New online jobs marketplace 'needs to draw employers'

Observers suggest ways for it to entice bosses to list jobs, instead of using private portals

To truly succeed in tackling local unemployment, a new government-run online jobs marketplace will need to attract employers to list their jobs, said observers yesterday.

This means the new "one-stop and non-stop" platform that Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say announced in Parliament on Monday must differentiate itself from existing online jobs portals, they added.

To do so, they suggested, the marketplace can look at providing more services, such as verifying the qualifications of job applicants.

It can also use big data to forecast job trends and prepare workers for future jobs. National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said: "The best would be if the Manpower Ministry could aggregate everything into one space and get everyone on board."

The jobs marketplace will be a revamped version of the National Jobs Bank, a free national jobs portal set up in 2014 as part of the Fair Consideration Framework.

Employers must first post vacancies for jobs with a monthly salary of below $12,000 on Jobs Bank for at least 14 days, before they can apply for employment passes for foreign workers to fill the openings.

In its new form, the marketplace aims to be a tool for not just jobseekers, but even workers who are employed in industries under threat, Mr Lim had said. He did not reveal when it would be launched, but said it would make use of the skills frameworks being introduced for various industries that map out how workers can build up their skills and move up the career ladder.

Human-resource experts said the marketplace will have to "add value" to draw employers away from private job portals.

Mr Kannan Chettiar, managing director of recruitment and screening firm Avvanz, said helping to verify job applicants' qualifications would give it an edge and make it "a real magnet for employers".

As for benefiting workers, NeXT Career Consulting Group managing director Paul Heng said employers should be obliged to list jobs on the marketplace at least six weeks before opening them to foreigners.

He added that the new platform would need a "more robust search engine", saying he has previously struggled with navigating the listings on Jobs Bank.

Mr David Leong, managing director of recruitment company PeopleWorldwide, said the new marketplace should put together consolidated profiles for workers that reflect when they have gone for skills upgrading."The system could then use data analytics to see what kind of jobs you should trend towards, and make recommendations," he said.

Mr Lim told Parliament on Monday that to date, about 180,000 people have used Jobs Bank, which has about 25,700 employers registered and gets some 7,000 job applications daily. Its website had more than 65,000 vacancies as of last night. Major recruitment site JobStreet.com showed around 49,320.

NTUC's Mr Tay said data gathered from the new marketplace could even be used for predictive forecasting.What would set the new marketplace apart is a focus on "jobs that morph due to technology, or jobs that you and I don't even know exist yet", he said.

For a start, the new marketplace had hosted a virtual career fair last month, with 51 employers offering 500 vacancies in sectors such as biomedical science and aerospace.

But jobseeker Tay Siew Hoon, 58, found the jobs on offer at the fair "too specific and high-skilled". The counter service officer has been looking for work for two years, and hoped it would also list jobs suitable for middle-aged workers who may not have high qualifications.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'New online jobs marketplace 'needs to draw employers''. Print Edition | Subscribe