James Ng is a 64-year-old PMET. His retail branch was closed down recently and his employment contract with the company has since ended. Business is very bad because of the Covid-19 and he is currently unemployed.
Lovely Singapore is happy that James is willing to share his experiences with our readers.
1. Please describe your past work experiences and how the job industry has changed since your first employment.
I was a salesman for more than 40 years in the retail camera line. There are definitely a lot of changes. Nowadays, many people prefer to go online to buy things. There will be walk-in customers who will try/test the products in the shop but unlike in the past, they don’t always buy. They will buy online as it is cheaper plus there is delivery to their doorstep. Online shops can offer lower prices as they don’t carry any retail shop costs. Compared to last time, business and sales turnover has dropped a lot over the years.
Professional skills relevant to the job supersedes formal education. The government has organised this very well and think for the people by encouraging lifelong learning.
Nowadays, wherever you work, you’ll need a certificate. Even if you work as a hawker, you need a hygiene cert. We have come a long way from the past when the standard of living was very different. In the past, we did not have the privileges of having schemes like SkillsFuture. Whatever we wished to learn, we had to find our way out.
2. What do you plan to do now? Do you plan to retire?
No, retirement is not on my cards yet. I believe that I am still young (laughs) and I still wish to work to contribute to the workforce.
I am taking a security officer course from SkillsFuture.
3. Tell us more about the security guard course you are taking. How did you come to know about it?
I found out from friends that the Security sector is a good area to go into. They say that security officers who join the Union of Security Employees (USE) are well treated and highly respected. Besides, there is high demand for security officers in the market but the supply is limited. There are so many new condominiums, malls and buildings coming up.
People used to look down on security officers. They think that security officers are “bo tak che eh lang” (not educated) work and the pay is very low. No one wanted to work as security officers in the past as the work image and conditions were not good.
The government and the Union (USE) came in to re-adjust, made changes to this industry, making it more attractive for people to join. The union also has set a recommended pay for the security officers no matter which company the person works for. These are very good moves.
Those who are interested to join are required to go for the professional training course but they can use the Skills Development Fund to pay for it. There is no need to pay cash.
4. Given your admirable attitude to learn new things, what other courses have you taken?
15 years ago, I went for the taxi course as well and have passed with the licence to drive taxi (which allows me to drive Grab as well). The licence is for standby to stay relevant in case I get retrenched.
I had also gone into real estate in 1997. The camera film industry then was dying off, so I went into property. At that time, I had to pay about $500 out of my own pocket to complete an IEA property course. However, due to time constraints and pre-qualification requirements, I could not further my studies to get the CEHA certificate to practise independently.
I did property for more than a year and went back to the camera trade as I observed that the digital trend was coming up. There was a digital boom in 2000.
5. How important do you think one must stay relevant to the job market?
I did not see myself staying long in the camera industry. The reason is that phone technology has taken over the camera technology. I am 64 years and have re-contracted twice with the company.
Looking at the camera market now, it is not progressing much and going on the downside. Even how good I am or how much I “pia” (work hard), it is no use as the market is already at the maximum (not growing). I still want to work to keep myself active so I am looking for work that is in demand, secured and suitable for my age.
6. What is your advice to people who are also displaced from their jobs like you?
With this virus going on, the whole world is going through a bad time (recession). The government has taken out the Resilience and Solidarity Budgets to help the people. It is good. If the country doesn’t help its citizens, there will be big problem. The destitute will steal and rob and this is already happening in some countries.
For those who cannot get jobs, they should improve and take up courses. They always think they are too old. It is not true. Old dogs can learn new tricks! (laughs). The most important thing is to keep ourselves healthy and active so that we are still able to work and contribute. This is the true spirit of Singaporeans!