Nearly 100 job-seeking professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) have joined the labour movement's peer-support programme to help them navigate the challenges of being unemployed.
Giving an update yesterday on the Career Activation Programme, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said that it also has 30 volunteer "career activists" - who lend an ear and help the PMEs identify obstacles and opportunities, up from three when it started a year ago.
About a quarter of the participants have since found work.
Mr Tay also said the average age of those joining the free programme is 48, as PMEs over 40 tend to take longer to find employment after losing a job.
"We are seeing an increasing number of retrenchments, particularly affecting professionals, managers and executives," said Mr Tay, who expects the trend to continue this year in foreign financial institutions and the oil and gas, offshore and marine and retail industries. Beyond the schemes, structures and funding that are already in place, this provides the softer elements in terms of psychological well-being and networks, which are lacking and much needed for our fellow PMEs."
To enhance the programme, run by social enterprise GioCareers and NTUC's PME unit, an online forum, a workshop on career-life planning, and continued support after participants find jobs will be added.
Mr Tay, who heads the PME unit, said the programme can take in triple the number of participants in the coming years if needed. Volunteers - PMEs who have been through job hunts themselves - will also go through training and certification at the NTUC Learning Hub to improve their skills in listening and coaching.
Mr Chong Kum Hong, 54, a participant-turned volunteer, spent around six months searching for a job after leaving a relationship management position. Some interviewers told him he was overqualified.
"Coming into the programme we know we're not alone," said Mr Chong, now a community director at GioCareers. "Instead of being worried and turning negative, by being positive we can attract positive information and networks."