Teng Shun-sheng (鄧順生) is a rare high-school graduate in a job dominated by people with college and graduate degrees — he might even be the only one.
The Taitung County native is an executive enforcement agent for the Ministry of Justice’s Administrative Enforcement Agency (AEA).
The agents take care of all matters in which the state is owed money by individuals, AEA Taoyuan County branch chief Wang Chin-feng (王金峰) said.
Family finances — Teng’s family were farmers — meant he had to forgo a higher education.
After high school he had to serve his mandatory military service and then find a job, while former classmates were enjoying college and student clubs, he said.
After finishing his tour of duty on Matsu, Teng found a job as a restaurant busboy.
Seeing some colleagues studying for the court register clerk examination, Teng became motivated to take the test himself.
He studied after work and on his days off because he knew that he was not on a level playing field with the others who would be taking the test because he only had a high-school diploma.
The first time he took the test he failed.
He took it again the following year, passed and was hired as a court clerk for the then-Banciao District Court.
He later transferred to the Keelung District Court.
Impressed by his diligence at work, many judges encouraged him to think about advancing his career, Teng said, but the only possible exam he could take was the one to for a judicial associate officer post.
He passed that exam on the first attempt.
Having become interested in public law and creditor’s rights issues, Teng said he decided to try to become an executive enforcement agent for the justice ministry.
Teng passed the test for the job in 2010.
At that time only 5 out of 453 people passed the test. Of the people who took the exam, 357 had a bachelor’s degree, 94 also had a masters’ and two had doctorates.
Wang said Teng may be the only one of the 60 executive enforcement agents nationwide to have just a high-school diploma.
The story of Teng’s rise from busboy to a high-paying job of executive enforcement agent is a heart-stirring one, and could give hope to others who face the same kind of challenges that Teng did, Wang said.
The executive enforcement agent job is highly sought after, second only to judiciary agents, and very few people are accepted each year, Wang said, adding that most applicants are from law-related departments, or have three full years of experience as a clerk.
Those accepted into the program are paid about NT$35,000 a month during their training period, but once they have finished training their monthly pay jumps to NT$100,000, Wang said.
Given that most of the agents are graduates of top law schools, Teng was to be commended for passing the tests, Wang said.
Asked if he regretted not going to college, Teng said it had been inevitable because his family could barely afford their daily expenses.
He said he was very grateful that his parents were willing and able to pay his tuition through high school.