“Unemployed professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) will get more targeted help in finding jobs through smaller job fairs, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday” (More Targeted Help on the Way for Jobless PMETs, Toh Yong Chuan).
That the government has recognised more targeted assistance is needed for jobless professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) is a useful start, though additional help is probably needed to profile these unemployed Singaporeans, to evaluate – especially quantitatively – the success of job-matching or job-training programmes, and ultimately to ascertain the effectiveness of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, in particular, explained that “organising a job fair with 10,000 jobs won’t solve the problem [for PMETs who have been out of work for six months or longer]” (ST, Mar. 18), though in fact the same need for specificity could be applied to the unemployed in general.
As a start, the MOM must keep track of and detail output numbers of its new measures: the number of jobless PMETs who do receive allowances to go on training attachments, the number of employers or companies who hire these workers, and perhaps even the sustainability of these arrangements, in terms of whether the PMETs stay in their positions over a substantial period of time. Progressively, however, outcome indicators must also feature alongside these output numbers. It is, for instance, not enough to just know the number of jobs available at job fairs or the number of jobs taken up by the unemployed. Information about whether the fit is a good one – in terms of the expertise and experience of the employees, vis-à-vis job descriptions or expectations – will minimise problems related to underemployment and maximise work productivity too.
Related to the challenge of matching is that of career counselling, as well as training or retraining. Job fairs may be useful when they are specific to industries or companies, though career counselling may be needed for minor enhancements to soft skills – such as interview or writing skills – or if short-term transitions are the challenge. Yet given the higher rate of redundancy among the PMETs, who make up 72 per cent of the local workers made redundant in 2016, training or retraining will be needed for changes in the long-term. In this vein, the same critical questions must be asked of the programmes too: the number of participants, the number of actual placements, and the number who remain or advance in their companies over more years. Transparent, quantified indicators provides affirmation if there is progress, and useful inputs or feedback if improvements are needed.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.