Giving jobseekers with disabilities a fair shot at employment

Conversations around workplace diversity and inclusion are increasingly getting in the spotlight today. Read on to find out how SPD is supporting employers and employees in their inclusive employment journey.

Conversations around diversity and inclusion at the workplace are increasingly getting in the spotlight today. This may not have come as a surprise to many. In the latest Enabling Masterplan 2030, the Government released its aspirational target of 40 per cent employment rate of persons with disabilities (PwDs) by 2030, up from the current 31 per cent. 

This further highlights the need to develop more inclusive employers and remove the barriers that are hindering PwDs in their employment journey. 

A wheelchair user stopping in front of a flight of stairs
Photo credit: Shutterstock 

“The key obstacles that some PwDs face include lacking access to higher education and skills, misperceptions of co-workers and inaccessible commuting journey or physical infrastructure,” noted Ms Lee Hui Lin, SPD’s assistant director of employment and training. 

Employers, on the other hand, also have their share of challenges. For instance, some may not know how to make workplace accommodations, are inexperienced in managing PwDs or have a misperception of the abilities of PwDs to perform, especially in higher level jobs. 

To help both employers and employees with disabilities overcome these hurdles, SPD provides a continuum of employment and training services that cater to jobseekers of varying skill and job readiness levels. 

SPD’s employment and training continuum tailors support to jobseekers’ readiness and abilities 

When Mdm Ng Chai Lian had a stroke in 2014, she left her job in an administrative role. But as her savings started to deplete, the 55-year-old felt an immediate need to look for a job.  

That was when she approached SPD’s Employment Support Programme (ESP) for assistance to secure open employment, which refers to employment in the mainstream workforce. 

However, Mdm Ng was assessed to be unsuitable for open employment at the time. 

“For jobseekers who are in a similar situation as Mdm Ng, we will assess and place them in a suitable programme under our continuum of employment and training services to enhance their employability,” said Ms Lee.  

Mdm Ng was subsequently referred to SPD’s Sheltered Workshop for vocational training. 

A group of S P D Sheltered Workshop trainees engaging in packing work
A group of trainees engaging in packing work

Supporting over 100 trainees like Mdm Ng, SPD’s Sheltered Workshop provides work and vocational training for persons with disabilities (PwDs) in a sheltered environment.  

Trainees at the Sheltered Workshop are engaged in sub-contract work such as packaging, labelling of products, data entry, digital scanning, as well as leather crafting and production of marketable products. 

A S P D artisan sewing a leather product
A trainee sewing a leather product

“To help Mdm Ng brush up her work skills, we engaged her in tasks such as counting and packing of disposable containers,” shared team lead Tan Lee Huan. “ Mdm Ng was productive and willing to work on the different tasks assigned to her.” 

As part of a training opportunity, Mdm Ng was selected for an enclave assignment in 2019 with our employment partner in the logistics industry. Working directly in a company had given Mdm Ng a wider exposure to the challenges of a real-work environment, thereby boosting her chances of securing open employment. 

Mdm Ng engaging in labelling work
Mdm Ng now works as a packer in an agricultural company 

As Mdm Ng gained more confidence and became more job-ready, the team shortlisted her for a job as a packer at an agricultural company, under SPD’s Intensive Supported Employment Programme (ISEP).  

ISEP trainees receive a longer job trial, more intensive training, and supervision to place and sustain them in open employment.  

With sheer determination and hard work, Mdm Ng completed her job trial and has been hired by the agricultural company since September 2021. 

“Mdm Ng’s example has shown us the potential of PwDs in the workforce when given adequate training and accommodation,” said Ms Lee. “Often, all they need is a fair shot at employment.” 

Keep an open mind about inclusive hiring 

Employers in Singapore are beginning to see the merits of having a diverse workforce. One such employer is W360 Group, which has been working with SPD to hire PwDs since last year.  

The creation of a new role with the flexibility to work from home has allowed W360 Group to open the position to PwDs, said its CEO Ms Julie Chiam.  

Mr Tan working from home
The work-from-home arrangement provides more convenience for Mr Tan who has low vision. 

A recent hire was 62-year-old Mr David Tan, a telemarketer who has low vision. Having the option to work from home has given the white cane user the ease of not having to beat the transport crowd. Regular team bonding sessions on Fridays help Mr Tan to stay connected with his team. 

Prior to securing employment, Mr Tan learnt more about his job expectations and interviewing techniques through guidance from SPD’s Employment Support Programme (ESP).  

Jobseekers like Mr Tan are not the only ones who have benefited from ESP’s support. Working with employers are also a key focus of the programme. Through job tasks analysis, recommendation of workplace accommodations and conducting of disability awareness talks, the ESP team strives to deliver holistic support to the employers in their inclusive hiring journey. 

Impressed with Mr Tan’s enthusiasm and positive working attitude, Ms Chiam said: “David is a hardworking employee, who is very independent most of the time. Our staff are also very willing to extend a helping hand to him whenever he needs help in his work.” 

Having seen the abilities and work ethic of those with disabilities, Ms Chiam encourages other employers to keep an open mind and give these employees a chance. 

“We started out our inclusive hiring journey with the intention to give back to society. But the positive experience with David has affirmed our belief that PwDs can perform well if there are good support systems in place,” added Ms Chiam. 
A wheelchair user speaking with a man in an office
Photo credit: Shutterstock 

Employment is more than just a means to financial independence. It is also about empowering PwDs to be socially connected, exercise their talents, and achieve their life goals.  

This Labour Day, we would like to show our appreciation to those who have taken a positive step towards inclusion – be it hiring, supporting, or welcoming a colleague with a disability, and we hope to welcome more onboard this journey too. 

Inspired to take the first step towards inclusive employment or need help to secure a job? Drop our employment support team an email at for further assistance.