Foundation helps break the cycle of unemployment

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 March, 2004, 12:00am

With unemployment languishing at 7.3 per cent, two of the main factors preventing professionals and managers from finding new employment are flagging self-confidence and a lack of effective networking skills, according to the Getting Back to Work Foundation.

Registered as a charity in 2002, the foundation was set up by Nigel Cumberland, founder of executive recruitment firm St George's Consulting. The aim of the non-profit making organisation is to help professionals and managers in Hong Kong find jobs.

Ralph Leonard, who manages the foundation, said: 'Nigel was a recruiter at the time the market started to weaken and he was being approached by a number of people looking for work, repeatedly. But each time they had not really changed or come up with a different approach. It was just the same thing over and over again.

'So he set up the foundation with the idea of holding seminars and workshops so that people who attend can gain back some of their confidence and receive up-to-date market knowledge to allow them to hone their skills.

'People who attend our seminars should be better able to target and present themselves to get back to work that much faster.'

Since its first official seminar in January last year, the foundation has seen more than 1,200 people pass through its doors. Most participants are unemployed, middle-level managers and professionals, aged between 25 and 50, who earn upwards of $20,000 a month and fall into the 'sandwich' class.

With the impact of negative equity and the limited support in the market, these were the workers who were hurting the most, Mr Leonard said.

'Research shows that the Labour Department has focused its resources on helping the lower end of the market - those who earn less than $15,000 a month.'

Managers who sign up for the seminars will almost always come away fired up and optimistic about their chances, thanks to the advice of industry professionals who offer a combination of confidence-building exercises, attitudinal coaching, and marketing and networking skills.

Previous seminars have included talks by experts on how to plan financially and earn an income while looking for full-time work, CV writing, interviewing techniques and a peek into what employers are looking for.

The seminars also pinpoint the sectors that are hiring people, the hottest now being accounting, banking, hotels and hospitality, sourcing, logistics and marketing.

With the last seminar held in December, those in need of a pick-me-up will be grateful to know the foundation is putting the final touches to another meeting, to be held on Wednesday. The four-hour programme will be conducted in English, as all activities are, and will lead participants into creating a positive attitude and sharpening their job-seeking skills. It will also provide an insight into what recruiters look for in successful candidates.

The seminar is open to all, although priority is given to those who are unemployed, and an optional donation of $100, paid on the day, is suggested to help partially cover running costs.

A follow-up, two-day workshop will be held on March 30-31, the content of which has yet to be finalised.

Ideally, the foundation would like to coach more than 15,000 people a year, which should be possible if it manages to find the funding to host one seminar a month for 500 people.

It would also like to hold two weeks of workshops at the end of each seminar, catering for 15 people a day, and to be able to provide advice to at least 50 job seekers to enable them to set up their own businesses and employ others.