New scheme to help stay-at-home mums relaunch their careers

Career Navigators launched its Career Re:Launch programme for female PMETs who have not been working for at least two years.
Career Navigators launched its Career Re:Launch programme for female PMETs who have not been working for at least two years.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A second organisation will link employers to the Manpower Ministry's new grant for companies offering "returnship" programmes, and it aims to help women who took a career break adjust back to the workforce.

Career Navigators, an arm of social enterprise Mums@Work, on Wednesday (Aug 16) launched its Career Re:Launch programme for female professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) who have not been working for at least two years.

It comes several weeks after the National Trades Union Congress' U Family Unit last month announced its Returners Programme, which will also administer the grant. That scheme provides partial government funding for training allowances for new hires.

Participants in the Career Re:Launch programme apply for jobs in companies on a trial basis. Before they start work, they will attend short training modules on business and technology to update their knowledge and skills.

They will also be paired with a mentor from the team they will be joining, typically a younger person, so that they can exchange ideas and perspectives.

This is on top of on-the-job training by employers over the work-trial period of at least 12 weeks.

During the programme, employers pay staff a monthly training allowance of at least $2,500. 

They can apply for a Government grant for $1,500 of this amount for up to six months.

 

Employers who retain new staff for at least three consecutive months after the work trial will receive a one-off retention bonus of $3,000 from the Government. This will be given nine months after the start of the work trial.

A survey released by recruitment firm Robert Walters earlier this year found that 72 per cent of the women surveyed in Singapore have taken a career break at some point in their lives.

Mums@Work founder Sher-Li Torrey said such women may find it hard to find a new job later on, as their knowledge may be seen as less relevant, even though they have much to offer.

"These women often get drowned out by the currently-working group when it comes to getting headhunters' or recruiters' attention. But they just need a couple of months and some training to come back on board," she told The Straits Times.

"Employers can also learn the structure of our programme and use it to hire and reintegrate anybody, like people who went on a sabbatical," she added.

The first two runs of the programme will start in October and next January, with a target of 12 positions a run. Individuals and employers interested to participate can visit www.careerrelaunchprogramme.com for more details. The programme is open to Singaporeans aged 30 and above who have at least a diploma qualification. Applications open on Aug 21.

About 130 women learnt about the scheme on Wednesday, at a career fair organised by Career Navigators at The Working Capitol in Keong Saik Road. Participating companies included Mastercard, Airbnb and PwC.

One of those who attended was Mrs Belinda Houghton, 42, who took a career break four years ago when her second son was born and her family moved back to Singapore.

Before that, she worked in banking in Australia and the United Kingdom for 15 years. She now hopes to return to the industry, and said it is a "confidence booster" to know employers are offering opportunities under the new scheme.

"I've always had a deep passion for banking - the number crunching and the corporate and social interaction," she said.

"We, mums, may have put our talent on hold for a short while but we haven't lost it. We just need to press 'restart' and go."

Ms Vicky Windsor, global diversity and inclusion programme manager at software company SAP, said during a panel discussion at the event that companies benefit from returnship programmes by adding skills and diversity to their workforce, and by building their brand.

SAP started a returnship programme last year and has hired six people in Singapore through the programme so far. The participants are given six-month project-based assignments.

Two have been offered full-time roles, while the other four are still completing their projects.

Ms Windsor, who is one of the six, also said: "Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is key to being a great place to work. It fuels innovation and helps us better understand the diverse base of customers we have."

Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, we said that Mums@Work will be administering the Government grant for returnship programmes. MOM has since clarified that Mums@Work will not administer the grant, but will manage applications to NTUC for the grant on behalf of companies in the Career Re:Launch programme.