In 2007, after I was retrenched from my managerial position, I decided to seek assistance from CDC who later referred me to WDA for some upgrading courses.
Upgrading was a big word then and everyone who seeked support from CDC was required to sign up for any courses that were available.
Globalisation has hurt us quite badly and companies continued to pull out of Singapore for cheaper locations. Hundreds of MNCs must have pulled out of our country during that period as the huge semi-con industry took a big hit.
I selected SIMM’s certificate in logistics as it was short-term – 6 weeks full time and there was the promise of possible internship with selected companies. I was keen on switching to a career in logistics all along and the course was like a dream came true.
The fact that WDA funded me for the entire cost fee of $3000 was also a push factor for me to join. Its better than staying at home waiting for the employers to call you for an interview and jobs were in scarcity then.
There was also no bond tied to the contract and you only need to complete the course failing which you have to pay back the whole course fee in its entirety.
After packing up my books from university for so long, it was refreshing returning back to the classroom again – together with 20 other jobless PMETs in similar plight.
Most of them were in their 40s with some in their early 50s. They came from all walks of life – some were engineers, others IT specialists, technicians and purchasers.
However, we all shared one common bond – we were jobless because of the new economy and sometimes I wondered if globalisation is such a good thing after all if it has rendered so many people worldwide out of job.
Besides absorbing about the nuts and bolts on logistics, it was fun socialising and networking with my classmates who incidentally were mostly males.
Six weeks blazed by quickly and we were all offered our certificate from the course provider SIMM. Incidentally, the lecturers were great and we learned alot during that period.
There was however not much mention of the promised internship posting to a logistics company and some of us were naturally anxious.
We have depended on the internship attachment as a stepping stone to any employment opportunity and if this is not readily available many of us would not have wasted our time attending the course – even though its free.
Weeks passed and there was still no news of a possible internship and my heart sunk.
Surely the government can do something and at least arm twist a few logistics companies to offer us an attachment?
Later on, I heard that only one out of the twenty participants managed to clinch an attachment and that was because he already had prior experience working in that sector. The rest of us were left in the cold.
Not only had we wasted six weeks of our time but the immense disappointment was difficult to stomach.
It told me a while to overcome that emotional upheaval and of course my trust in any government aid agency nosedived after that incident.
I also could not recall anyone of us ever utilise the certificate to land us a career in logistics.
Moreover, WDA wasted $60, 000 of our hard-earned tax paying money on 20 unemployed local Singaporeans and I wondered how much money was flushed down the drain in total for meaningless upgrading courses which have brought us no tangible benefit whatsoever.
The government ought to ask themselves what are the kind of courses that will really benefit the PMETs before sending them out for the lessons.
If not, the whole upgrading exercise will only benefit course providers who could make millions within a very short period.
I have known of some course providers who were set up specially to tap into the upgrading funds of the government and later closed down when the need died down.
Its apparent that skills-based courses are more relevant for the new economy rather than theoretical lessons taught mostly from text books.
Healthcare, and social work courses ought to be ramped up as there is a need for more workers in these two sectors. Matured PMETs who are in their twilight career won’t mind switching over to these two sectors if its feasible.
They won’t mind a much lesser pay check as most of us know that our good earning days are over. We just want something to do that will make us feel good about our society.
I was also told that PMETS took many upgrading courses at their own cost but these were not up for subsidy as they are not on the upgrading list.
WDA ought to revamp how they subsidise courses and if possible allocate a small training allowance to any deserving local Singaporeans who are in the mid 40s and out of work.
They can use it for any upgrading courses that they see fit subject to a maximum quota. The government also needs to trust our local Singaporean PMETs alot more for this to work well.
This way, WDA does not run the risk of sending PMETs to courses that will not benefit them at all and our jobless PMETs can take up any courses that they feel best match their needs for upgrading.
Its an ideal win-win situation for all…
Written by: Disappointed PMET
Editor’s Note: The writer has since destroyed his certificate from SIMM. The interview was conducted recently and he is currently still jobless after working on contract for a while. Though WDA has spent tens of millions of tax payer money on upgrading courses, it has yet to provide any concrete data how many of these matured jobless PMETS found jobs after attending the courses. This article was forwarded to the relevant ministries and WDA for their response if any.