The question is whether a Singaporean male's NS years should be considered as "working experience", for purposes such as applications for jobs, MBA programmes, scholarships etc.
Let's begin with an example. Major Tan is a 28-year-old SAF commando officer, a regular serviceman. When you ask him how much working experience he has had, he replies, "Ten years of working experience. I have been with the SAF for ten years."
Next we have LTA Lim, a 20-year-old SAF commando officer, an NSF who's just about to complete his full-time NS. When you ask him how much working experience he has had, LTA Lim replies, "Two years of working experience. I have been with the SAF for two years."
No one would seriously dispute the fact that Major Tan does have 10 years of working experience. However, as Gary Chong's case shows (see previous post), it is quite likely that many Singapore employers would regard LTA Lim as having zero years of working experience.
Yet the lack of logic, I would think, is apparent.
In their respective years with the SAF, LTA Lim and Major Tan probably did lots of similar things. In fact, the first two years of Major Tan's SAF career may be almost indistinguishable from LTA Lim's two years, in terms of the training they underwent.
If we regard Major Tan as having 10 years of working experience, why do we not regard LTA Lim as having two years of working experience?
Personally, I agree with Gary Chong. Those two years should be regarded as working experience.
Note, of course, that the question of whether the NS years should be treated as working experience is different from the question of the value and relevance of the NS years (if they are viewed as working experience).
The value and relevance would depend on what you actually did during your NS, and its connection to whatever it is you want to do now.
Firstly, there are the "soft skills" and "character-building" kind of arguments ("I learned to lead people during my NS", "I learned to work as part of a team during my OCS days", "My combat engineer days taught me determination and perseverance").
Apart from that, I can imagine scenarios where NSFs do pick up experience during their NS years which is directly or closely related to what they do for a living, outside the SAF.
For example, there must be NSFs who were Physical Training Instructors, who went on to be personal fitness coaches or P.E teachers. There must be NSFs who were medics, who went on to become doctors or nurses or some other kind of healthcare workers. There must be NSFs who first learnt about ships and the sea in the Navy, and then went on to jobs as civilian sailors or port operators or whatever.
Personally, Mr Wang enjoyed a rather unusual NS. A non-white horse, he nevertheless resourcefully manoeuvred himself into the Ministry of Defence's Public Affairs Division. Mr Wang's vocation was "Staff Writer" and his job was essentially to be a professional spin doctor for the SAF.
As a humble little NSF, Mr Wang earned a humble few hundred bucks each month for doing exactly the same job as a number of regular NUSAF officers who were paid thousands of dollars. However, Mr Wang will tell you with a straight, honest face that even at that young age, he did his job better than most of them did theirs.
If Mr Wang were in the media/public relations industry today, why shouldn't his NS years count as working experience? I can see no reason.
The question is theoretical, of course, since Mr Wang is not actually in the media/public relations industry today. These days, the only real value of Mr Wang's NS experience is that every day when he reads the newspapers, he can easily tell fact from fiction, and truth from illusion, and point out all the bullshit.
But that's why you come here to read my blog. Right?