A TICK in the 'past convictions' box has long been a hurdle to gainful employment. That may now be changing.

Last year, a record 2,459 companies pledged to give former convicts a second chance - up 13 per cent from the 2,118 registered with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score) in 2009.

Score - a statutory board under the Ministry of Home Affairs, which helps inmates and former offenders to become more employable by offering them skills training and job-placement services - released the numbers in response to queries from The Straits Times.

A record number of inmates and former offenders were also assisted by Score in their employment efforts last year.

The agency assisted 2,444 former convicts, a 33 per cent increase from the 1,647 helped in 2009. The numbers include those who were hired and those who were given skills training.

One reason for the increase is the success of the Yellow Ribbon Project, said Ms Juliana Abdul Khalik, senior assistant director at Score.

'The Yellow Ribbon Project plays a crucial role in getting more employers to accept ex-convicts and to garner support,' she said.

The project, which was started in 2004, encourages the community to accept former offenders and their families by bringing about more awareness through programmes like the annual Yellow Ribbon marathon.

One former convict who has benefited from increased acceptance is Mr Abdul Rahim Daud.

He has been working at Logwin Air + Ocean Singapore, an international logistics company, as a warehouse assistant for the past four months.

'It's fantastic,' said the 29-year-old of his time so far at his new company.

'Everybody is so friendly. They don't bring up the past, and it's important to me because I want to forget it,' he added.

Mr Rahim was jailed for vehicle theft in 2009. He had been worried about how long it would take to get a job upon his release, saying: 'As the oldest and the only son in my family, I know I have a lot on my shoulders.'

He lives with his mother and four younger sisters.

His boss, managing director Jimmy Ler, who interviewed him for the position, has nothing but praise for him, saying: 'His job is very important because it helps the company save money and time, and he's excellent at it.'

Mr Rahim ensures that the company does not accidentally export more goods than necessary, saving it money.

Mr Ler, who has hired three former offenders since 2008, said it is important to find out whether they just want to get out of prison, or genuinely want to work.

He added that Mr Rahim is the only one of them still with the company. The other two have found better opportunities and moved on, something Mr Ler does not mind a bit.

Another former convict, Mr Henry See, who is the senior head chef at Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe, is fully aware that the second chance he received is precious.

Jailed for drug offences, he has since made the most of the opportunity he was given. Since being employed as a kitchen helper in 2006, he has been promoted six times.

'If you commit the offence again, you hurt your family, your parents and your employer,' said the 34-year-old, who has an 11-year-old son.

Sociology professor Paulin Tay Straughan from the National University of Singapore said she hopes the trend shows a shift in attitude in Singaporean society.

'I think as we mature as a society, we also appreciate how some Singaporeans may take a wrong turn due to adverse circumstances in their path,' she said.