“Retrenched at 58.”-  Musings of a Mature PME

Getting retrenched at any age is a traumatic experience.

The unexpected loss of income can cause financial and emotional stress on the affected individuals and their families, especially when you have substantial financial commitments such as children or a house mortgage.

On top of that, it knocks your confidence and can make you fearful about the change and if you can adjust.

The Singapore Counselling Centre says it has seen an average increase of 30% year-on-year of older Professionals, Managers, Executives, and Technicians (PMETs) seeking counseling due to retrenchment.

For middle-aged workers who are retrenched, their wealth of work experience may make it more challenging to secure another job.

Mr. Philip Kwa is one such example.

The former CEO of an ICT startup was retrenched in 2020, soon after COVID-19 hit our shores. He was 58 years old.

While he understood that it made perfect financial sense for the company to scale down its operations to survive, Mr. Kwa also realized that his age and experience hindered his chances of securing a permanent role elsewhere.

Mr. Kwa said his experience as a company CEO may have frightened some employers.

He recalled: “When I think back about the organizations I reached out to, I have been told that my skill set did not match what they were looking for. But at the end of the day, they hired someone I knew in the industry. He was someone younger, but I know that I am more experienced.”

“They would probably think ‘would you come down to become a manager or a director at a much lower pay?’ I think everyone assumes that if you were a CEO, that your pay must be higher, which is simply not true,” he said.


Taking stock of skill sets and don’t lose hope

Instead of only sending out resumes, Mr. Kwa took a more proactive approach.

He sought help from government agencies such as Workforce Singapore (WSG), which referred him to the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Placement Partners Initiative, a scheme aimed at scaling up the placement of local jobseekers into job, traineeship, and attachment opportunities.

The initiative resulted in some relevant opportunities to what he was looking for; however, he decided to pave his pathway after consulting some close friends.

Today, Mr. Kwa owns an ICT consultancy business company and teaches cyber security at Singapore Polytechnic as an adjunct lecturer.

He said, “People who were in the industry and who knows me asked why would I want to risk getting another full-time job. They said that I was already in my late 50s, and if I were to get once again retrenched, what then?”

Not wanting to leave things to chance, he also looked at backup options to ensure that he would still be able to draw a steady stream of income while setting up his own company.

Additionally, Mr. Kwa volunteers his time with WSG as a career coach, helping others in a similar predicament to find employment.

Mr. Kwa is also the Deputy General Treasurer with Tech Talent Assembly (TTAB), an association for ICT professionals in Singapore.


Strengthening Singapore Core

When asked what more can be done to help PMEs like himself, he cited two areas- retrenchment and job opportunities.

Particularly for PMEs above the age of 40, Mr. Kwa feels a form of temporary financial assistance from the Government would provide significant help and ease their minds, to help them tide through while searching for another job.

Secondly, he believes that more concrete steps need to be taken by the Government to strengthen the Singapore core.

He said: “What needs to be looked at is succession planning [how foreigners can pass on skills and knowledge to locals]. When I was working in the US, it was very difficult to get a work visa. The company had to prove that they could not find anybody [with the relevant skillset]. Even when I was in China, I was given a strict three years to complete my task. I was a specialist, but the intent was to pass knowledge to the locals.”

“That is how we can strengthen our Singapore core.”

Original article from Labourbeat

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