Jobseekers here will get help in finding jobs from two new placement companies appointed by Workforce Singapore (WSG).

These overseas companies will provide free help to professionals, managers, executives and technicians who lose their jobs or have been unemployed for at least three months, under a two-year pilot scheme to help place PMETs in jobs.

A random selection of jobseekers who approach the WSG and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) for employment help will be assigned to career coaches from the two companies, which will not accept walk-in clients.

The firms have worked with governments of countries such as Australia, South Korea and the United Kingdom to help place workers.

The first company, Ingeus, has already taken on some cases since it began operations here on Monday at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar, the WSG said in a statement yesterday. It did not name the second operator, which will start operations by the end of June.

The WSG brought in the firms as two previous pilot schemes it ran - each time with two local employment agencies, from 2011 to 2014 and from 2014 to 2017 - were unsuccessful. The agencies in the second run had a placement rate of less than 50 per cent, below the 60 per cent of the WSG and e2i for PMETs.

PMETs comprise 72 per cent of the 11,080 local residents made redundant last year, and have a below-average rate of getting a new job within six months.

The WSG said local employment agencies tend to focus on passive jobseekers, who are already employed but are open to other opportunities. The agencies are also employer-centric rather than jobseeker-centric, as they are paid by employers for filling vacancies, rather than for every jobseeker they place in employment.

The WSG sought to address this issue by paying the local agencies in its pilot schemes based on job placements. But this did not yield results. It decided to work with the overseas firms after learning they provide end-to-end career matching services, from coaching jobseekers to providing support after they are hired.

"Such pilots demonstrate WSG's commitment to constantly innovate and test out new approaches to better serve a constantly evolving workforce with changing profiles," said the WSG's group director for its Careers Connect Group, Ms Lynn Ng. She said the WSG is open to working with local providers that focus on placing active PMET jobseekers.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say announced the move to bring in overseas providers last month, as part of initiatives to better match out-of-work people with jobs.

The providers will be paid based on actual placements made, said the WSG. It declined to disclose the fees or placement targets, citing contractual confidentiality.

The two companies in the pilot are among five overseas providers the WSG considered since it began engaging potential firms last year.

Ingeus was founded by Ms Therese Rein, the wife of former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd. It now has 10 staff here, who are all local and led by operations director Adrian Tan. An adviser from abroad will provide expertise to the team as it sets up operations.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan said placement agencies here have focused on recruitment because it is employers who pay for their services. There are other components which can improve the job matching process besides changing the payment model, he noted.

"PMETs should also be motivated to try and get themselves job-ready for available jobs, and have a realistic mindset," he said.

Labour MP Patrick Tay said having the new companies will allow WSG and e2i to benchmark against them: "I look forward to seeing their results at the end of the pilot, especially in the challenging areas of placing the long-term unemployed and minimising the mismatch of skills, jobs and expectations."

A jobseeker in her mid-20s, who gave her name as Ms S. Lim, said she hopes such initiatives will be better communicated to the public.

The life sciences graduate left her research job last year to look for one with better career progression, but has been unsuccessful after nearly half a year. "I have been rejected from positions that I am qualified for, despite having fulfilled the requirements," she said. "It definitely helps to know that there will be services that serve the interests of jobseekers."

This article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline '2 overseas firms roped in to help PMETs find jobs'.