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Swallow pride and get job, say experts

I would hire M. Mahalingam, said Mr Benny Se Teo, the founder and director of Eighteen Chefs, a chain of Western food restaurants.

He hires ex-convicts.

"His age doesn't matter. It doesn't matter even if he is a former drug addict. As long as he is willing to work, I am willing to hire," said Mr Teo.

With five outlets islandwide and plans to expand, Mr Teo said 45 per cent of his 120 employees are ex-convicts.

There are many jobs available for ex-offenders, including recalcitrant ones.

But it is up to them to swallow their pride and approach organisations such as the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score) for help.

Score is a statutory board in charge of enhancing the employability of offenders and preparing them for reintegration into the national workforce.

About 4,145 employers are registered with the agency, up from 2,459 in 2010, reported The Straits Times in July.

Deputy director of Breakthrough Missions Freddy Wee said some ex-offenders had told him that the jobs offered by such agencies are low paying.

Mr Wee, whose organisation runs a halfway house for ex-offenders in Yew Siang Road at Pasir Panjang, said: "It is not difficult for them to find jobs if they approach agencies such as Score. But some ex-offenders prefer to look for jobs on their own.

"This can be a bit more difficult as some industries, like security, don't accept ex-offenders. Ex-offenders need to be humble because becoming gainfully employed is more important."

Counsellor John Vasavan shared the same sentiment.

He said: "I think more companies are now willing to employ ex-offenders. It is up to these people to approach agencies such as Score."

Mr Vasavan also felt that the more educated ex-offenders, such as diploma holders and graduates, tend to be more picky when looking for jobs.

He said: "They may not be able to work in air-conditioned offices like how they used to before they were jailed.

"But they should get a job, even less glamorous ones, to earn a living."

9,000 RELEASED

The prisons release about 9,000 inmates a year, with more than half having served short sentences of less than a year.

The attitude of ex-convicts also counts, said Mr Teo.

"There are two categories of people who are released - those who think the whole world owes them a living and those who want to make something out of their lives.

"I have a staff who used to be a hardcore drug addict and trafficker, but he has risen up the ranks from service crew to manager after working with me for seven years."

Mr Teo stresses the importance of an ex-offender being employed.

"Counsellors can give all the advice in the world but without a job, ex-offenders will go back to their old ways in no time because they will need money to survive."