WITH a poor command of English despite her secondary school education, an unemployed Madam Katherine Loh, 60, feared picking up the phone to seek job opportunities.
Recalled the Chinese-educated Madam Loh, who lost her administrative post in January this year: "Once companies heard I was 60 years old, they rejected me on the spot. I was very disheartened."
But she now feels revitalised after a two-day motivational workshop early this month.
She said: "The career consultant encouraged us to not be afraid to try. And it helped that my course mates were facing the same problems. We looked to each other for support."
Madam Loh is one of some 100 low-wage workers who have attended motivational workshops as part of a basic skills training programme called Workfare-Skill Up.
The programme provides workers with the foundation to move on to vocational training - during which they will receive allowances - under a parent scheme called Workfare Training Support (WTS) Scheme.
WTS, overseen by the Workforce Development Agency, will be launched officially on Thursday. Workers aged 35 or older and earning up to $1,700 a month can sign up.
The three-year, $190-million scheme aims to get workers to enrol for existing Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) training courses at Continuing Education and Training centres.
Employers who send their workers for courses under WTS will enjoy 90 to 95 per cent course-fee subsidies and absentee payroll funding.
Speaking to reporters after a dialogue at Kebun Baru Community Centre yesterday, Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong said WTS was targeted at helping low-wage workers overcome workplace and personal obstacles to upgrade themselves.
Other than the motivational workshops, Workfare-Skill Up also includes an eight-level programme of English lessons, which will equip workers with the literary skills to follow courses conducted in that language.
Trainees will be paid $200 for every literacy level they train for and attain. Training allowances will also be provided to offset costs such as transport.
As for Madam Loh, she now plans to take the Workfare-Skill Up English lessons. She also intends to sign up for WSQ training in Food Preparation under WTS, and ultimately to open a food stall in a school - using her improved English to converse with students and staff.
To find out more about WTS, call the toll-free hotline on 1800-5368 333.
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