“I entered social service because I believe in working together with others, so that we may empower our clients and shape a happier, healthier society.”
Weaving Together a Life of Different Facets
I made a career switch from the private sector to the social service sector two years ago and have never looked back. I’ve been in the military, where I learnt discipline and foresight; healthcare, where I learnt about managing a hospital’s operations; and hospitality, where I learnt about the workings of the tourism and service industry.
These experiences have been invaluable as I find myself transferring the skills acquired to my current role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN). APSN is an agency that seeks to fulfil the aspirations of the special needs community by achieving independence, and one that advocates for an inclusive society.
As CEO, my role is to map out the goals of the organisation and the necessary steps required to achieve them. In this spirit, I work together with caregivers, corporate partners, my staff, the public and other stakeholders to constantly revise and rethink our practices, while providing comprehensive education and employment opportunities.
Working with Many Hands
I work side by side with many stakeholders to ensure all parties are kept abreast of each other’s updates and progress. From partners, to various ministries and statutory boards, it’s crucial to keep our discussions open so we may help each other achieve our goal of an inclusive society for all.
More importantly, I work closely with members of the agency. In steering the entire organisation, I work with board and committee members to review our plans, and give updates on our progress.
I’m also highly inspired by the team. They’re a capable and energetic bunch who continually help me to stay the course. We share the same vision of helping others, and are happy to take each step towards achieving our goals together.
Charting a Path for the Differently Abled
I entered social service because I believe in working together with other like-minded people. This enables us to empower our clients and shape a happier, healthier society.
Sustainability is also highly important to me. For example, I mapped out a major five-year plan that involves building an APSN Community and College (ACC). And together with staff and partners, we are looking to bring this development to life. ACC aims to serve as a Continuing Education and Training Centre, which provides accessibility to lifelong learning and higher education to persons with special needs.
I believe this is important because students who graduate from APSN (or other schools serving individuals with special needs) may not have a dedicated institution from which they may continue to develop their skills, with regards to their different needs. It’ll also provide them with a safe space to build a community while pursuing their interests in a holistic way.
I remember sharing these plans with APSN’s students and their parents, and many parents have relayed to me that knowing their children’s needs would continue to be met after graduation had given them hope and confidence for their loved one’s future.
I’m also proud to see how our students are able to employ their abilities and receive recognition for them. Take for example the APSN Café for All. The cafe serves up a variety of delicious dishes – all prepared and served by our students and alumni! The cafe functions like a real business, and we adhere to high standards. I eat there often and the food is tasty. But don’t just take my word for it – just ask Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin who frequent the cafe!
A Career That Gives Back
At the end of the day, I’ve truly enjoyed working in social service. It’s not always easy, but seeing the difference we make drives me to do what I do everyday. For example, whenever I witness APSN alumni become independent and flourish as working adults, there is a sense of fulfilment – for this is exactly what APSN is here to do. Our work is never done. APSN has served over 5,000 persons with mild intellectual disability, and I’m always delighted to see them thrive in their work life.
A role in management is one of many in social service. To find out more, click here.
Dr Tay works with his staff to bring APSN's projects to life