His job hunt draws a plank

His job hunt draws a plank
Story is about new carpenters who will plug manpower gap. Featuring ex-convict Koh Hock Chye, who asks his daughter for help when he doesn't understand certain big English words in carpentry course.

SINGAPORE - Fresh out of prison last September, he wanted a stable job that would enable him to support his wife and two daughters.

He applied for office positions and stall assistant jobs at hawker centres and coffee shops - but to no avail.

Mr Koh Hock Chye, 46, always got replies along the lines of "Please go home and wait for our call".

Six months of job-hunting made him grow to learn that such a reply was an indirect rejection.

"I understand why they would be reluctant to take me as I have to report to the Police Cantonment Complex every Tuesday," said the former drug runner who was jailed for five years.

Desperate for a fresh start, Mr Koh approached the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score) for help.

Score offered him a list of jobs and a place-andtrain programme for carpentry.

The six-month course was created by the Singapore Furniture Industries Council to train a new breed of carpenters known as "creative craftsmen" to plug a severe manpower gap in the industry.

Participants get a starting salary of $1,500 while attending the course and will work with furniture companies for a year upon graduation. The pioneer batch of students for the course began their classes on March 31.

Mr Koh, who has had prior experience in carpentry when he was in his 20s, jumped at the chance.

He recounted: "I used to be an apprentice... for a few months, but didn't learn much as I was sawing or filing wood all day."

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