Older PMETs need new skills to return to work

I agree that a university degree or professional qualifications may not make our jobs more secure ("Higher qualifications are no guarantee of job security" by Mr Ooi Can Seng; Sept 19).

According to the Manpower Ministry, only 49 per cent of Singaporean and permanent resident professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) who lost their jobs were able to secure employment within six months ("Highly trained, middle-aged and out of work"; July 20, 2015).

This is notably lower than the national average of 57 per cent for both white- and blue-collar workers combined.

The problem is that many older workers, who spent years climbing the corporate ladder, may have experience and a last-drawn pay that surpass that of the hiring managers interviewing them.

Insecure bosses hesitate to hire them, as they may end up displacing their supervisors.

Furthermore, long-serving managers usually develop administrative and managerial skills that are employer-specific, and not easily transferrable to other organisations or industries.

Most companies also have a pyramid-like structure in place, so there are limited senior positions at the top.

But PMETs will not wait indefinitely for senior white-collar positions to emerge while their savings deplete, especially if they have a family to support.

Desperation will cause many to grab the first opening that comes along - often a job for which they are overqualified.

In fact, among the out-of-work PMETs who managed to re-enter the workforce, most found new jobs that were not commensurate with their paper qualifications, skill levels and last-drawn salaries.

However, with the ever-increasing number of young university graduates rising up the ladder and possessing skills and abilities that are in sync with the way business is done today, displaced older workers may not be able to return to their previous peak.

Often, the only route available for them is to switch careers by picking up new skills in an industry with brighter prospects.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock