Statistics show that we have one million ‘baby boomers’ going into retirement. What are the job opportunities for them?
The Baby Boomer Survey* characterised a late baby boomer (born 1947-64) as one who is better educated (34% have some form of tertiary education), with a higher income (69% earn between $2000-7400), and with higher skilled jobs (56% fulltime professional or Senior Manager Position).
I was retrenched in July 2008. I was open to various options presented to me. Naturally I was attracted to the several agencies providing re-training of mature workers.
I attended some talks and courses which ranged from how to write your resume to how to present myself during interviews. They were beneficial to me and I learned a few things because, honestly, I have become rusty (my past few jobs were offered through recommendations and dinner table talks) and I have forgotten a few things about interviews dos and don’ts. One thing however stood out in the talks - mature workers will not be able to get jobs through the ‘open market’ but will need to tap on the ‘hidden market job opportunity’.
“Professional Conversion Programme”
Allow me to define the terms. “Hidden job market” are those jobs that come by through recommendations rather than through the open job market – as advertised in newspaper recruitment pages, for example. I often leave these talks pondering over the truth of the matter; we know jobs come easier through network recommendations, but if we had the network in the first place, would we be seeking a job? What about those who do not have the network to help them? How do they find jobs in the “hidden market”? On one of those talks, I posed the question to one of the organizers. The answer came in the form of a program termed ‘professional conversion program’ or PCP in short.
So excitedly I made my way to the next agency to register for the PCP program. I started going to the website and read about the various programs offered, and applied for those I was interested in. Days and months passed with no responses from the agencies offering such courses. Usually the application comes with a statement to not contact the relevant department as only shortlisted candidates will be informed/contacted.
The average course fees of the PCP programs ranges from S$800 for short courses to S$6000 for longer term courses, although they are heavily-subsidised. If a person is out of job for a good duration, he is going to be hard-pressed to cough out that kind of money for re-training and with no guarantee that after the training he would be able to land a job.
Let me share with you my experience with someone I met in one of these talks.
He is in his late forties, with a respectable degree education and used to work for a big name company in Singapore. He was retrenched and has been out of job for the last 14 months. He had to sell his house to keep his family going. It is preposterous to think that he will whip out a few thousand dollars to go for a course without any degree of calculated certainty that it will land him a job.
Employing mature workers – mindset must change
Back to myself, I waited and waited and waited. I decided to take things into my own hands and decided that if the agencies exist to help promote re-training and re-employability of mature workers, then they must embrace this concept within the organizational structure and culture of their own companies. I decided to apply for job openings within these agencies, jobs such as consultants/executives and managers. I wrote in and waited for their response.
It dawned on me that maybe these agencies may be involved in a ‘program’ to help re-employ mature workers but may themselves not believe in this. I decided to make trips to decentralized centres and to my shock, most of them were manned by young executives or consultants. I could hardly see any mature workers being employed.
Please understand that I am not trying to be critical and unappreciative. I am just penning my experiences and my perception. I know it is a huge task to help older workers find jobs. Yet it is a task we must get better at because the statistics show that we have one million ‘baby boomers’ going into retirement. Our prime minister has been promoting the idea of extending the retirement age to 65 and beyond. But what good is this if there are no jobs available or the mindset of employers do not change?
We may have programs such as the PCP but the reality is that it is just a program and nothing more. The mindset remains that these mature workers are irrelevant to society. Programs have their usefulness but the important thing is to have a change of mindsets. Until then, we the mature work force has to continue developing the skill of waiting or perhaps migration for retirement as the survey suggest.
*“The Baby Boomers Survey”. This report was prepared by A/P Angelique Chan (Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore) and Dr Yap Mui Teng (Institute of Policy Studies, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore) for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.