Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Sunday January 27th 2019

Reader: Too Much Red Tape in Government Jobs and Funded Courses

Dear Gilbert,

Like  many other unemployed Singaporeans, I’ve been looking for jobs in vain since the past five  months after been asked to go from my last employer due to  ‘FT is cheaper than me’  and organizational  restructuring.

I’m been trying to stay positive and holding on to the determination to do job hunting daily and trying hard to stay  away from frustration, disappointment, anxiety and depression. As each day passes,  I’m becoming less positive and confident  to get back to the workforce.

I have sent numerous  resumes out. I’ve even lowered my expectation and applied  for  less senior  or even career  entry level positions. Although I did have a couple of interviews, they  always ended with ‘no news/reply’ from the interviewers.

I’ve also looked into the government sectors for some career change entry position  and always experienced  a lot of red tape  like ‘requires 1 or 2 years’ experiences’ or ‘any diploma from a local polytechnic’, etc. I have an advanced IT diploma (not from local Poly) but was not recognised by these government agencies. This applies to some SPURS  upgrading courses that I applied too. For example, I’m quite keen to take up a DPT course in Early Childhood Education. The qualification for entry is 5 GCE ‘O’ levels and a ‘B3’ in EL1. I could not qualify as I do not have sufficient ‘0’ levels. Another classic example is the SPURS Professional Conversion Programmes – why is this program tailored  for degree holders only?…Why not include diploma holder applicants who have the relevant experiences?

As a mid 40 years old Singaporean, it is almost quite impossible to turn back the clock to retake ‘O’ levels again (which I did not take them seriously in 1984). Why can’t the government sectors or training centers provide other options and consideration to allow middle aged or older group applicants to qualify for the jobs/courses?  Maybe a ‘job proficiency’ test can be an alternative  or even a ‘senior citizen traineeship’ programme can be tailored!

There are definitely quite a lot of middle aged Singaporeans  like me who have developed or accumulated alot of professional experiences and other skill sets over the years and when they  wanted a career change,  there is no second chance given! The government should really address this issue seriously and do more to formulate a better framework and legislation to assist the unemployed  senior Singaporeans to get back to their desired training/ employment options.

I’m confused, lost   and hope to seek advice from you.

I’m considering pursuing an IT degree course in a  private learning centre. I wonder if this is a good move as I’m discouraged and pessimistic to see a lot of middle aged graduates out of jobs due to ‘middle age’ crisis –  especially in the IT sector.  As a degree course is not cheap and I’m running low on my savings, I wonder if it is  still a good investment at this age.  Or should I forgo the degree course and take other IT short courses to upgrade instead, in the hope to get back to the IT sector fast?

Thank you sincerely for your precious time and advice.


Jimmy (name changed)


Hi Jimmy,

Thanks for your mail.
I agreed with you that our government-aided training courses have too much red tape to clear.
They are not fleixble enough to help a wide spectrum of the jobless matured citizens out there. Many people were trapped  by the criterion set up by training providers.
Too many foreign workers in our country  now also give  the employers a huge incentive to employ them as they are  cheaper and younger to hire.
Frankly, I always believe that the IT sector belongs to the Indian community. Many Indian companies from India have set up shop here and employ their own kind.
I am not saying that local Singaporeans will be forever barred from working in the IT industry but the competition should be seen as stiffer than other industries.
As you know, the dreaded Employment Pass allows a company to employ 100% foreigners in their workforce so long they are able to pay a minimum of $2500 salary per month for each worker. This has  kept out alot of local Singaporeans from foreign-funded companies.
I have always advocate that upgrading is the way to tackle our own unemployment issue. However, I think skills-based upgrading courses must be the way to go for matured job seekers.
For example, the healthcare industry is always short of workers and must be an area that you can consider if there are any government-sponsored programmes you can tap on.
The pay I know is quite miserable for new workers but it is rather stable and always in demand. Retrenchment should be seen as minimal in this industry.
If you have the funds to take up a private IT degree programme, I wouldn’t discourage you from pursuing one.
With your vast IT  experience and a degree, I am sure that this will help you stand out from the rest. However, a degree  now is no guarantee that you will get a job. Many jobless graduates have emailed me as you can see.
You will need to listen to your heart and head and do what’s best for youself here.
Let me know if you need to speak with one of our volunteer career coaches and please email me your resume so that I can look out for you.
Lastly, I seek your permission to post this mail on my site leaving out your name to protect your identity.
Take care and never give up. Do stay in touch with me.
Number of View: 2219

Reader Feedback

5 Responses to “Reader: Too Much Red Tape in Government Jobs and Funded Courses”

  1. Tom says:

    Hi Gilbert,

    What about the government’s end ?

    Is there anything we can do to wake them up, alert them or kick their butt ? !

    I have heard of stories that some these staff were rude, cold and crude when dealing with public members there.


  2. Steve says:

    My advice:

    If your fund is limited, do not go for your degree course at this age. Let me put it bluntly, no employer will hire a middle aged above 40 IT person , degree or not, when there is plenty of supply of young energetic, enthusiastic and most of all cheap foreign IT worker available.

    If I were you, I would consider being self-employed. Offer your service, charge by the hour.

  3. Kevin Teo says:

    As far as i understand, pursuing a degree is almost unhelpful if one is above 40yrs old. By the time u graduate, add another 3 yrs, perhaps more if u fail the exams in the 1st round.

    I have a friend with Master & bachelor degrees, 2 diplomas, A-level, O-level, and with wealth of working experience in hard disk production. At abt 45 or 46yrs old in 2003 (after the Asian Crisis), he was jobless. Searching for a job was tough like hell, & was constantly worrying for his 2 kids & housewife.

    He did some ad hoc contract or part-time jobs. 4 yrs later, he met a friend who owned a small production factory, and got a job as a quality control supervisor with a pay btw $2500-3000. He felt relieved.

    His case tells me that in your mid life, a degree does not help much unless u are in a highly demanded industry, like pharmaceuticals, healthcare, bio-tech, etc. Why? it is demand vs supply, these sectors do not have high no. of skillful workers around the world. IT, banking, advertising, industrials, etc see many skillful ones, except the top levels who are the leaders and planners, innovators – if only u belong to this super scale category.

    But I have another friend, with only an O-level plus ITE cert in construction, actually earns closed to $4000 as a site supervisor or manager in piping (water or sewerage), aged 44 today, after 12yrs in the industry.

    See the big difference ? Do u really need a degree ? It is the skill that is required in a very demanded industry that lacks the right labour type.

  4. Gwen Bonney says:

    I heard today that Steve Jobs is taking his third medical leave!! So he can focus on his health. Is this the end of the Apple era? The stock exchange of Frankfurt responded with a share value which was 7% down! I am wondering what the share value will be tomorrow at the NYE

  5. jj says:

    Hi Jimmy,

    i actually faced the same problems like yours too. Not a degree holder, diploma not from polytechic, no 5 “O” level, reaching 40 soon, low in savings.

    Kevin Teo is right, what is the point of pursuing a degree at your age. These degree courses are expensive & can’t guarantee a job or a job with satisfactory wages after obtaining it.

    All these SPURS/WSQ courses are not free too, you are still require to pay at least 10% of the fees, even if you are unemployed. A coin has two sides,without a degree & mid 40 years old,willing to take up entry level jobs whereby many young degree holders can’t or unwilling to. So they have to suffer longer unemployment term than us. Don’t be surprise that actually nowadays many security guards are former PMEs with dip/degree.

    Of course there are ppl who are rich & employed middle age PME with dip/degree in this world but that isn’t us.

    i encountered few richman with no dip/degree. They are just like oldtime warlords or triad boss.They are hardworking, cunning, hot tempered & fearless. With a little bit of luck, they are now richman who spend most of their time in coffeeshop, gambling in MBS/RWS or having fun in massage parlours.If you got a degree, lets say a PhD but u got no job, no income, no cash, no food & no roof over your head. What’s the use of having a PhD paper? Who has the cash, he/she is the boss.

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