Chua Keok Seng is an octogenarian, who, at the age of 60, decided to switch gears and embark on a second career in the aerospace sector with Pratt & Whitney Component Aerospace Singapore, after working close to three decades in the oil and gas industry.
Earlier this year, Mr. Chua – or, Uncle Chua, as he is affectionately known – was honored by the local labor movement for being an extraordinary role model in the push toward re-employment beyond the retirement age.
The oldest awardee at the event, he was presented with Singapore National Trades Union Congress' May Day Model Partnership Award by Secretary General Chan Chun Sing at the union's annual event celebrating skills and productivity.
As a technician, Mr. Chua's work involves the masking and grit blasting of aero-engine components.
Some of the common challenges facing older workers seeking employment in their silver years include having to pick up new skills or working with much younger colleagues and managers.
From Mr. Chua's perspective, these are par for the course.
"Don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't let age be a barrier," advised Mr. Chua, adding candidly, "I'm not shy about asking my younger colleagues questions, because getting the information you need is more important."
His enthusiasm and commitment to his work has endeared him to his colleagues.
"Uncle Chua is respected by his colleagues for his proactive, responsible, and organized approach toward work," said Hizam Alias, manager, Human Resources. "His focus and commitment to high safety and quality control standards in a demanding work environment with advanced lifters and automated machinery raises the benchmark for safety and productivity, allowing us to prepare for tomorrow's aging workforce."
"On top of that, his receptiveness, positive attitude, and willingness to adapt has made him a valuable and treasured team player to all his peers," added Deputy General Manager Cheryl Wong. "We are thrilled that Uncle Chua has won the NTUC May Day Model Partnership Award. He is truly an inspiration to everyone, and we are proud to have Uncle Chua on our team."
Mr. Chua is a father of two sons, a grandfather of seven children and great grandfather of one. He is 80 years old and has 49 years of hands-on experience altogether. His indefatigable attitude extends also to his personal life, with a daily routine which would put men a quarter of his age to shame.
He starts each day without fail at 1:30 a.m. with a 45-minute jog. A short nap later, he has breakfast at 6 a.m. and begins work at 7:30 a.m. At 5 p.m., his shift ends and he has dinner at 7:30 p.m.
The Singapore National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is the sole national trade union center in Singapore, comprising about 60 affiliated trade unions. Currently, more than 98 percent of union members in Singapore are in unions affiliated with the NTUC.
Uncle Chua offers the following tips which have worked for him:
- • Be perseverant in seeking the knowledge even if you do not understand it for the first few times.
- • Have faith in yourself, and never give up easily without trying all possibilities.
- • Be disciplined; be punctual at work and keep a personal routine.
- • Harmony in the family will be a great source of support for you at work.
- • Be nice to people around you, it will energize them. I myself feel energized coming to work because my peers at work are very nice to me.