From the time he completed his secondary education in the early 1960s, Mr Low Hong Seng has been working in the hotel industry. The Lorong 7 Toa Payoh resident’s fi rst job was at the now-demolished Hotel Ambassador along Meyer Road, where he helped with food preparation and keeping the kitchen clean. He then took on a job as a retail assistant at the now-defunct Emporium department store chain in the early 1970s. However, he left after a few months to take on a job at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore — known then as the Mandarin Singapore — in 1973. “My passion is very much in the hotel line” recalls the 67 year-old. “It’s why I decided to go back to working in a hotel as the environment provides a wider variety of experiences. I get to meet people from all over the world, and take on different responsibilities.”
Facing a hurdle
For more than 30 years, Mr Low handled roles at the hotel that ranged from working at the front desk to housekeeping. But he had to leave in September 2007 as he had reached his retirement age of 62 and the hotel didn’t have a rehiring policy at the time.
He began his search for another job soon after, much to the chagrin of his eldest son, a 33 year-old lawyer. “He told me that I didn’t have to work anymore and offered to give me a monthly allowance to tide me over,” says Mr Low. “I told him that I still felt healthy and was bored staring at the four walls at home. Even my wife [a personal assistant at PSA Singapore] encouraged me to keep working as she knows how much I enjoy doing so.”
Mr Low found part-time work at Royal Plaza on Scotts a few months later, and spent six mornings a week at its restaurant making fruit juice for the breakfast crowd and tending to patrons’ needs. But in January this year, his contract wasn’t renewed as he would be turning 67 in May, and the hotel doesn’t reemploy staff who are more than 66 years old. “I was disappointed,” he says. “I still wanted to contribute to the workforce and felt that I was more than able to. But my age overshadowed my experience.”
Building a foundation
On the advice of a friend, Mr Low approached the Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC) for employment assistance
later that same month. Handling his case was Career Consultant Ms Sharon Xie. “Mr Low was very upset about his age being a barrier to finding a job,” she recalls. “I felt it was important to build up his confi dence by focusing on his strengths and to identify and overcome his weaknesses.”
Ms Xie addressed Mr Low’s computer illiteracy by sending him for the two-day ICDL EqualSkills programme with NTUC LearningHub on 30 January this year. The course provides trainees with basic computer knowledge, like how to surf the Internet, send emails and draft a Microsoft Word document. On 1 March 2013, Mr Low was also sent for the day-long WSQ Basic Food Hygiene Course which is accredited by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency. The course taught him food industry standards like food hygiene practices and the different food hygiene infringements. Both courses were subsidised by the Central Singapore CDC.
Ms Xie also conducted mock interviews with Mr Low and suggested that he tap into other contacts like friends and family members for his job search. Her advice paid off — through a friend, Mr Low secured a part-time position at a restaurant in the Conrad Centennial Singapore in mid-March 2013. He has been working there ever since. His responsibilities include replenishing the buffet line during breakfast and helping to wash and dry cutlery. “I’m grateful to Ms Xie and Central Singapore CDC for all the help they’ve given me,” says Mr Low. “She never gave up on me and made sure that I focused more on my employment goals, instead of worrying about my age being a hurdle. She also equipped me with the tools necessary to find the job I wanted. I’d recommend anyone to approach the CDC for job assistance.”
Improving your odds
The Employment and Employability Institute recommends tapping in to these avenues
Check out the classified job ads section. Don’t worry about whether you meet all the requirements. Many employers are willing to give workers a chance to learn through on-the-job training.
Online job agencies list many vacancies. You can find a list of them at http://ele.ecitizen.gov.sg.
Many retailers place job advertisements signs at their stores for walk-in interviews, so keep your eyes open!
Make acquaintances in fields that you’re interested in. By letting them know that you are looking for a job, you increase your chances of coming across a vacancy.
Need assistance looking for a job?
To register, call the hotline 6370 9901 to fix an appointment to meet Career Consultants at Central Singapore CDC.
Career Consultant Ms Sharon Xie sheds some light on the ups and downs of assisting Central Singapore District residents in finding employment.
For Ms Sharon Xie, becoming a Career Consultant at Central Singapore CDC in June 2012 was a natural choice. From December 2011 to April 2012, the 24 year-old had been interning at the Family Welfare Division of the Ministry of Social and Family Development — then known as the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports — and assisted case offi cers in dealing with underprivileged families.
“I saw that employment was one of the main solutions in helping them,” says Ms Xie. “With a stable income, they’re able to have a stable life. It’s better than giving them a cash handout as they also learn to stand on their own two feet.”
She adds that her role isn’t to simply find her clients a job, but to be a platform that gives them more options with the Central Singapore CDC’s resources. However, that can sometimes be a challenge as some clients can be fi xated on wanting a specifi c type of job. “Sometimes, there just aren’t any positions available in the field they want to be in,” says Ms Xie. “It’s my responsibility to make them look at the bigger picture and realise that they need to take on any employment to stabilise their financial situation fi rst. We also want to provide clients the skills and knowledge in finding work on their own, and for them to realise the importance of being gainfully employed.”
We would like to thank ‘Voices@Central Singapore, a publication of Central Singapore CDC’ for sharing this article.