On Monday (2 November), Singapore's Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo responded to a series of questions raised by Members of Parliament (MP), on the topics of support for mature retrenched workers, help for different groups of workers in today's economic conditions, and more. 

First, in a written response, Minister Teo tackled MP Rachel Ong's question on support provided for mature retrenched workers

To this, Minister Teo highlighted that employers who employ at least 10 employees are required to notify the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) if five or more of their employees are retrenched within any 6-month period. Following this, the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation, which comprises representatives from the MOM, Workforce Singapore (WSG), NTUC, and e2i will "proactively" reach out to the affected local workers to offer them employment assistance. 

For instance, the Taskforce provides these workers with information kits on career resources as well as briefings on available employment facilitation. At the same time, there are also career coaches from WSG and e2i who offer career advice and one-on-one coaching to help them transit to new opportunities.

In addition to the above, MP Rachel Ong also asked about additional support for mature workers who may not be internet-savvy or English-literate. In response, Minister Teo noted that there are collaterals available in various languages across the career centres, such as WSG's Career Connect and the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres.

She added: "Career ambassadors and career coaches conversant in vernacular languages or dialects are also on hand to share available information and resources to assist jobseekers.

"The Taskforce, with the support of the Ministry, is committed to helping every retrenched jobseeker access available jobs, traineeships, attachments and training opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package."

In a separate, oral response in Parliament yesterday, Minister Teo also responsed to a few questions on helping different groups of workers today - including low-wage workers, senior workers, and aerospace, aviation and hospitality students graduating in 2021.

In response to these concerns, she said: "The Government is providing substantial employment support to help Singaporeans stay in work, such as through the Jobs Support Scheme and programmes to help them be re-skilled and redeployed to new roles.

Through the National Jobs Council, we have curated about 117,500 jobs and skills opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, to help local jobseekers acquire new skills to move into new careers or sectors. Around 33,100 jobseekers have been placed thus far, and the efforts are continuing. In this period of weakness in the job market, these efforts have been a very useful supplement to the normal recruitment activities that take place on their own."

She then went on to tackle the first question by MP Joan Pereira, who asked whether more personalised support could be given to jobseekers, especially low-wage workers. To this, Minister Teo highlighted the availability of "readily-accesible" touchpoints in all HDB towns, where jobseekers are provided with basic career advisory and job assistance in their first visit. 

Here, jobseekers may also be assessed to require more intensive support before they are ready to start their job search, or may request for more support even if they are assessed to be ready. 

"Our career coaches provide tailored support to the jobseekers, which may include referring them to supplementary programmes, such as motivational or interview training workshops. At an appropriate time, career coaches will help match them to suitable opportunities. This process takes longer for some jobseekers than others."

Post-placement, the career coaches will also conduct check-ins to ensure that they have been settling well into their new workplaces. 

Next, MP Sharael Taha asked for the number of senior workers who have benefitted from the WorkPro Job Redesign Grant (JRG). According to Minister Teo, since the scheme enhancement in July 2016 and up till the grant closure in March 2020, over 2,500 companies and 24,000 senior workers have benefitted from the JRG. 

Further, she noted that with employers today having a "better appreciation of job redesign" in creating more inclusive workplaces, the government has discontinued WorkPro JRG.

However, the Minister stressed noted: "This does not mean there is no longer a need for job re-design, only that it can be equally well-supported through the Enterprise Development Grant and Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG). In fact, the PSG will be further expanded later this year to support job redesign consultancy services, on top of companies’ own job redesign efforts.

"Whether through the JRG or other programmes, the government will provide a higher level of support to employers of seniors to help such workers stay in work."

For example, she noted, there is the recently-announced Jobs Growth Incentive which provides employers of new hires aged 40 and above double the wage support given for other new local hires.The government will underwrite 50% of their salaries, up to the first S$5,000, for 12 months. This comes on top of the Special Employment Credit for workers aged 55 and above.

"Where seniors need skills top-ups to be recruited or retraining to support business transformation, the level of funding is generally higher. Employers that formalise a higher retirement age or part-time re-employment in their HR policies can also enjoy grant support."

Last, MP Desmond Choo raised a question on initiatives being taken to prepare students majoring in aerospace-, aviation- and hospitality-related disciplines who are graduating in 2021. In response, Minister Teo said there will be the MOE Graduate Employment Survey for graduates in 2020, which will be published in Q1 2021, to give "some indication as to the prospects for the cohort graduating in 2021."

In the meantime, she added, the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) have started comprehensive career guidance and assistance programmes to prepare students who are graduating next year.

"In particular, they will get help to navigate adjacent career opportunities. We are organising career fairs that feature job openings in adjacent sectors which will make good use of the graduates’ education and skills.

"The IHLs are also introducing new electives for students to equip them with emerging cross-sector skills such as data analytics and visualisation, programming as well as digital marketing – skills which are generally sought after,"

Apart from this, the Minister further noted that as a pre-emptive move to supplement job availability, the SGUnited Traineeships Programme was introduced and has since curated more than 21,000 traineeship places from about 3,300 host organisations.

"In general, employers are open to accepting good candidates across a range of disciplines. Candidates will also have better opportunities if they are open to trying out positions outside of the disciplines they are trained in, or look beyond positions that many applicants have focused on. We will continue to watch the situation closely and adjust the programme accordingly."

Photo / 123RF

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