Peer support for jobless PMEs

Older professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who lose their jobs may face a long and arduous job hunt, but they will now be able to receive advice from others who have been through the process and come out on top.

A career activation programme aims to form a peer support community of job-seekers and volunteers, with monthly group sessions and ongoing personal contact.

The initiative by social enterprise GioCareers and the PME Unit at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) was announced yesterday by the unit's director and labour MP Patrick Tay, who said: "We hope the peer support will help reduce stress from social isolation and may help them benefit from a larger social network."

Speaking at NTUC Centre, he said of the over 633,000 resident PMEs in Singapore, some 2.6 per cent were unemployed last year, up from 2.4 per cent in 2013.

A total of 19 PMEs and fewer than 10 volunteers have joined the free programme so far. Two pilot sessions were held in June and July.

The volunteers are trained in soft skills like empathy, and are able to alert participants to potential job opportunities and career resources available at NTUC, said GioCareers chief executive Hector Lin.

Training consultant Casey Poon, 49, is a volunteer who understands what job-seekers are going through. The former businessman was 29 years old when he nearly became bankrupt after his import-export venture tanked during the Asian financial crisis.

He suffered from depression and contemplated suicide, but was able to start a career in printing. After rising through the ranks to become a sales director, he quit at 40 and switched to the training industry.

"Back then, I struggled on my own. I think the more people know about the help available the better," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2015, with the headline 'Peer support for jobless PMEs'. Print Edition | Subscribe