Saturday 15 July 2017

NTUC Returners Programme: Help for PMETs who return to work after career break

NTUC to match 'latent talent pool' with firms offering job trials
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2017

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 yesterday, calling 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, 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 on Facebook, saying her ministry is looking into supporting companies which offer job-sharing opportunities.

The Straits Times understands NTUC's U Family unit has been approaching employers for the pilot run of the scheme 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. Most parents who stayed home were keen to return to work when their children were older, and those who were professionals recognised they needed to brush up on their skills. Both men and women also hoped employers would offer some form of flexible work arrangement when they returned to work.

The ministry also plans to launch tripartite standards on flexible work arrangements to help jobseekers identify good employers with progressive practices.

"We hope to drum up companies' support for working parents and make inclusive workplaces a norm in Singapore," said Mrs Teo, who invited members of the public to give their views.

Parenting blogger Liang May, 35, a stay-at-home mum who used to work in the hotel industry, hopes "returnships" will help her in future.

She hopes to rejoin the corporate world when her two children, now aged three and five, are in upper primary, and worries that her age then and long period out of the industry may hamper her chances.

She said of the scheme: "It gives the employers an incentive to see how much we can add value, and gives me a chance to prove myself."

NTUC U Family’s Returner Work Trial: New grant to help PMETs get back into workforce

By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2017

Professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) who have been out of the workforce for at least two years will get a boost, as employers who train them can now tap a new grant.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) U Family unit launched a work trial scheme yesterday, which will start accepting applications from Sept 1.

Under the scheme, job seekers - whom NTUC calls "returners" - can try working at a company for up to six months. During this trial period, the employer must train the worker and pay them a monthly training allowance of at least $2,500.

Statutory board Workforce Singapore will give employers a grant of $1,500 a month to subsidise this amount.

If the trial works out well, employers are encouraged to place the new staff in a permanent position or contract position of at least 12 months.

Employers who retain staff under the programme for at least three consecutive months after the work trial will receive a one-off retention bonus of $3,000 from the Government. The bonus will be given to the employer nine months after the start of the work trial.

Labour MP Desmond Choo, who is NTUC's spokesman for women and family issues, said such schemes are important as PMETs now make up the majority of the workforce and bear the brunt of retrenchments.

He told reporters at a career fair where the scheme was announced that NTUC will pick employers carefully, and favour those in growth industries. Employers must have a track record of good human resource practices, and provide a structured programme to help new workers pick up skills, he added.

This will ensure that the worker can pad up his resume even if he parts ways with the employer after the trial, Mr Choo said.

There were no figures available on the number of PMETs out of work for at least two years.

Singaporeans who are aged 30 and above and have at least a diploma qualification, or were previously in a PMET role, can apply for the work trial scheme from Sept 1 by contacting the NTUC U Family unit at

There are 22 employers from industries like IT and hospitality on board so far offering 80 positions.

IT services company Xcellink is offering seven positions, including business development account director and recruitment consultant.

Mr Mohamad Azhar Ramalan, Xcellink's executive director for business operations, said that while someone who stopped work for a long period may not have up-to- date knowledge, training can help to address that.

"The trial period can also help them gauge whether they are ready to come back and juggle family life with corporate life," he said.

Madam Ang Seoh Choon, 46, left her sales job in an IT multinational 17 years ago to start a family.

She continued to pick up new skills like traditional Chinese medicine, but could not land a job when she tried to restart her career last year despite applying to several different industries.

"I am trying to get myself out in the job market again, if not it might be harder in the future," she said. "I hope that through the work trial, I can show employers that I can still learn a new skill."

* New scheme to help stay-at-home mums relaunch their careers

By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 17 Aug 2017

A second organisation will administer the Manpower Ministry's new grant for companies offering "returnship" programmes, and it aims to help women who took a career break adjust back to the workforce.

Career Navigators, an arm of social enterprise Mums@Work, yesterday started its Career Re:Launch Programme for female professionals, managers, executives and technicians who have not been working for at least two years.

It comes several weeks after the National Trades Union Congress' U Family Unit last month announced its Returners Programme, which will also administer the grant.

Both schemes provide partial government funding for training allowances for new hires.

Participants in Career Re:Launch apply for jobs in companies on a trial basis. Before they start work, they will attend short training modules on business and technology to update their knowledge and skills.

They will also be paired with a younger mentor from the team they are joining, so that they can exchange ideas and perspectives.

This is on top of on-the-job training by employers over the work-trial period of at least 12 weeks. During the programme, employers pay staff a monthly training allowance of at least $2,500.

The Government will sponsor $1,500 of this amount for up to six months.

Employers who retain new staff for at least three months after the work trial will get a one-off $3,000 retention bonus from the Government. It will be given nine months after the start of the work trial.

A poll released by recruitment firm Robert Walters earlier this year found that 72 per cent of the women surveyed in Singapore have taken a career break at some point in their lives.

Mums@Work founder Sher-Li Torrey said such women "often get drowned out by the currently working group when it comes to getting headhunters' or recruiters' attention". "But they just need a couple of months and some training to come back on board," she said, adding that they bring valuable skills and diversity to companies.

The programme's first two runs start in October and next January, with a target of 12 places per run. It is open to Singaporeans aged 30 and above who have at least a diploma qualification.

Individuals and employers interested can visit for more details. Applications open next Monday.

Yesterday, about 130 women learnt about the scheme at a career fair held by Career Navigators at The Working Capitol in Keong Saik Road. Employers present included Mastercard, Airbnb and PwC.

One mum keen to join the programme is Ms Cassandra Nadira Lee, 43, a former marketer who left her job 10 years ago as her husband was posted overseas.

She completed a coaching certification last year and hopes to land a learning and development role now that her two sons are in school.

"I'm quite excited to work with younger people through the reverse mentorship, and see what can be created by inserting an older person like myself into the new work environment," she said.

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