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How retrenched 66-year-old Jessie found employment with Seoul Garden Group in less than a month

By October 5, 2020Current, Featured

TL;DR – Too many applications, too few jobs. But, there are resources and companies willing to support our vulnerable workers. 

To face the possibility of being retrenched is a scary thing. Imagine if you have an 89-year-old mother and her helper to support?

Jessie, 66, who previously worked at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) found her stress level relating to job security concerns escalating by the weeks when Covid-19 hit. When RWS announced the retrenchment exercise, it didn’t take her by surprise though.

Local media reported that RWS had retrenched about a quarter of their 7,000-strong workforce, or 2,000 staff.

A last resort. Afterall, tourism in Singapore has come to a standstill. Manpower levels must have been increasingly unsustainable!

The RWS team has however, been working closely with the Attractions, Resorts and Entertainment Union (AREU) to ensure a responsible retrenchment exercise, supporting their workers in identifying all possible opportunities to help them move on to new careers as quickly as possible. A multi-agency task force, which includes the AREU and the National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), helped affected workers identify and match job openings.

Thankfully, Jessie was one beneficiary. Anxiety was mounting every day as she had heavy financial commitments.

She had to support her 89-year-old mother and her helper. The worries must have been overwhelming for Jessie.

Too many applications, too few vacancies – but there is help.

Although it didn’t take long for her to find a job, her job search journey was not a bed of roses.

Jessie recalled how a company whom she contacted wrote her off soon after she shared her age with them over the phone. Needless to say, it affected her confidence as a mature jobseeker. Yet, she had to keep on keeping on.

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Along the way, e2i’s personnel had shared numerous job opportunities with her and also actively followed up with her frequently. “I told them that I was really keen on the role with Seoul Garden that I had interviewed for but had yet to hear back from, and the next day, I got a call back for an interview,” Jessie recounted, smiling.

She was eventually offered the role to her delight! It was a huge relief as the financial stress was already weighing heavily on her by then.

Unfortunately, just before she was due to start, her mother passed on. She teared up as she recounted, “My mum must have known the different pressures that were building up.”

A spokesperson from Seoul Garden Group shared, “Jessie, being ever so responsible, actually came down all the way to the outlet just to update us on her situation… That was then we knew we have found a gem of a worker in her.”

A Progressive Company, An Inclusive Workplace Culture

A few days later, Jessie started work at Seoul Garden Group. A progressive company, Seoul Garden Group has always believed in all-inclusive employment – supporting mature workers, and persons with disabilities among other vulnerable workers. Throughout the pandemic, they also worked closely with e2i to offer job opportunities to affected workers from other companies.

Jobs at Seoul Garden Group were often customised, redesigned and hours were even tweaked as far as possible to accommodate their staff who need more flexibility! Did you know that persons with disabilities make up approximately 10% of the Seoul Garden Group’s workforce? With a diverse workforce, the company actively looked for ways to help resolve issues and difficulties that staff faced. The length Seoul Garden Group goes to in supporting vulnerable workers is truly admirable and inspiring!

“Inclusion is not about bringing people into what already exists; it’s about creating a new and better place for everyone, so that we can EMERGE STRONGER TOGETHER!” Seoul Garden Group Management

 

Mr Garry, GM of Seoul Garden Group with award recipients

 

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Well, not just that. The teamwork culture is amazing too, it was obvious from the staff interactions that everyone working there is part of a big family. During our chat with Jessie, we realised that just one month in, she was already popping in and out of the kitchen to help her co-workers out with other chores. With a shy smile on her face, she shared how she now has regular customers coming in to look for her when she’s not at the outlet. Her joy is apparent!

An inclusive employment culture at Seoul Garden – Aunty Jessie with her co-workers

It’s not about the age, it’s about the ability.

Well, while the Fair Consideration Framework by Ministry of Manpower for employers to avoid discriminatory hiring practices has signalled the Government’s stance on ageism, there are still companies that hire – or don’t – based on stereotypes of poor attitudes about older workers and their ability to learn, adapt and work. This leaves our mature workers extra vulnerable in the current economy!

Over the years, Labour MP Heng Chee How has called for companies to focus on the ability of workers, not their age. To maximise fair play for older workers and help those whose incomes are affected, he also outlined a five-pronged approach. The approaches, which he called “Heart”, comprise “holding onto jobs”, “employment assistance”, “act fairly”, “relief”, and “tough it out together”.

At the end of the day, it’s not about the age, it’s about the ability.

New to the job, but Jessie already has regular customers

 

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It’s indeed heartening to know that there are amazing companies like the Seoul Garden Group who believe in the value of our mature workers too! And needless to say, the Group has found themselves a gem of a dedicated and efficient team player in Jessie for one!

What Heng Chee How DIDN’T say in Parliament about older workers and retirement

 

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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

More posts by Gabrielle Teo

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