In today’s digital age, it can be hard for ex-offenders to return to the workforce, even after they’ve paid their dues and served their time in the eyes of the law.
Sometimes, just googling their own names can be dissuasive enough. They realise that articles mentioning them and their wrongdoing will pop up even after their release, which can be even more harrowing than traditional print media in the past.
In fairness, their future employability should hinge on whether they have the skillset needed for the role and how they can contribute to the organisation, shared Eu Chin Yen, senior associate for partnership at Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG).
As part of YRSG’s outreach team, she works closely with active employers to provide job opportunities for ex-offenders, proactively reaching out to new employers to garner support for inclusive hiring.
Besides onboarding the employers, Chin Yen engages them to ensure they are well-prepared to work closely with YRSG in supporting ex-offenders’ reintegration efforts.
She also ensures good communication with YRSG’s placement team, to understand the job aspirations of inmates and strive her best to meet their interests.
She shared with Workipedia by MyCareersFuture: “On average, YRSG provides employment assistance to about 2,700 ex-offenders released into the community annually.
“The rest of the ex-offenders usually prefer to source their own employment or return to their previous employer. Some of them may also consider other plans, such as furthering their studies.
“In 2021, about 94% of the inmates who sought YRSG’s assistance were successfully placed in a job. The career retention rate for ex-offenders who remained employed for 3 months and 6 months are 84% and 66% respectively.”
Can ex-offenders in Singapore find jobs and get their careers back on track?
Grace Sim is a customer service team leader with XDel Singapore Pte Ltd, a courier company that handles express courier and delivery services in e-commerce and last-mile fulfilment.
Previously incarcerated for a period of five years and ten months, she took the opportunity while serving her time to complete her GCE “N” levels. She was eventually placed in a community-based programme in a halfway house and was offered a job opportunity by XDel.
Her current role requires her to assist the manager in leading the team and attending to customers. She was nominated and awarded the Yellow Ribbon Advocate of Second Chances Award (Overcomer) at the Yellow Ribbon Awards 2022 for her exemplary efforts in reintegration!
Grace shared with Workipedia by MyCareersFuture: “At the age of 25, I was imprisoned for drug-related offences.
“During my days in remand prior to conviction, I already started to reflect and plan what I should do in prison as I knew it would be a long sentence.
“I would not say that life in prison was a struggle but rather living in a more disciplined environment. Life in prison taught me how to obey rules and regulations.”
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For her, the initial job offer from XDel also provided her with a role near her residence after being released from prison, and the pay offered was higher than other companies. She added that the role also would give her more time and money to spend with and on her son.
However, there were concerns about how her colleagues would feel and think about her and her criminal record.
Initially, I was worried that my colleagues may look down on me if they got to know my past, shared Grace.
“To my surprise, it turned out the other way! Not only didn’t they look down on me, but they were also friendly, helpful and encouraging towards me.”
She also revealed that it is XDel’s policy not to reveal any employee’s past incarceration unnecessarily.
“In fact, most of my colleagues did not know that I am an ex-offender until they asked me where I was working previously.
“I answered them truthfully. If I want them to accept my past, I must first accept it and face it squarely.”
Today, her day-to-day work life and interactions are no different from anyone else’s, and she works alongside her colleagues and has lunch with them whenever they’re at the office.
An inclusive employer’s point-of-view when hiring ex-offenders
David Chan, the head of audit, compliance and investigation at XDel, shared more with Workipedia by MyCareersFuture, saying: “In XDel, an employee’s past is confidential and on a need-to-know basis.
“As such, we did not reveal her past incarceration to her colleagues. and left it to her to decide what she wished to make known.
“Ex-offenders have already served their punishments and should not be victimised, and we give them similar opportunities just like any other employees.”
Currently, XDel employs five ex-offenders. David himself was nominated and awarded the YR Advocate of Second Chances Award (Workplace Advocate) at the Yellow Ribbon Awards 2022, for being an exemplary workplace supervisor. At the same event, XDel was also lauded and given an award for being a supportive and inclusive employer.
Ex-offenders, help is available for your job search!
Such employers with inclusive hiring practices are growing in numbers, and jobseekers who have been imprisoned previously will have opportunities and help to get their careers back on track, Chin Yen shared.
“Ex-offenders who are successfully placed with employers would receive up to 12 months of career retention support by YRSG’s career coaches.
The career coaches work closely with the ex-offenders to provide relevant support, such as guiding them on how to manage job demands and setting behavioural goals.
“They will also work closely with employers and supervisors and help them understand the support needed by ex-offenders and resolve work-related issues.”
These coaches work in tandem with Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) programmes targeting employers to offer employment support to ex-offenders.
They benefit employers by allowing them to:
- Gain access to an alternative pool of productive and committed workers through job-matching services by YRSG
- Benefit from career retention support by YRSG career coaches to support employers and help ex-offenders stay in employment
Industry-wise, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng shared in 2021 that environmental services, food services, logistics, wholesale trade and construction were the top five hiring sectors for ex-offenders that year.
In terms of the roles that tend to be more readily available for ex-offenders, Chin Yen revealed that generally, companies are more inclined to offer rank & file positions, such as drivers, warehouse assistants and front-of-house or back-of-house food and beverage industry positions, as compared to professional, managerial, executive and technical (PMET) roles such as business development, accounting, or auditing roles.
However, efforts are being made to get employers onboard to offer career opportunities above entry-level positions.
To enhance their employability and employment outcomes, YRSG provides nationally accredited skills training for inmates while they are in prison and under community supervision. The training provided is aligned with Singapore’s Skills Framework to ensure relevance to the workplace.
For instance, through their TAP (Train and Place) & Grow initiative, YRSG partners with like-minded employers, trade associations and training institutions to set up training academies inside prisons.
This enables inmates to undergo industry-specific training to develop the requisite skills, where they will be recruited into relevant industries after their release.
To date, YRSG has collaborated with the Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association (SPETA), Mediacorp and Singapore Logistics Association (SLA) in the precision engineering, media and logistics sectors, respectively. This will benefit about 650 inmates per year.
Chin Yen concluded: “Ex-offenders, those who have upskilled, are competent and comparable to the rest of the workforce. They can also be valuable to the workforce and organisations.
“With second chances, support from employers and all parties in the community, ex-offenders can also meaningfully contribute back to society like all Singaporeans.
“We are, after all, each other’s second chances!”