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  • Publish Date: Posted over 12 years ago
  • Author: Molly
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The UK may not have been deep in snow as it was when I left in Jan 2011 but having spent the last year in Singapore the cold reality of a UK winter hit me before I had even reached Heathrowメs taxi stand so I for one was very glad of the milder start to 2012 despite my chattering teeth telling me a different story! The journey back to my north London home gave me time to reflect upon my year in Singapore and to look forward to seeing much missed family. Having spent the last 22 working years in the UKメs recruitment industry ムa change - as they say - ムis as good as a restメ so when a secondment opportunity to take my experience of International Recruitment-to-Recruitment abroad came up to establish McCallメs first international footprint I grabbed the chance. Having worked for McCall since the start of the Millennium I had evolved from the initial focus of the Home Counties in to a national role into developing the international division in 2006 so being at the forefront of McCallメs new international offices was the culmination of 6 years hard work. McCallメs international division had made placements in 4 of the worldメs continents in to countries that included India, China, Chile, Switzerland and the USA but our main focus had always been the Middle East as well South East & Far East Asia and Australia so a Singapore office was an obvious pin in the map for McCall which was quickly followed by the opening of our first Australian office set up by Claire OメDwyer in Sydneyメs CBD in May 2011. For those who havenメt ventured to Singapore all I can say is its absolutely fabulous, I am a fan ! Its safe, clean, respectful and to a degree highly efficient, everything it does is of the highest standards and with so much new architecture adorning the skyline and lighting up the night its bound to impress even the hardest cynics. The weather is warm although the humidity is something that takes a lot of getting used to, it rains hard and dries quickly but oddly often mid afternoon so never be without a brolly! There is every culinary cuisine you can imagine, food can be cheap in the hawker markets, supermarkets make shopping easy, the shopping precincts are amazing with many shops seen on the UK high street as well as the haute couture boutiques you see along Bond Street & New York, you can spend fortunes in Chanel, Gucci or Prada or dress simply from M&S, New Look or Dorothy Perkins! The Marina Shoppes close to me even had an ice rink surrounded by restaurants & a Theatre with shows like the Lion King. Coffee shops are everywhere as it seems to be a national obsession with young and old to while away the hours over a cappuccino and laptop. The MRT transportation system (Mass Rapid Transport which is like the London tube but a million times better) is clean and even your mobile phone will work underground, its on time, mainly driverless so no strikes to contend with and certainly as its name suggests its rapid with a distinct lack of graffiti too, maybe because people have pride in what they have in Singapore and are respectful of their country and its people but may be driven by the tough laws too but the sight of a policeman is a rare occasion anyway. Singapore is close to Malaysia ヨ in fact a bus ride away, some islands of Indonesia are only a ferry ride away and the likes of Thailand, Hong Kong, Bali etc are only a short plane ride ヨ Bintan or Brighton, I know which one I would choose ! ! But I was there to work so holidays werenメt a priority, Singapore I think is best described as ムLondon in Asiaメ, its very easy to operate there, the main language is English, there is a high proportion of ex-pats working in recruitment, many from the UK and the demand for UK or similar like Australian recruiters who can work with pace and energy with a focus on sales and proactive candidate attraction who want to move to Asia was high although the shift towards people who already had Asian experience kicked in harder later in the year. The Singapore office is based on Cecil Street in the heart of the CBD (Central Business District). The Singapore market from my business perspective is very much Professional Services with Accountancy, Banking, Finance and IT being prevalent as well Legal, HR, Pharmaceutical and Technical encompassing Engineering, Oil and Gas and Construction and McCall was surrounded by familiar international companies that litter the UKメs recruitment landscape as well as local and less recognizable names that are born out of the likes of Australia, Hong Kong or locally in Singapore. It was also a target location for many companies wanting to dip their toe in to Asia and had identified Singapore as the place to do it, a hub to penetrate across the SEA and FE markets and possibly and easier and cheaper way to work in to the likes of China without having to gain an expensive Chinese licence. The Jan start was slower than expected due to Chinese New Year looming but didnメt take long to pick up speed. Being able to work in-country and meet clients and candidates face to face as opposed to working over the phone 8 hours behind was a real pleasure, even Australia was only a few hours ahead so being able to walk in and shake the hand of a client who had simply been a voice at the other end of the phone made a real difference. My main focus for the year was to hire a team, the second part of my remit was to (by the end of the year) move in to more permanent offices coupled with growing a client base and hands-on billing. By April the Manager Kuljit Kaur was in situ and as a team we started to expand, our first team hire is David Bolland, an IT recruiter who has worked in both the UK and Singaporean IT recruitment market. As the year progressed the preference for recruiters who already had exposure to Asia or locally grown Singaporean talent had increased but the pool is shallow so you can never look too far away from importing foreign talent although the Government had stated in its election campaign they would reduce the numbers of foreigners coming in so to give locals especially new grads a better chance of gaining employment (not just in recruitment but across all areas). Despite the challenges of being in a new business and the long hours it was still proving to be a very enjoyable experience and McCall had successfully effected placements locally in Singapore as well as further afield in likes of Hong Kong and The Philippines. Anyone wanting to work in Singapore (unless a Singaporean or citizen) had to have an EP (Employment Pass) but further restrictions were put in place making it harder to gain that EP, for instance non-grads in the past had got through the EP process but now unless they were senior and well paid individuals they were having their EP applications rejected, in fact I knew of a few applications for workers who had been in Singapore for a number of years having their re-applications rejected as well as new applicants being rejected - some were successful after an appeal, others less so. Our time was spent very much on the candidate attraction side of recruitment and less on client attraction. Around the start of the second quarter the Singapore Government had decided to clean up the recruitment industry (not a bad thing) and was bringing in a new licence and accreditation system, this was due to some of the hundreds of maid & construction agencies operating unscrupulously and treating its work force badly, the issue of this decision affected not just the maid agencies but the entire recruitment industry including those who operated ethically and professionally, whether large corporates or smaller boutiques .. So in came the new system and everyone had to become individually registered with the MOM (Ministry of Manpower) with time lines for some given to undertake a 40 hour study programme ending in an examination covering a multitude of subjects including Singaporean Labour Laws and Employment Visas. Agencies that operated in the senior space placing candidates above $7k pm were exempt from the studies so this was immediately like a red rag to a bull, so many companies set about lobbying the government to re-think their decision and lucky for some it was agreed that an agency could place candidates on salaries between $4k and $7kpm under a Select Licence with exemptions... I cant believe how quickly my year in Singapore went by, by October the team was in place, a database was growing and we started to think about new office space and at the end of December 2011 McCall moved next door, from Keck Seng Tower to The Octagon, in to newly furbished offices ready to start a new and exiting year. So now its Jan 2012, I am back in my old Regional office in Hertfordshire and a new focus, a re focus on picking up where I left off with China and Hong Kong, The Middle East and Europe, picking up on old contacts around the world and lastly wishing the guys in the Singapore and Australian offices all the luck in the world for a highly successful future. Elaine Penketh Director ヨ McCall International