Even before the end of her six-month sentence for drug-related offences, Ms Ramona Rahman, 28, began her job search.
With minimal prior job experience, the Secondary 3 dropout was worried that she would not be able to adapt to the fast-paced food and beverage industry with its long shift hours.
But with the help of a pilot programme to boost job retention for former offenders, she received assistance from her employer Wingstop Singapore and her job coach from the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score) to adjust to working life.
On top of a structured orientation programme to prepare her for the job, her supervisors from the fast-food chain's VivoCity outlet allowed her to work from 9am to 5pm as Ms Ramona is a single mother of three children aged four, seven and 10.
Her story was cited by Manpower Minister and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo at the annual Singapore Prison Service-Score Corporate Advance event yesterday. "Her supervisors' actions and empathy towards her needs have motivated her to put in her best effort at work. So today, after more than three months on the job, Ramona is confident and able to carry out her duties independently," said Mrs Teo.
The Career Trial programme is a collaboration between Score and Workforce Singapore to improve job matching and retention for former offenders.
Since it began last November, 41 former offenders and 31 employers have taken part in the pilot programme, with seven former offenders, including Ms Ramona, being offered permanent employment at the end of their stint. The rest are still on the programme, according to Score.
During the short-term work stint, former offenders have to fulfil between 16 and 480 hours of work. They are paid between $7.50 and $15 an hour. At the end of the stint, employers will assess their job suitability before offering permanent employment with a monthly salary of $1,500 or more.
Under the programme, a job retention incentive of $1,500 is also given to former offenders who stay on in the job for at least six months.
To help with job retention, Score assigns a job coach to each of the former offenders for up to 12 months after their release.
These coaches work closely with them at their workplaces to provide support and advice, as well as with their employers and supervisors to resolve work-related issues.
To provide a wider range of job opportunities for former offenders, more employers are urged to join the programme, said Mr Huzair Hyder, Score's assistant director (placement) of the reintegration division.
He added: "They have served their time and undergone training to improve their employability. With self-determination, gainful employment and strong community support, they can lead crime-free lives and contribute actively to society."