PMETs urged to join unions, stay updated on tech front

NTUC innovating to better help white-collar workers over 40 years old remain employable, says labour chief

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has been nudging white-collar workers to stay updated on the technology front, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng yesterday as he urged more professionals to become union leaders.

Mr Ng told a dialogue with around 200 participants from various walks of life that NTUC has been innovating to better help professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) who are over 40 years old.

This group had been very confident in their 20s and 30s about carving out their careers, but the world has changed since then, said Mr Ng.

"PMETs are the new working class of Singapore, wouldn't you agree? And, in 10 years, it will be even more so," he said in response to concerns raised by participants about the employability of older workers.

He urged PMETs to join unions, which have been devising ways to represent their needs better. "We are bringing in more PMETs... We want to actually be in this space to represent the new working class in Singapore. It's a long journey, but we are taking the first steps."

Another aim is to have PMETs who are now in their 30s to think about what they need in their 40s and to pick up the relevant skill sets accordingly.

"Having somebody institutionally alongside to actually nudge you to go into IT, get ourselves updated on the technologies, is all very important," Mr Ng added at the event organised by national feedback and engagement unit Reach.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development, said more needs to be done to help older PMETs - a group that has been growing.

"Our profiles are changing. So we need to also assess and decide how we want to help these groups," he said, urging participants to think about how PMETs can band together to find ways to design employment and training programmes and to work with unions.

Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development and Home Affairs, emphasised the importance of job seekers maintaining a healthy attitude.

She also urged older workers who are looking to upgrade themselves to deepen their existing skill sets. They can pick up skills to digitalise what they now do, for instance.

They can also refer to industry transformation maps for suggestions on the skills that will be useful for their careers.

Ms Sun drew on her experience in hiring workers, saying: "Not only are employers looking at... what skills you have, they are also looking at attitudes, mindsets.

"When (interviewees) exhibit a lot of negativity, you can actually feel it... We are all human, we pick up on these things.

"I know it's an extremely stressful and challenging time for everyone. All I'm suggesting is, let's see how each and every one of us can best manage these stressors and try to turn them into positive, constructive energy because it can be helpful in your job search."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2020, with the headline PMETs urged to join unions, stay updated on tech front. Subscribe