Six Singaporeans who’ve bounced back from the pain of retrenchment

Elena Torrijos
Taxi Talk

Mr M, 47, was a former senior sales and marketing manager at an electronics MNC for nine years before he was retrenched in 2009. Married with a wife and twin teenage sons, he tried his hand at being a financial advisor for a year before deciding to become a taxi driver. He has been running his taxi service since 2011. He survived a heart-attack in late 2012 and now has four stents in his heart. His philosophy on life is now to live well, stay healthy and to share his real-life experiences. In his latest post on Taxi Talk, he shares the plight of PMETs (Professional, Managers, Executives & Technicians) who suffered job losses but picked themselves up and made good in life.

#1 : Engineer turned Principal

Recently, I attended my kids’ Speech Day. I was very impressed with the guest-of-honour, who was their ex-teacher, so humble and well regarded by his former colleagues and friends. He is Mr Tan, aged about 45 years old, now the principal of a neighbourhood school in the North. He was an engineer in the semi-conductor industry until he got retrenched 10 years ago. He then became a teacher for design & technology (D&T), and climbed his way to become a school principal. He was passionate in teaching and overcame many obstacles to win many D&T accolades. This year, my kids’ school became the Centre of Excellence in Design & Technology, and credit goes to this Mr Tan and his successive fellow teachers who believed in niche D&T for the school.

#2 : Stockbroker turned teacher

Mr Boon, married aged 48 years old, was a former stock broker who was retrenched as the company merged with another, part of the consolidation in the stock broking industry during the mid 2000s. He persevered and became a science teacher who would cycle to school every day. He suffered a 50 per cent reduction in his pay. He is a very passionate science teacher who has taught both my kids at different classes. He is well-liked and respected by the pupils in the school. He strongly believes a good education is a way to overcome poverty.

#3 : Sales staff turned entrepreneur of franchised 7-Eleven retail outlet

Mdm Nur, a single Malay female aged 30. She graduated from a polytechnic and worked as a sales operation assistant manager in a department store for some years before the company went into Chapter 11 (bankruptcy/ receivership). She did not receive any compensation. Out of a job, she chanced upon 7-Eleven franchising and with borrowings from family and friends, she ploughed S$30,000 into the franchising business retail outlet in the Woodlands area. She tapped the pool of housewives living the area to man her 7-Eleven retail outlet. She has achieved some success. She has been earning good income from her business over the past three years.

#4 : Kindergarten teacher turned home-baking entrepreneur

Mdm Hamidah, a married Malay in her late twenties. She graduated from polytechnic with a diploma in early education. She had been a kindergarten teacher for four years before she discovered her passion for baking. She shared that during her pregnancy for her first boy, she encountered many issues with the kindergarten management and was indirectly forced to resign even though she managed her class well. She was unemployed during the final semester before her kid was born. After several months after her boy’s birth, she found passion in baking cupcakes at home. She decided she could work part-time baking as well as look after her boy at the comfort of her home. Now, she has been successful selling cupcakes, especially to kindergarten schools. She could see the joy and laughter of children enjoying her decorated, many different exotic-flavoured cupcakes.

#5: IT Engineer turned taxi driver

Mr Chin, a single aged 38 years old, was a former IT Engineer in the computer industry for 10 years. He was retrenched in 2009 when the company restructured and cut costs. Later, he found out that his job was actually taken over by a foreign talent who was cheaper. He was unemployed for at least one year, and many of his job applications come to nothing. Disgusted by the inflow of foreign talent he decided to quit the industry and join the taxi driving trade. He has been taxi driver for four years now, earning a decent income to support and supplement his family household. He dreads to think of marrying a Singaporean woman as he feels they have become too demanding and materialistic. Now, he looks forward to befriending a foreigner who may able to live simply and not mind his current job status. He has been my buddy for a year now. He always confides in me his problems and I listen and regularly counsel.

#6: Electronical engineer turned taxi driver

Mr James, married aged 43 years old, was an NTU degree holder who worked in the electronics industry for 20 years, from the days of hard disks to integrated circuits. He was retrenched a couple of times due to volatile market conditions as the the industries underwent consolidations brought by globalization. He revealed recently that his ex-company now has only 20 per cent Singaporean staff population and 80 per cent foreigners – mainly China, India and the Philippines. He cannot imagine how the industry has changed so much within a short span of five years. He has been taxi driving for three years now and has been my regular brunch partner and good buddy for the past two years.

What should you do when retrenchment hits home ?

  1. Network: Network with like-minded people. Expand beyond different industries. It's about who knows you.
  2. Family support: Continuing strong family support required. Faith, hope and love.
  3. Good attitude: Be positive, adaptable and strong at all times.
  4. Savings: Have sufficient monies to tide over for period of 6 – 12 months.
  5. Stay healthy and fit: Have a good diet, and stay fit and healthy to embrace changes.

How can government can assist affected PMETs ?

  1. Legislate retrenchment benefits and continuing insurance coverage of at least six months coverage on health and insurance.
  2. Issue guidelines to statutory boards, civil service to accept affected PMETs and re-train and equip them with new skill-sets. Leverage on their wide ranging experiences and foresight and shared inputs on problem solving/solutions.
  3. Encourage and grow small and medium enterprises (SMEs) social enterprise businesses through funding, investment, ownership.
  4. Set up a PMETs Academy to retrain them and help them find jobs.
  5. Set up HR guidelines into the ratio of local vs foreigner staff to ensure ‘Singaporean First Employment’. We need to keep the spirit of Singapore flying within our local enterprises.

List of Jobs for affected PMETs

1. Teacher/ Relief teacher
2. Tuition teacher
3. Kindergarten teacher
4. Counsellor
5. Psychologist
6. Healthcare
7. Physiotheraphy
8. Life coach
9. Instructor – life Saving, driving
10. Surveyor – building, oil
11. Insurance agent
12. Property agent
13. Multi-level marketing (MLM)
14. Tour guide
15. Blogger, product reviewer
16. Contract part-timer
17. Theme park operation
18. Stock broker
19. Oil & gas operation
20. Taxi driver

Note : In any work that you do, you must have the passion, and do it really well.