Three-day career fair aims to get older PMEs job-ready

(From left) WDA deputy director of the career services division Ng May May, NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay, SNEF assistant executive director Stephen Yee and HR entrepreneur Adrian Tan (out of picture) speaking at the PME Learning and N
(From left) WDA deputy director of the career services division Ng May May, NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay, SNEF assistant executive director Stephen Yee and HR entrepreneur Adrian Tan (out of picture) speaking at the PME Learning and Networking Fair on Oct 7, 2015.ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

SINGAPORE - A career fair to whip older professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) into shape for their job hunt kicked off on Wednesday.

The PME Learning and Networking Fair, a collaboration between the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), helps PMEs to find jobs, brush up on skills and build industry contacts.

It is the first time these three groups have pooled resources to target mature PME jobseekers.

The three-day programme started on Wednesday at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar and will continue on Oct 16 and 17. It encompasses workshops, industry talks and networking sessions.

About 1,200 mature PMEs are expected to attend over the three days, vying for about 150 executive or managerial positions with salaries of between $3,000 and $10,000 offered by 35 employers.

Employers who are offering job opportunities at the event include Google, DBS Bank, and Singapore Island Country Club.

Jobseekers, who can attend the events for free, have their pick of more than 30 workshops which range from dealing with multi-generational workplaces to how to make use of e-learning platforms.

Participants will be able to make use of government schemes such as the Career Support Programme (CSP), under which employers giving mid-level jobs with monthly salaries of at least $4,000 to mature workers who have been looking for jobs for at least six months can get wage support, and the Private Placement Provider Programme (PPP), a WDA collaboration with private search and placement firms.

Both schemes were implemented last Thursday (Oct 1), but the CSP has produced at least one success story so far. Ms Judith Chew, 50, spent half a year searching for a job in adult education, and finally landed a role as head of learning services at continuous education institute Wong Fong Academy, which she will start next week.

Wong Fong director Mr Sim Khee Lian said that without the CSP, there would have been "many financial hurdles" to overcome in hiring Ms Chew. "Budget is a major issue with us as an SME.

He added: "It would have been very different from hiring a younger person at a lower salary, because of the level of experience she has. Whatever we need her to do, she is already able to do it. In fact, we found ourselves rewriting the jobscope while talking to her because we realised we could use her in a much higher role."

NTUC assistant secretary-general Mr Patrick Tay, a panellist at Wednesday's keynote seminar, mature PMEs are a "vulnerable group" when it comes to re-entering the workforce. He said: "The population of PMEs is growing rapidly, and at the same time we have an ageing workforce, so it is imperative we ensure this group remains employed and employable." He added that he hoped the tripartite event could become an annual affair.

For participant Mr Stephen de Souza, Wednesday's event is just the latest in a long string of career events he has tried during his year-long job hunt.

The 52-year-old, who was laid off three years ago from his role as a division manager in the medical industry, said he feels his age has been a dealbreaker for potential employers. "They just look at my IC number and I don't get the offer. But the moment you give up, there's no hope. So however bleak it looks, you must keep trying."

oliviaho@sph.com.sg