Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Any job should do...


Flexibility will impress future employers, Gan tells youth who raise discrimination concerns


AS A fresh graduate, do I really have to accept a blue-collar job?

This plaintive question — sent via SMS by a participant in the audience, who worried that it would affect one’s shot at a PMET job after the economy recovers — drew some laughter as it was read aloud.

But Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong was in earnest as he advised this participant, and the other 80 or so youthful participants at the dialogue session with Young NTUC, to be flexible when jobhunting in a downturn. He urged them to “take up any job that is available”, as there would always be “opportunities to upgrade later on”.

Say an employer asks why you’ve not been working for the past one year — do you answer that there were “no jobs available”?

“Employers will not believe because there are always jobs available,” said Mr Gan. “Employers will think ... if in a crisis situation you’re willing to sit at home and do nothing, it means that you’re not flexible.”

For instance, Mr Gan revealed his “dream job” had been to teach, but the closest he got to it was as Minister of State for Education.

“The important thing is not to look for things we like to do, but to like the things that you’re doing”, he stressed, reiterating that many jobs are available in the fields of early childhood education, tourism, science and technology.

The two-hour forum at NTUC Centre yesterday involved mostly young unionists, and the issues they raised centred on the recession and other hurdles for graduates in the job market.

One asked: Are there enough training places for everyone, and should they look to upgrade their skills in an area they like — or train for where there is a market need?

Giving his assurance of sufficient training resources and capacity, Mr Gan advised job-seekers to approach the Employment and Employability Institute or Community Development Councils, where “career consultants” will help match their abilities with “market needs”. Training comes in where there is a mismatch, he said.

Ms Joyce Wong, 21, wondered if local graduates with degrees from private institutions enjoy equal job prospects as graduates from the three local universities.

Ms Mabel Siew, 23, wanted to know why applicants are compelled to disclose whether they are bankrupt and their medical conditions. Should they answer truthfully? “Because if you do, chances are you may not get the job,” she told Today later.

Both were hoping for some form of anti-discrimination legislation, but were not surprised when Mr Gan said the Government would “rather not legislate because the employer can get information through other means”.

He advised job applicants to be “honest” and, if they encounter discrimination, to approach the Tripartite Centre for Fair Employment.

On recognition of degrees, he said: “Even if you put up legislation, when you apply, (employers) can choose not to accept.” Rather, it’s up to private education providers to market themselves — like UniSIM, which has “built up its reputation” and “companies are happy with their graduates”, said Mr Gan.

The question about a CPF cut also cropped up. Mr Gan’s reply: There would not be one “for the time being”.

“Let’s focus on pushing ahead with Spur (Skills Programme for Upgrading and Resilience) and Jobs Credit.

“I think Jobs Credit has been very effective in helping companies manage their cost of employing local workers... We also have Workfare Income Supplement and so on — we need to get these implemented,” he said.

From TODAY – 20-April-2009


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