The Smart Way To Get Ahead In Your Work & Education

Successful applicants reveal how the SAFRA Bond-Free Education Scheme can help you ace your career, learning and life.

By Chris Ong        1 March 2022

We have all been there, or are going to face this in life. The next big step, that fork in the road, where you are seriously thinking about your future, especially for your next educational advancement or career trajectory.

A smart move is to consider the SAFRA Bond-Free Education Scheme. It just might be your wisest decision yet. The scheme allows for SAFRA members to advance their knowledge and skill sets, by assisting them in their pursuit of lifelong learning through partnerships with esteemed educational establishments.

How exactly? By providing bond-free sponsorships that subsidise 50% to full course fees for Diploma, Degree and Master courses offered by over 10 reputable private educational institutions (PEIs) such as the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), James Cook University (JCU), SIM Global Education, PSB Academy, Aventis Graduate School and more. For the full list of SAFRA’s bond-free education sponsors, click here.

The scheme is open to all SAFRA members who have completed their full-time National Service (including NSFs who are SAFRA members serving out their last year of service). The two sponsorship application periods are from February to March and August to September yearly, just make sure to apply before the respective schools’ sponsorship applications deadlines and check the eligibility criteria. Applications for the upcoming intake for SUSS will close on 15 Mar and 31 March 2022 for the rest of the schools.

The SAFRA Bond-Free Education Scheme awarded 35 bond-free educational sponsorships in 2021. Hear from 4 successful applicants!

Herry Zulfahdly, 30, Returns Supervisor

Aventis Graduate School, Master of Business Administration

How has this benefitted you career-wise and personally?

The constant need to learn new skills as we progress in life has always been a challenge for me due to limited time and financial resources. Being a recipient, I am able to concentrate on my studies without having to worry about the fees that come with education. I can now better understand and appreciate how such bond-free sponsorships can alleviate financial burdens.

Career-wise, the ability to upgrade myself in terms of education opened up paths that I thought were once only meant for individuals with good academic backgrounds. Experience in a given field does provide an edge when you are progressing in your career.

Career prospects may be limited without the right skills and qualifications to justify the experience but with the SAFRA sponsorship, it paved the way for me to further my studies and gain new knowledge to open up more possibilities in the future.

Were you able to strike some measure of work-life balance since you had to juggle studies, work and family?

Thanks to the support of my superiors and my subordinates, I was able to accomplish my projects and research within the limited duration provided. My wife and child were also supportive of my studies. They, too, provided encouragement by studying together with me to ensure that we get to spend our family time together, regardless of the activity!

And, did having the added benefits of being a SAFRA member help with your work-life balance and your quality family time? 

As a SAFRA member, the more widely used benefits are discounts offered for food and beverages, sports facilities and parking. The lesser-known benefits that SAFRA members have access to are services such as chalets, fuel discounts and even free legal services. I, myself, have been a weekly visitor to SAFRA to enjoy access to the swimming pool, futsal court and badminton court. With my loved ones, we also enjoy the discounted rates for family movie nights at Shaw Theatres!

Actually, the experience with the SAFRA Bond-Free Education Scheme has broadened my views on the benefits that SAFRA members are able to gain. The common perceived value of SAFRA is its unlimited access to sports facilities and short courses. Because of the scheme, I am now more inclined to utilise my SAFRA membership to join the various clubs at SAFRA and take up the many courses for upskilling that are only available to SAFRA members.

Jasper Chew, 39, Engineering Specialist

JCU, Master of Business Administration (Majoring in Analytics and Business Solutions)

What’s needed for someone to ace the selection interview as you did? 

Honestly speaking, I feel that me being awarded the sponsorship at my age is a form of encouragement for individuals of all ages to consider applying for SAFRA’s Bond-free Education Scheme. Of course, to be successful in the selection process, it helps to show aptitude and commitment towards the course of study you’re pursuing, and how the course will value-add to you and the community around you.

