SINGAPORE - Professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who are over 40 and out of work will now be able to find support and advice from others who used to be in the same boat.

The Career Activation Programme was officially announced on Thursday, aiming to bring together job-seekers with volunteers to create a community of peer support through monthly group sharing sessions and personal contact.

The initiative was started by social enterprise GioCareers and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) PME Unit.

The unit's director and Labour MP Patrick Tay told the launch at the NTUC Centre:"(Unemployed PMEs) may send many resumes and be discouraged, it can affect them emotionally in terms of self-esteem.

"We hope the peer support will help reduce stress from social isolation and may help them benefit from a larger social network."

There were more than 633,000 resident PMEs in Singapore last year, of whom almost 3 per cent were unemployed.

A total of 19 PMEs have joined the free programme so far and two pilot sessions have been held so far.

With less than 10 active volunteers - or "career activists" - currently on board the aim is to attract more.

Training consultant Casey Poon, 49, who volunteers at GioCareers, is a former businessman who was nearly made bankrupt after his import-export venture tanked in the Asian Financial Crisis when he was just 29. He suffered from depression and even contemplated suicide but was able to start a new career in printing after six months.

After rising through the ranks to become a sales director, he quit at 40 to switch to the training industry for half his previous salary and now thinks he has found his calling.

He now wants to encourage other PMEs and get them back on their feet

"Many lack a sense of direction even at 40 years old," said Mr Poon, adding: "I also only realised what I really want to do at 40. Back then, I struggled on my own. The more people know about the help available the better."