Greater Opportunities Await Persons with Disabilities at the ‘Towards Inclusiveness in the Workplace: Employing Persons with Disabilities’ Event

14 October 2011, Singapore – More opportunities are now available for persons with disabilities to broaden their network and meet potential employers. The Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship award presentation and IT Apprenticeship graduation ceremony returned this year with the inclusion of two key establishments to connect scholarship recipients and graduates with prospective companies for employment possibilities – the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

Co-organised by the Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IAC) and TAFEP, and supported by Microsoft Singapore Pte Ltd, SNEF and the Enabling Employers Network (EEN), the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship award presentation and IT Apprenticeship graduation ceremony was held at the ‘Towards Inclusiveness in the Workplace: Employing Persons with Disabilities’ event today and saw a total of 4 students with disabilities receiving scholarship grants from Microsoft Singapore and 17 graduates presented with certificates from the IT Apprenticeship Programme (ITAP).

This year, scholarship recipients and graduates have the opportunity to meet and interact with companies to find out more about the employment opportunities available, while employers also shared professional experience on how persons with disabilities can contribute to furthering their businesses. This is a great leap forward in achieving IAC’s long term goal of enriching the lives of persons with disabilities, by helping them find greater independence through securing jobs of higher value.

Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship 2010 recipient Ms Lewina Tan spoke on how the programme has benefitted her: ‘Microsoft’s generous scholarship grant has allowed me to pursue my dreams and complete my studies in Information Technology at a local Polytechnic early this year. With the diploma qualification, I was able to find a job working as an IT Support Officer in a government agency. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to excel and develop my interest in information technology.’

Sharing her thoughts on the centre and what it has achieved thus far, Ms Chia Woon Yee, Director of Technology of the Society for the Physically Disabled, said, ‘Since July 2008, IAC has made significant progress in fine-tuning the depth and breadth of our courses to better prepare our trainees and graduates for the needs of the working world. We are delighted to have TAFEP, SNEF and EEN on board this year as co-organisers of this year’s Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship Award presentation and IT Apprenticeship graduation ceremony, and we are confident that their involvement will complement our goal of securing more employment opportunities for persons with disabilities in Singapore.’

Joining IAC as a co-organiser for the first time this year is TAFEP, which promotes the adoption of fair, responsible and merit-based employment in Singapore. Andrew Fung, General Manager of TAFEP, said, ‘We are delighted to be co-organising this event with IAC. TAFEP encourages employers to be fair in their hiring practices. This means for employers to hire on merit, based on the skills required for a job. Being fair and hiring on merit is not just about doing the right thing. Doing so makes good business sense as well, especially in today’s tight labour market. Employers who hire on merit use objective criteria when evaluating and selecting potential candidates for the job. This allows them to have a wider pool of candidates to tap on, and select the person who can do the job best.’

In April 2011, TAFEP, together with the Community Business and Enabling Employers Network (EEN), launched a research publication titled “Towards Disability Confidence – A Resource Guide for Employers in Hong Kong and Singapore”. This research helps companies in Asia put disability on their business agenda by exploring disability in Singapore and Hong Kong. It outlines how and why companies in Asia can take steps to become ‘disability confident’ – building their capability to employ persons with disabilities; thus helping employers move forward in their fair employment journey. This publication was also shared with the employers in attendance at the event.

Microsoft Singapore, a pivotal supporter of the IAC since 2008, has been an important partner in providing structured, industry-relevant, on-the-job IT curriculum, software and training for persons with disabilities to pick up skills needed in the workplace. By 2013, Microsoft has pledged S$2.2 million towards IAC. This commitment has enabled IAC to enhance the apprenticeship curriculum and offer new services at IAC, such as opportunities for job placement and additional support for trainees undertaking Microsoft related apprenticeship training.

Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director of Microsoft Singapore, said ‘Technology is an empowering tool that offers persons with disabilities a new avenue to seek fulfilment and employment. Microsoft is excited to have the opportunity to leverage our expertise and resources to help maximise their potential, in close partnership with SPD. We have seen the exemplary display of commitment and faith in all our Microsoft Unlimited Potential scholarship recipients to date, and we’re certain that this year’s cohort will continue to be great inspirations to us. We look forward to working more closely with the IAC in the coming year, in exploring new avenues to further the success of the Centre.’

SNEF, another key supporting partner dedicated to helping employers achieve excellence in employment practices, has been working with companies to create job opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Mr Koh Juan Kiat, SNEF’s Executive Director is pleased that SNEF is part of this event. He said, ‘Since 2006, SNEF has been partnering the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and EEN to create employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and also recently to facilitate training to help them to be job ready. The IAC is another excellent initiative to help prepare persons with disabilities for work. We hope that our participation this year will help motivate a larger pool of businesses to come forward and be part of this effort.’

IAC is managed by the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) and the centre was formed through a People-Public-Private initiative between Microsoft, the Infocomm Development Authority, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, National Council of Social Service and the Tote Board. It is the only centre in Singapore that provides IT training across disability types, offering persons with disabilities an opportunity to achieve industry-recognised certification in preparation for job placements in the open employment market.

Since the inception of IAC in July 2008, 4,325 training places comprising IT training sessions, apprenticeship training sessions and assistive technology training sessions were offered to more than 1,200 persons with disabilities.