Giving seniors job opportunities
What started out as a bridge to help friends find jobs after their retrenchment has turned into a full-fledged company that focuses on getting seniors work.
BY: Eleanor Yap
Patrick Oh felt he wanted to help his friends who got retrenched and were disillusioned to find jobs. However, in extending that help, the 50-year-old found he could also reach out to a wider audience such as the seniors. So in late 2012, he started a for-profit social enterprise called Renewzz Solutions that focuses on them.
Ageless Online chats with Patrick about why seniors can’t find jobs and how he is dispensing much-needed help:
So why help seniors?
I found that some seniors wanted work but couldn’t find suitable jobs. What was available were jobs like security guards, cleaners and taxi drivers, and not many in other areas. As the rising senior population is more educated, such jobs may not be suitable for them.
Furthermore, there is the issue of companies opting for younger people and/or foreigners to fill some of the jobs because of lower costs, compared to the seniors who have years of experience under their belt and could command a higher salary.
Another trend that I have noticed is the increase in outsourcing of certain jobs to countries where labour costs are much lower such as India and the Philippines. As a result, there is a growing scarcity of certain job opportunities not only for seniors but also for the younger generation. Thus, we need to develop training in the area of effective outsourcing and similar skills-set to prepare Singaporeans, both young and old so they can continue to be employed into the future.
All this has culminated in me coming up with my company, Renewzz Solutions.
So how exactly does your company help?
Renewzz Solutions uses a multi-prong approach towards this rather complicated social concern. Currently seniors, especially those who are retrenched, are frustrated with the system and have not accepted the reality and challenges they need to face. We are looking at how to better engage and help them. One of the strategies we are exploring with relevant authorities is to create a mentoring and funding platform for those starting up micro-projects that could tap the vast experiences of senior-PMEs (professionals, managers and executives). This will show companies that seniors are assets and they play an integral role in the workforce. We hope to help these seniors find their new purpose and meaning in their lives so they can leave behind a legacy.
We are also exploring using activities that seniors like to connect with, and show them various working opportunities that they can consider to keep themselves active:
• Advocacy – Working with a relevant authority to open up inroads to corporations and organisations to cast an important business management strategy on job redesign and revamp the job system so to cater to seniors based on their characteristics. Other aspects will be preparing the general population for this phenomenon and getting them to create more opportunities for seniors in preparation of a rising ageing population.
• Opportunities linkup – With companies aware of the importance of job redesign not only as a solution to the ageing population, but as an important productivity strategy in business management, we can then involve them in this job redesign process. Some of the experienced HR seniors can go for an orientation to refresh the whole job redesign process as not many HR professionals have even thought of this as they are too busy working with existing company processes.
• Platform creation – We are also proactively thinking about potential platform creation – new engagement opportunities that seniors can be part of. One potential platform is the mobilising and training for seniors to become family life coaches to younger parents who are struggling with raising their children.
Also, Singapore has 20,000 family-related cases at Subordinate Courts and they continue to accumulate as these cases don’t get closed so easily. This is tremendous work for the Subordinate Courts to tackle, thus seniors (PMEs) can be sent for training to prepare them as mediators for these cases.
With their vast experiences in the business settings, they have already good negotiation and other communication skills, thus mediation will be just another add-on and they can quickly do something that is dignified and meaningful.
Other aspects include a micro-scale urban farming model to allow those less mobile to grow their own protein and vegetable sources while learning other new skills to continue to be effective even in their homes.
How many seniors and companies have you helped so far through your services?
As Renewzz Solutions is still a baby start-up, thus we are actively putting the framework together and networking to bring the relevant people in as partners who share our vision and together, help us achieve our goals.
We have encouraged those who have the relevant qualifications and experiences to tap on the various programmes set-up by the Government like the Business Advisors Programme (by SPRING Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Management), etc.
What advice would you give to seniors wanting to re-enter the workforce after many years and those wanting to continue working with the same company after they reach 62?
We really need to influence not only the corporations (opportunities), but also the seniors (workforce). As I age, I personally feel that I should give more opportunities to the younger generation. Thus, it is my desire to see seniors having a “father-heart” mindset. What do I mean by this? This is about a father wanting to see his children excel more than him. Thus father-heart leadership is about the willingness to sacrifice just like our parents have sacrificed to care for us and allowed us the opportunities to be educated and hoped we got the best opportunities.
So my advice for seniors (especially the PMEs) is to be willing to be a mentor to the younger generation because they have real challenges to face with escalating costs and a more volatile market, even if the salary or remuneration is low. At the final phase of our life, it is not money that matters, but leaving a legacy of seeing our young people have a future better than us.
Next, which is the most important, is to please take care of your health. Exercise regularly to sustain your muscles and good blood circulation. Eat wisely and have a positive mindset. There is no point getting angry over situations.
What about advice to companies who are not hiring seniors as well as those who want to hire seniors?
In order to conduct a job redesign exercise, it is important to know the scope of work that your company needs. Know the characteristics of seniors and the proper attitude you need to have for them.
Seniors have contributed in their own little ways to our nation-building, thus it is important that we give them dignity and allow them to engage in tasks suitable for them. We know that as people age, they will automatically exhibit certain characteristics such as slow down, prefer procedures and less sudden changes, etc.
Based on these characteristics and looking at the job scope, match them accordingly. Bosses can release some of their customer service for example to these seniors, so the bosses can focus on the business itself.
Seniors (PME) also should be encouraged to conduct training. I don’t understand why many companies and organisations are giving job-training opportunities to young people rather than seniors as they have vast life experiences. Other jobs like training administrator can also be created for seniors. The possibilities are aplenty if we brainstorm them.
Could you share two companies that come to mind that have been pro-senior?
I would say many VWOs are taking in seniors into their staff strength, however as non-profits, their funding is limited and thus salaries to their staff can also be a real challenge too.
I do have companies expressing willingness to take in seniors, but these are mainly targeting the less educated ones and the salary scale offered is very low, around S$1,500.
Do you think ageism exists in Singapore? How do we go about to change these mindsets?
Although many might say the recent high retrenchment of senior PMEs is an effect of ageism, personally I believe it is because of the volatile market and the challenges corporations are facing which has caused them to react this way.
To face this challenging phenomenon, we need to learn how to work together even more. The tension among different generations is common, and is something that can be taught through workshops where different generations can talk and understand each other better. Generation differences are very much similar to personality. It is something we need to accept and adjust. Most important is the embracing attitude of a “father-heart” for seniors and a respectful attitude for the younger generation.
We need to remember that not everything from the West is good. It is important to know that the Asian virtue of respect and honour is something we need to be proud of.