Training programmes help disabled find jobs

On Thursday, StarHub increased its sponsorship for a training programme for the disabled. ANG QING ( speaks to two beneficiaries.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES: Mr Benjamin Wong, (in black)who has mild intellectual disability, with a team of StarHub employees participating in the SPD Ability Challenge on Thursday.TNP PHOTO: 


She was working as a sales assistant in 2007 when tragedy struck, changing her life forever.

Ms P. Malligah, who was then 41 years old, ended up with a spinal cord injury that left her hospitalised for six months and needing a walking aid for the rest of her life.

She teared up as she recalled the episode and declined to elaborate further.

Unable to stand for long periods, Ms Malligah was forced to leave her job and learn new skills.

She flitted between jobs until 2012, and has been unemployed for the past three years when she joined the Infocomm Accessibility Centre Certificate in Office Skills (Icos) programme in June this year.

The four-month programme equips job seekers aged 18 and above with physical, sensorial or development disabilities with office skills for administrative positions.

It was started by SPD, formerly known as Society for the Physically Disabled.

The 49-year-old woman was initially at a loss during the programme.

Ms Malligah said: "I wanted to learn but I didn't know how. My highest qualification was Secondary 2 as my father could not afford my education."

Her eyes lit up as she described how her confidence improved while attending Icos.

With these skills, Ms Malligah is better qualified for desk bound jobs. Her course ends this month.

She said: "Besides learning computer skills, we are encouraged to improve and upgrade ourselves. Unlike other training courses I've attended, the instructors talk a lot about disability.

"They taught me not to be afraid of how people look at our disability. "

On Thursday, pioneer sponsor StarHub increased its sponsorship of Icos from $200,000 in 2013 and last year to $300,000 for the next two years.


Others like Mr Benjamin Wong have also benefited from the free training, which is supported by the Government and StarHub.

Mr Wong, 22, who has mild intellectual disability said: "The training taught me a lot about office etiquette and IT skills.

"I've also learnt a short cut to switch between two files at the same time when opening Microsoft Excel," he added.

Working as a part-time barista in Coffee Bean, Mr Wong delightedly recounted how he could send e-mails to his boss at work.

But finding jobs for those who 
finish the programme is still a challenge.

Only 25 out of 53 of them have been hired since the programme was launched in July 2013.

Mr Jeffrey Chin, 41, deputy director at SPD said:"When employers hear they need to accommodate, they will not be as willing as compared to a candidate that can do everything. For instance, a wheelchair-bound person will need a lower table."

While SPD is looking for more companies to come on board, Mr Chin told The New Paper that they were not disheartened.

He said: "We are not here for the numbers but for the clients. At least we're making a difference to one person."

But some companies have come forward to help.

More than a hundred companies, mostly Small Medium Enterprises, work with SPD to place disabled workers.

Ms Low Lian Wa, operations supervisor of employment agency RMA Contracts, told TNP that she is keen to employ the disabled.

Ms Low said: "They appreciate every opportunity. Even though it may take three or four times for them to understand things, they have a better attitude. While an able-bodied worker might idle, they are very focused."

She has employed hearing-impaired employees who perform their duties better than regular workers.

Ms Low's firm has about 10 employees with disabilities, two of whom attended Icos.

She said: "We believe that everybody deserves a fair chance and opportunity."

$30 million scheme to help disabled workers and their employers

The Open Door Programme (ODP) is an initiative run by Government agency SG Enable that supports disabled workers and their employers.

In April last year, the Government set aside $30 million to fund the scheme over three years.

Any Singapore-registered organisation interested in hiring, or who has hired employees with disabilities can apply for the programme that helps integrate disabled workers into the workplace.

The scheme covers job training, recruitment services, workplace modification, job redesign and other funds to ease employers into hiring disabled workers.

That means employers worried about additional costs when hiring disabled workers can apply for financial grants to send disabled employees for training and create a user-friendly workplace.

Any disabled person who is looking for a job or wish to attend skills upgrading courses can also apply for the ODP.

Unemployed workers can refer to the Open Door Job Portal as well as apply for training grants and allowances during the training period.

Registration and posting of job vacancies is free on the SG Enable website.

Employers and employees can register with SG Enable by calling 1800 8585 885.

More information can be found at in the ODP section.