Bosses have been urged to help boost employment by overlooking academic qualifications or age considerations when recruiting low-ranking staff. And plans are under way to recognise workers who have completed government retraining courses as having obtained Form Three qualifications. The initiatives are part of a package to relieve unemployment, which stands at a three-year high of 3.5 per cent. Employees Retraining Board executive director Sam Chow Tung-shan told a seminar for employers yesterday programmes would take a new direction in brushing up workers' skills. Mr Chow cited a retrained worker, 42, with only primary school passes, who won a 'best sales assistant' award after joining a fashion shop - although someone young or with Form Three qualifications had originally been sought. 'Qualifications or age means nothing to a customer. A professor doesn't necessarily serve someone better than a trained third former,' said Mr Chow. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, who chaired yesterday's seminar, said retraining was a central part of the government strategy on unemployment. The board would spend $301 million on 73,000 retraining places this year, he said. But participant Joanna Lee Siu-kwan, from a management consultancy, criticised the retraining policy as too passive. She said retraining should be targeted to meet demand. Protesting airport railway workers claimed victory last night after contractor Balfour Beatty ended a week-long dispute by agreeing to pay extra allowances.