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All in a Day's Work

17 Dec 2009

Victoria School work attachment

Mr H Y Loi (left) and his staff, Azzahar and Clement, showing Victoria School students how to use the Total Station.

For some Victoria School students, the arrival of the holidays means it's time to sink their teeth into new experiences and survey uncharted ground. From operating a Total Station that measures distances with electronic precision to learning how to tell apart the complex tools of a dental clinic, the students get a rare opportunity to immerse themselves into the daily routines of occupations that they'd otherwise encounter only once in a blue moon.

Since the programme began two years ago, a number of Sec 3 students have enjoyed the chance to familiarise themselves with a variety of professions through direct observation and participation.

"Students are selected based on their interest, and through the recommendations of their teachers," says Mrs Wong Li Meng, the teacher-in-charge of education and career guidance. A few students have their hearts set on certain industries or occupations, but for many, this work attachment is their very first exposure to fresh possibilities that leaves them with vastly opened minds and opinions of the job.

A profession that pushes the boundaries

Most people would not have heard of H Y Loi Consultants, but two days with the company were enough to impress upon three Victoria School students how vital a land surveyor's job is to many other sectors. Acting as their mentor, Mr H.Y. Loi began with a video presentation that introduces the basic goals and methods of land surveying.

Victoria School work attachment

(L-R) Samuel, Manigandan and Amirul giving the Total Station a go.

"People think the land surveyor is just the guy getting a tan under the hot sun, but they don't see how the information is used," remarks Mr Loi. He believes such misconceptions about the job probably account for the lack of applicants to his profession. "The average age of land surveyors in Singapore today is 50," he says, adding that he hopes more young people will consider joining this not unlucrative profession.

Asked what they enjoyed most during this work attachment, Muhd Amirul Haqim says, "The field work conducted at Seletar Hills was an experience to remember. We thought we would keep out of the way, but the surveyors gave us a shot at using the machines."

The students also got to see how land surveyors think on their feet to tackle tough terrain. "For example, when the line of sight through the Total Station was obstructed by a tree branch, Mr Loi turned that into a learning experience for us, showing how the surveyor had to find a solution in order to get an accurate reading," adds Muhd Amirul.

The students were unanimous that that they had misunderstood the profession and its potential to cut across industries. "I now know that land surveying is a diverse field of work with aspects branching into fields as far as law, forensics and even film-making!" exclaims Samuel Wee. "The indoor and outdoor aspects of the job make it incredibly fun."

Extracting a whole new experience

A different set of challenges awaited students who clocked in at Corporate Dental Clinic, where they were brought through the various aspects of work in a dental surgery such as reception duties, sterilisation of tools and dental treatments. However, it was the human aspect of dentistry that Dr Siva Rajendran took care to emphasise to his young charges.

Victoria School work attachment

Students learn how a dental X-ray is processed.

Explaining how he strives to minimise his patient's discomfort during a root canal procedure, he says, "No amount of anaesthetic can remove all the pain. We try to make things more comfortable for the patient by spreading out the treatment over a few visits." Dr Siva's point about putting the patient's welfare first was driven home when the students witnessed his sensitive approach toward a patient who was groaning in pain during a complicated procedure.

Another patient who left an impression was an elderly lady who did not speak English. Despite that, she has been Dr Siva's patient for 20 years, and they readily communicate through an assistant who translates for them.

Victoria School work attachment

Dr Siva explains a case to the students, using X-ray images taken moments ago.

Learning such truths about the tooth doctor swept away earlier notions of dentistry being a mundane and monotonous profession. Aaron Yeo, for one, considers himself privy to the way good people skills help dentists improve their patients' quality of life. "Dentists must not only be good in their treatments but also in the way they communicate with patients," he notes.

Schoolmate Jeremy Lee adds, "Before this I thought that the technical skills were the most difficult to manage, but now I realise that actually it is the 'human aspect' which is more difficult."

Thomson Medical Centre and private law firms were among the other organisations that welcomed Victoria School students to their premises. And given how much the students have imbibed and the way the experience opened their eyes to new paths in life, the school hopes to pave the way for even more work stints in promising sectors such as interior design and hospitality.