Second chance for former offenders

SINGAPORE - A new programme was launched yesterday to help former convicts upgrade, find work and get a second chance at life. They will get help enrolling in heavily subsidised training courses, during which those without a job will get an allowance. And after completing a course, they will be matched to employers.

The Soar (Strengthening Opportunities, Advocating Resilience) programme is expected to help 375 ex-offenders within the next two years.

It is the first partnership between the Industrial and Services Co-operative Society (Iscos), a social organisation that helps ex-offenders reintegrate, and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA). This was revealed at a job fair organised by Iscos at the Singapore Anti-Narcotic Association in Sengkang, where the programme's initial employer and training partners set up booths.

Those on board include the National Parks Board's Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology, which offers landscaping training courses, and the AAT Training Hub, which conducts forklift training. Employers include foodcourt operator Koufu, food caterer The Wok People, and recruitment agency Prime Human Resource. More than 70 ex-offenders and their families turned up.

Mr Desmond Chin, deputy director of prisons, said more than 10,000 ex-offenders re-join the community every year. "Many ex-offenders face challenges due to a lack of education or skills to meet industry requirements for the job," he said.

WDA's chief executive Ng Cher Pong said the scheme will help ex-offenders understand their strengths, interests, and careers they are suited for.

Mr Patrick Ng, Iscos' executive director, added: "When ex-offenders are gainfully employed and lead productive lives, the chances of offending again are highly reduced."

Soar is open to unemployed ex-convicts who are members of Iscos, and their families. Those in low-paying jobs earning less than $1,900 a month and are below 35 years of age can also apply to upgrade their skills. Up to 90 per cent of the fees for WDA-approved courses will be subsidised.

Those without jobs will be given monthly allowances of up to $750 during training. A bonus will also be given to those who stay on the job for three to six months.

This article was published on April 20 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.