Since she lost her job as a lab technician after her company was shut down in May last year, Madam Perumal Krishnaveni Bellarmin Carmel has been looking for work to support herself and her 87-year-old mother.

But the 67-year-old has not been successful despite applying for three jobs, including at a supermarket that was looking for a cashier last November.

"An employee exclaimed in surprise when she saw my age on the application, but it shouldn't be a reason (for not hiring me)," said Madam Krishnaveni, who had managed a minimart before she became a lab technician in 2006.

To help workers such as Madam Krishnaveni, a job fair targeted at older workers was organised at Our Tampines Hub yesterday.

Billed as the first of a series of inclusive job fairs that will feature employers with age-friendly practices, the half-day fair was organised by the National Trades Union Congress, the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), North East Community Development Council and Our Tampines Hub.

More than 500 job seekers attended the fair. About 40 per cent were aged 50 and above, while about a third were professionals, managers and executives.

There were 19 companies at the fair, including Tan Tock Seng Hospital, NTUC Health, SBS Transit and Far East Hospitality.

Positions available included patient service assistants, technicians and retail assistants. By the end of the day, about 150 job seekers who attended the event were shortlisted or offered positions.

Layoffs last year rose to the highest level since 2009, with professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) the hardest hit, forming 72 per cent of local workers made redundant.

As of May last year, workers above the age of 60 formed 12 per cent of the resident labour force, or about 275,000, a sharp rise from 5.5 per cent in 2006.

More measures to help PMETs and older workers were announced last month. Among other things, employers will be offered higher wage subsidies under the Career Support Programme for 18 months, up from 12 months previously. This is to encourage them to hire PMETs aged 40 and above who have been unemployed for more than a year.

Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo, who is also NTUC's director of industry transformation and productivity, said the organisers had taken care to curate job openings with a relatively shorter training period, so older workers can quickly adapt to and master their new jobs.

He said the Government is prepared to provide grants to encourage firms to hire older workers, but employers also need to see that older workers can provide value.

"By bringing people face to face in (situations like) this job fair, hirers see that workers are skilled, experienced and can get on the job quite quickly."

NTUC has plans to organise such fairs with its partners at other constituencies every quarter.

As for Madam Krishnaveni, she is waiting to hear from three employers at the fair.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Job fair targets older workers'