Has being an award recipient of the SAFRA Bond-Free Education Scheme made a difference to you and your career?

It has helped me in two ways. Firstly, with help from this sponsorship, I’m now taking ownership of my own professional development by pursuing a course of my interest. Secondly, I hope to leverage from the knowledge learnt from my coursework to transit into a consultative role, leading my organisation’s oil and gas customers toward an improved-efficiency and carbon-neutral (and eventually zero-carbon) future.

The sponsorship has also provided me with the impetus and motivation to return to school, after a hiatus of nearly 13 years! Moreover, the 50% reduction in course fees provided by this sponsorship definitely helped to alleviate my financial commitments. With this financial load off my mind, it became an easier decision for me to commit to pursuing a Master’s programme.

Talking about the “return to school”, what advice do you have for SAFRA members who are thinking of furthering their studies?

There is never a better time than now. Especially now.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have also adopted a hybrid teaching model, leaning more towards online lessons, and such flexibility bodes well for SAFRA members who have a day job like me.

In my case, I’m currently pursuing my course as a part-time student, with evening tutorials and daytime lecture recordings 3 times a week. Each trimester consists of 10 study weeks and a 1-week study break. Thus, taking up the course did not have any significant impact on my day job.

Moreover, it’s becoming clear that continual learning is the new buzzword and is likely here to stay. We need to take ownership of our own learning and development, either through formal courses or on-the-job training.

For adult learners, I see additional value for us to return to school: To bridge the gap between academia and industry. We’re able to bring our industry perspectives, valuable insights and examples into the classroom, that may not be as “obvious” as the knowledge gained from textbooks.

Arvin Kumar, 30, Procurement & Logistics Assistant Manager

SUSS, BSc Logistics and Supply Chain Management

How has SAFRA’s bond-free education sponsorship helped you in upskilling yourself?

It has allowed me to better focus on both my education and career. With this sponsorship, I did not have to worry about my finances, and could focus on performing well for my course. I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning and I’m grateful that SAFRA has played a part to help me on this journey I’m undertaking. One way or another, I had wanted to major in Supply Chain Management and SAFRA has given me an opportunity to upskill in my industry of choice.

About life-long learning: What advice do you have for SAFRA members intending to be “students for life”?

Lifelong learning should be emphasised more within the community. Do not hesitate to take the first step. Once you’ve taken the first step, do not be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are bound to happen, but by making mistakes, we will learn and grow as an individual. Further your studies and expand your knowledge; you will not regret it.

Zander Teo, 23, Healthcare Operations Executive

SUSS, BSc Biomedical Engineering

Fill us in on your thoughts about the selection process for the SAFRA Bond-Free Education Scheme.

Freely speaking, one thing that I really enjoyed about the process was the selection interview. The interviewer was really friendly and it made me feel very comfortable and relaxed. It made me feel as though I was having a conversation with a friend instead!

I felt that it was my drive to pursue further studies that got me the sponsorship award. As shared with my interviewer, I plan to make full use of this sponsorship to attain my bachelor’s degree and use it as a stepping stone for my post-graduate studies.

Would you say that the scheme has helped you in furthering your studies and to upskill yourself?

As a financially independent individual who was once struggling with finances, the sponsorship award has mitigated a lot of the financial burden that I could have been shouldering by myself. This has allowed me to pursue my field of study in biomedical engineering with a greater peace of mind.

What advice can you give future applicants on juggling work and study commitments?

Speaking from experience as someone working full-time and studying part-time, it is not easy to maintain a work-life balance. On the nights where there aren’t any classes, I would use the opportunity to indulge in my hobbies, socialise with friends or spend time with my family.

It is not an easy journey to work and study at the same time, but I believe that I – and all the others choosing this same studying-while-working path – can and will reap the fruits of the labour put in!

Find out how you too can benefit from the SAFRA Bond Free Education Scheme. Apply here.

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