NTUC trying out 'returnship' programme to help PMETs rejoin the workforce

Older and low-wage workers undergoing an employability course at the NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute.
Older and low-wage workers undergoing an employability course at the NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Mothers and other professionals who took a break from the workforce can look forward to getting more help to restart their careers.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is trying out what it calls a Returners Programme to match economically inactive professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) with companies offering paid job trials.

These trials will lead to a permanent position if both parties agree, labour MP Desmond Choo said in a Facebook post on Thursday (July 13), in which he called on employers to join the initiative.

The out-of-work PMETs are a "latent talent pool" who may have years of experience from their former careers, he said.

"Additionally, they have also gained newfound perspectives and strengths - such as resourcefulness, resilience and heightened multi-tasking abilities - during the time they spent on personal commitments," he said.

Mr Choo, who is NTUC's spokesman on women and family matters, added that employers may need support to implement workplace practices and schemes to attract and retain the new hires. He said he hopes the Manpower Ministry, which NTUC is in discussions with, will give funding support to employers who offer permanent positions to those who successfully complete the job trials.

Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo also voiced support for the programme in a Facebook post yesterday, adding that her ministry is looking into supporting companies which offer job sharing opportunities.

The wage support provided to employers by the Returners Programme helps them take a bit of risk to try out someone who had been out of the workforce for a while, she said, adding: "If the programme works out, they gain a valuable staff with good work experience."

The Straits Times understands that NTUC's U Family unit has been approaching employers for the pilot run of the programme since early this year, after the labour movement mooted the idea in its recommendations for this year's Budget. It also holds networking sessions for PMETs and potential employers.

NTUC did not provide the number of PMETs and employers involved in the pilot run.

In her post, Mrs Teo listed some of the feedback gathered at a focus group discussion she attended with 12 parents on Wednesday evening, which she said was consistent with findings from the latest Marriage and Parenthood Survey.

For example, she said, most parents who stayed home were keen to return to work when their kids were older. Those who were previously professionals recognised that they needed to brush up on their skills.

Both men and women hoped their employers would offer some form of flexible work arrangement when they returned to work.

Mrs Teo also said the government, employers and NTUC are planning to launch tripartite standards on flexible work arrangements for employers to follow voluntarily. This will help jobseekers identify good employers that offer progressive workplace practices. Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say had said in the debate on the ministry's budget that the first series of tripartite standards will be launched by the end of this year.

"We hope to drum up companies' support for working parents and make inclusive workplaces a norm in Singapore," said Mrs Teo, who ended her post by inviting members of the public to give their feedback on the measures.