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Redesigning jobs to suit older workers

Technician Mohsin Khan, 73, has been working at Aerospace Component Engineering Services (Aces) for 10 years. The firm redesigned his job in November 2015 so he could continue to perform at work.
Technician Mohsin Khan, 73, has been working at Aerospace Component Engineering Services (Aces) for 10 years. The firm redesigned his job in November 2015 so he could continue to perform at work.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

Brought to you by the Ministry of Manpower

Age will not slow technician Mohsin Khan down, despite his weakening eyesight and hand-eye coordination.

Mr Mohsin, 73, has been working at Aerospace Component Engineering Services (Aces) for 10 years, and is the poster boy for career longevity.

He says: "Since I first joined the firm when I was 62, I've been involved with the disassembly, inspection, repair and assembly of aircraft hydraulic components."

He also embosses serial numbers onto metal plates that are later installed onto commercial aircraft components for identification and tracing requirements.

Aces fully understood how he was an asset to the firm on top of his tenacity, as he had more than 40 years of experience in the aviation industry.

It began studying Mr Mohsin's pains and difficulties - he says he started using reading glasses in his mid-50s - that threatened to hold him back, and Aces started redesigning his job in November 2015 so he could continue to perform.

  • CHANGES TO RE-EMPLOYMENT LAW

    • The Ministry of Manpower raised the re-employment age from 65 to 67 from July 1 this year.

    • The new re-employment age of 67 applies to locals who turn 65 on or after July 1 this year.

    • Eligible employees can be re-employed by another employer, provided it is done with the older employee's consent and the second employer agreeing to take over all applicable re-employment obligations.

    • If either condition is not met, the original employer still has to fulfil its re-employment obligations, such as offering an Employment Assistance Payment if the employer cannot find a job in its organisation for the older employee.

    • Employees who are 60 or older can keep their existing salaries without having their wages cut by up to 10 per cent as before.

    JOB REDESIGN GRANT

    WHAT IT IS: Provides companies funding support to create physically easier, safer and smarter jobs for older workers aged 50 years and above.

    Job Redesign projects can be funded at up to 80 per cent of the project cost or up to $20,000 per older worker, whichever is lower.

    FUNDING AMOUNT: Up to $300,000 per company (multiple applications allowed).

Aces general manager Brian Hunter says it took about three months to redesign Mr Mohsin's job.

It introduced the use of laser to engrave what is called 2D dot-matrix codes on blank plates, and "found that the work would be suitable for him due to the large font sizes on the computer screen and the ease of operating the machine".

Mr Hunter adds: "Previously, embossing of data plates with minute font sizes was undertaken by technicians with good eyesight.

"With the new laser-engraving machine, he is now able to perform the task again, giving him a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction."

Mr Mohsin says his work process has improved by leaps and bounds, as he can check serial numbers on a big computer screen first, which allows him to eliminate any mistakes before he starts engraving onto metal plates.

The time it takes to set up the equipment and processes has also been cut by about 25 per cent, compared with older methods of manual embossing work.

Aces says the job redesign has helped to improve productivity and was the first initiative that focused on the needs of mature employees. It has at least 10 workers who are older than 50, out of 47 employees.

Redesigning and enhancing jobs and their processes are part of its "continuous improvement initiatives", adds Mr Hunter.

Aces also tapped Workforce Singapore's WorkPro Job Redesign Grant, which helps reduce costs while companies create physically easier, safer and smarter jobs for workers who are 50 years and older.

A firm can get up to $300,000 under the job redesign grant.

The Ministry of Manpower notes that more than 200 companies have made use of the Job Redesign Grant, and almost 4,000 older workers aged 50 and older should benefit from job redesign efforts.

The aim is also to produce age-friendly workplaces, which in turn aim to promote re-employment and encourage Singapore's growing pool of older workers to continue to contribute to the workforce, as long as they are healthy and able to.

Aces says the job redesign has helped to improve productivity and was the first initiative that focused on the needs of mature employees. It has at least 10 workers who are older than 50, out of 47 employees.

This will help Singapore's ageing workforce and manpower woes as older workers can still contribute greatly with their years of experience. The re-employment age has been raised from 65 to 67 years since July 1.

As Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan said earlier this year: "We also have to make sure that workplaces are age-friendly, so that older workers will be able to remain productive and in turn help companies to remain competitive."

Aces agrees with the need to invest in older workers, which is why it continues to look at job redesigning.

Mr Hunter says: "Standard processes are the easiest to redesign, while those processes requiring equipment and processes specified by the manufacturer to meet airworthiness requirements and regulations are the hardest."

Mr Mohsin appreciates how his job has been redesigned and how it has not been difficult to adapt to, allowing him to enjoy his work more and for as long as he can perform at work.

He says: "Tasks for work are essentially similar - what I am learning on a consistent basis are troubleshooting new problems faced with existing components as well as learning new components."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 13, 2017, with the headline 'Redesigning jobs to suit older workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe