Bruce Poh: Taking ITE from 'last resort' to Hollywood set
ITE's director and CEO, who will be stepping down in February, has worked hard to change perception of it
Local moviegoers sat in cinemas last year trying to spot familiar Singapore cityscapes in Hollywood movie Hitman: Agent 47.
The experience was so much sweeter for some Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students as some scenes were shot at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio Drive.
The school's film-making students also had the opportunity to interact with the movie's cast and crew.
This amazing ITE-Hollywood link was made possible thanks to ITE's director and chief executive officer Bruce Poh Geok Huat, 61.
He agreed to let the Hollywood film-makers use ITE's facilities after the founder of media company Infinite Frameworks, Mr Freddie Yeo, approached an ITE principal with the proposal.
The principal then approached Mr Poh, and the rest is history.
ITE students had also assisted the crew on the set of another Hollywood film, Equals, in 2014.
"Previously, ITEs were seen as institutions of last resort," Mr Poh told The New Paper at the ITE College Central, a campus which boasts facilities such as an aircraft hangar, a movie theatre and a cafe run by students.
"Changing this perception is an ongoing process."
After almost 10 years of heading ITE, Mr Poh will be stepping down on Feb 2 next year.
The Ministry of Education's director of schools, Madam Low Khah Gek, will be taking over his post.
“Previously, ITEs were seen as institutions of last resort.Changing this perception is an ongoing process.”Bruce Poh Geok Huat, ITE Director and CEO
Madam Low, who is also the deputy director-general of education (schools) will be appointed the director and CEO/ITE (designate) on Jan 1.
ITE has evolved at a blistering pace.
Beaming, the father of four adult women told TNP that ITE's graduation rate has increased from 61 per cent in 1995 to 83 per cent in 2007.
The number went up to 87 per cent last year.
Since he joined ITE in 2007, the number of courses it offers has also gone up from 54 to 101 today. They include three niche technical diplomas offered in partnership with institutions in Germany and France.
Mr Poh also contributed to the implementation of the One ITE System, Three Colleges education model that was introduced in 2005.
Besides giving students more opportunities for multi-disciplinary learning, the model also provided improved modern facilities and amenities to enhance the campus experience.
Mr Poh said: "The ITE system provides applied learning for young people so that when they graduate, they can easily find jobs.
"This will reduce youth unemployment here."
ITE has come a long way from the infamous It's The End label given to it by a character in local 2002 movie I Not Stupid.
Mr Poh said: "I felt that it was an unfair statement.
"Even though another character defended ITEs soon afterwards in the movie, I think many viewers just remembered what had been said earlier."
He had even met up with Jack Neo to show him around ITE College East, and the movie director seemed impressed.
Mr Poh said: "Jack Neo told me he never thought that ITEs were not good and added that another character did later come forward in the movie to defend our schools.
"I then decided to work with him to help change the negative perception of ITEs."
As a result, in Neo's 2012 movie, We Not Naughty, one of the characters says: "ITE - it's the end that counts."
Mr Poh will not be resting on his laurels after he steps down next year. He will head one of its subsidiaries as the chief executive officer of ITE Education Services.
He will work with other countries such as India and Myanmar, providing consultancy work to help transform their vocational and technical education sectors.
Mr Poh said: "I have mixed feelings about stepping down as the CEO of ITE.
"The years have passed by in a flash, and there has never been a dull moment here."