held on a 4D3N cruise to Penang aboard the Voyager of the Seas by the Royal Caribbean. After completing a tour of the ship (check out the bridge and engine room tours on our Instagram page), our cadets sat down for an intimate “fireside chat” with TMTA alumni and 3rd Officer Darren Teo from Shell Ship Management Pte Ltd, WMI General Manager Captain Lee Sang Chiat, WMI Advisor Mr Lim Tau Kok, NTUC President & SMOU General Secretary Ms Mary Liew and SMOU Emeritus General Secretary Mr Thomas Tay.

An open sharing session of struggles, experiences and aspirations, it provided valuable insights into the maritime industry. For those who could not make it to the learning journey, here are 8 key lessons to inspire you to start packing for the next voyage.


1. Everyone deserves a second chance

Cadets come in all shapes and sizes, educational background and experiences – some with more checkered pasts than others. For example, Amaran Thevar Jayabalan became a cadet after dropping out of Polytechnic and finding himself in a dead-end job, whereas Tan Chin Woo only made the mid-career switch when his air traffic controller job failed to take off.

Overall, the cadets’ stories resonated a similar message: that your past need not determine your future and that if you are willing to work hard, you will receive all the guidance you need to earn your Certificate of Competency (CoC) and your place on the ship.

2. Cadets are cultivated in a supportive environment

While each cadet is different in their own right, the TMTA programme brings everyone together to sail towards their true north. Placed in an environment full of equally committed people facing similar struggles and aspirations, the cadets develop a strong bond with each other over the course of 30+ months.

As Ng Jing Jie, one of the cadets puts it, “all of us are working towards the same goal – we can do it!”

3. The maritime industry is filled with mentors

The maritime industry and the TMTA programme have inspiring people to learn from. But what makes it stand out is the guidance offered by its veterans. For example, WMI Advisor, Mr Lim Tau Kok, the former Executive Director of PCL, and dedicated WMI lecturers like Captain Lee Sang Chiat and Mr Muhammad Hisham bin Amir are all actively engaged and committed to mentorship. In saying that, 3rd Officer Darren Teo advises that in addition to finding a role model, you need to “be your own push.”

4. TMTA is a practical programme

The TMTA programme involves a considerable degree of study, however, it is all geared towards preparing you to thrive in the workforce. Whether it’s physics, mathematics, navigation or chemical engineering, you are assured of proper guidance to put what you learn into practice.

In secondary school and ITE, I wasn’t too enthusiastic,” said Joe Yap, a former PSA marine and current cadet. “But here, everything is hands-on, so I’d say that I’m in the right course.”

5. The passion for the sea grows on you

Although Singapore is surrounded by water, it’s only when you venture beyond the horizon that you really start to develop a passion for the sea. It took cadet Muhammed Bin Abdullah three attempts to get into the programme, but once he got in, it sparked a newfound sense of purpose that has surged in strength.

On talking about his seafaring career,” Abdullah exclaimed, “do what you love and you’re going to be successful. When you really enjoy doing something that you love, you won’t feel that it’s a chore.”

6. A sea full of career opportunities

If you work hard for the sea, she will reward you. Aside from stable career progression, long holidays and envious salaries, a maritime career also offers unique opportunities such as lucrative offshore management roles and working on cruise ships in future.

This course gives us an opportunity to keep upgrading ourselves,” said Chong Ming Xuan, one of the cadets. “When you grow older, you need something that can support you and your family, and I see a lot of opportunities for progression here.”

7. Safety is a way of life for seafarers

Safety is of the utmost importance in maritime given the high stakes out at sea. Consequently, mariners are drilled to eat, sleep and breathe it from the get-go with safety courses being fundamental to all maritime training programmes. To put it into practice, cadets were tasked with inspecting the ship, assessing safety risks and offering recommendations on the first day of the Learning Journey.

I always emphasise personal safety in class,” said WMI General Manager, Captain Lee Sang Chiat. “If you can’t take care of yourself now, you won’t be able to take care of your crew when you become a leader later on down the track. And right now, you’re training to become a leader.”


8. Shipping is integral to the future of Singapore and the world

Employing over 170,000 people and contributing over 7% to national GDP, the maritime industry plays a critical role in Singapore’s economy and the larger tapestry that is the global maritime industry. But with innovations such as automation on the horizon and the government focussing on securing Singapore’s maritime future, there is a dire need for Singaporeans to take on key positions.

“Today, if you’re a cadet aboard the ship, you’re probably the only Singaporean on board,” said Captain Lee. “I think Singapore has lost quite a number of jobs in the shipping industry – not just low-paying ones, but high-paying ones too. There are many shipping companies looking for professionals with a seafaring background to run the business, but unfortunately, we don’t have enough people with this kind of experience. So it is important for us to build up a pool of our seafarers with the skills and experience to take on these jobs in the future.”

The industry is on the hunt for the next generation of maritime leaders and there are plenty of government subsidies available to support your journey. To discover how you can begin your voyage to a career on the open waters, check out the Tripartite Nautical Training Award (TNTA) and the Tripartite Engineering Training Award (TETA).

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