We feel you — it can be hard being a middle-aged, mid-career professional, particularly if you fall under the professional, managerial, executive, and technical (PMET) or middle manager demographic.
On one hand, you’ve got both bosses and subordinates to manage and deal with. On the other hand, you’re also worried about finding yourself abruptly out of a job, or being left behind by the non-stop technological advances at the workplace.
Those who do end up getting retrenched may take up temporary positions or gig work to pay the bills, but the limbo makes that worry if that’s going to be a long-term solution.
At the same time, fresh graduates pile into the market, competing for jobs.
Unfortunately, these challenges for PMETs are not new to the Singapore job market, according to SIM Global Education senior lecturer Dr Tan Khay Boon.
He said to Business Times: “The issue of displacement of mature PMETs is not new, as structural unemployment among senior workers – including PMETs – is one of the long-term challenges encountered by Singapore.”
Singapore University of Social Sciences associate Walter Theseira added: “While the economy has increased demand for PMETs today compared to 20 years ago, having a PMET qualification or work history really doesn’t stand out anymore.”
PMETs and middle managers are certainly a part of the 196,400 that had lost jobs (as of the third quarter of 2021, according to a report by the Ministry of Trade and Industry), due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Industries affected include tourism and aviation-related sectors, consumer-facing sectors such as retail and food and beverage, construction and the maritime industry.
As National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay previously said: “Based on labour market statistics and reports, we have seen that our middle-career workers continue to be the most vulnerable and affected by retrenchments, with higher skilled, middle-aged PMEs the hardest hit.”
Thankfully for PMETs who were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, there were government schemes that aided them to rebound to their next job quickly. Singapore Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo shared in July 2021 that more than 60% of unemployed locals had secured permanent employment through Workforce Singapore (WSG) and government career schemes.
She revealed in a written answer to Parliament that approximately 5,300 locals benefited from SGUnited Traineeships and mid-career pathway programmes, with 52,000 locals placed into PMET jobs, traineeships or attachments.
Reskilling and upskilling matters
If you’re looking to stay competitive in our own job market, then upskilling, particularly for digital skills, is clearly crucial.
Employers have higher expectations of employees today than they did in the past.
For example, proficiency with Microsoft Excel is no longer a unique skill like it was once, but one that employers take for granted.
In most offices, you will also probably be expected to operate the latest computing system or version of software relevant to your field, like Basecamp or SharePoint in project management or Adobe Creative Suite for digital marketers.
Professor Jochen Wirtz, vice-dean for MBA Programmes at NUS Business School said to Workipedia by MyCareersFuture: “The democratisation of intelligent automation has made these technologies accessible to the broader workforce.
“I believe that in five years, if an employee or jobseeker doesn’t know low-coding or any coding platforms at all, they will be regarded as lesser-skilled, in the same way those that aren’t good at Microsoft Office, Excel, Powerpoint or Word are considered.”
For middle managers, he warned: “Ultimately, these skills will become expected for most but the lowest-level PMET workers.”
On the other hand, if you’re considering greener pastures and trying new industries, then reskilling is going to be necessary.
Thankfully, there are programmes such as the Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs) offered by Workforce Singapore (WSG) that are aimed specifically for mid-career individuals to help them move into new thriving industries.
With over a hundred CCPs that provide industry-recognised training and links to companies in various sectors, these PCPs will help you undergo the necessary reskilling to be job-ready.
To keep up, we’ve also put together a package of stories for PMETs and middle managers at various stages of your career, so you can keep on top of things career and workplace-wise below. Good luck!