17 July 2014

A relationship built on mutual respect and shared responsibility

17 July 2014

“The company wants to train me in quantitative research, but I already have a post-graduate degree and I don’t feel like going for such training. I just want an admin job that requires a degree.”

“I don’t have time to look for jobs, because I am busy with my present work. But I want a better job and I expect WDA to find one and secure it for me.”

“WDA must have the direct links to companies, connecting me to the job that I want!”

It might be hard to imagine, but these are some of the real comments from job seekers that our career coaches at the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) come across when providing employment help.

While Singapore’s unemployment has generally remained low, the reality is that we will never have zero unemployment. We know that behind every unemployment number is a person with family members who count on them. It is, and has always been, our priority to help job seekers upgrade their skills so that they can secure good jobs and build a better home for themselves and their loved ones. 

In my course of work at MOM and in my constituency, I have met various people who needed help with getting jobs, skills retraining and even basic job searches. Quite a number had no idea how to rejoin the workforce after having been away for so long, or how to keep their skills current given the rapidly changing economy.

We encourage people in need of career help to go to the WDA’s career centres or CaliberLink, which together handled more than 26,000 cases in 2013 alone. E2i also provides similar support. These centres provide career and training services through help with job matching, skills workshops, recruitment events and networking programmes, among others. They also have career coaches on hand to provide customised advice to every individual. This is part of our commitment to support Singaporeans from all walks of life with their personal careers and aspirations.

Getting a successful job placement is not a walk in the park.  Generally, most individuals we see are cooperative and willing to work with us to improve their employability and get good jobs. However, some are unreasonable, make ridiculous demands and sometimes verbally abuse our career coaches. 

Let me share with you the story of Job Seeker A. This individual demanded a salary more than twice what potential employers were willing to offer for the level of skills he had. He placed the responsibility of his job placement solely on his career coach, and was unwilling to make any personal effort to upskill. In spite of this, our career coach went through great lengths to find him over 40 job referrals. He rejected all these offers, and instead vented his frustrations on the career coach and accused WDA of neglecting his situation.

Another individual, B, shirked her own personal responsibility in her job search as well. She constantly threatened to complain to the Prime Minister’s Office and the media about how unhelpful WDA was. When a career coach helped her improve her resume, she complained that the career coach had been careless and missed out vital information. When we looked into her claims, we found out that she had not checked the final resume. To top it off, she demanded that WDA give her a specific computer model to facilitate her job search, instead of using the computers at our career centre or at the library!

Thankfully, there are many more positive cases of responsible job seekers who worked hand-in-hand with our passionate officers at the career centres who take personal ownership over their careers.

One great example is Hamid, who approached the South East Career Centre to find a job in the security sector, as he wanted a more stable career after his daughter was born. Andrew Er, his career coach, worked through his needs and identified suitable course modules for him to obtain the skills he needed. It was a challenge for Hamid to undergo classroom training 25 years after leaving school, but he overcame his fears, graduated and secured his dream job. Since then, he has been promoted to an Operations Manager, leading a team of officers. In fact, he recently won the Public Service 21 Star Customer Award, presented to civic-minded members of the public who contribute significantly to our communities. 

Andrew Er, a WDA career coach, providing assistance to a job seeker.

Our career coaches get a great sense of fulfilment too when they are able to help the job-seekers. As Andrew shared with me earlier, “There are good days and there are tough days too. But this is what makes the work very real and what is important is that we are able to play a part in helping them improve their well-being.”

It is inevitable that frontline officers like our career coaches in WDA and CaliberLink may encounter clients who make unreasonable or irrational demands in the course of their work. The good thing is that these cases do not form the majority of those who approach the centres for assistance with upgrading of job opportunities. Most are appreciative, and many also come back to visit their career coaches, whether to look for more opportunities again, or just to share their success stories or career outcomes.

We will continue to do our best for all Singaporeans who need help, and I hope that our officers will be treated with respect and understanding, the same way job-seekers will wish to be treated as well. 

It takes two hands to clap, and building a relationship with mutual respect and shared responsibility will go a long way in building a constructive partnership between job-seekers and career coaches. I am grateful for the work of our people at the career centres, and encourage them to continue making a difference to the lives and careers of every Singaporean!

Manpower Minister
Tan Chuan-Jin
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