Microsoft Renews Commitment With SPD

Singapore, 7 Oct 2010 – The Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IAC) and Microsoft Singapore today jointly announced plans to augment the services and IT courses available to people with disabilities, to enable them through technology and provide job training to better prepare them for working opportunities in the open employment market. This is with Microsoft Singapore’s announcement to commit an additional $1 million funding towards IAC, which provides structured, industry-relevant, on-the-job IT training for people with disabilities to pick up skills needed in the workplace.

This announcement was made at this morning’s Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship Award Presentation and IT Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony 2010 organised by IAC where four students with disabilities pursuing IT diploma in local polytechnics received scholarship grants from Microsoft Singapore and 19 graduating students from the IT Apprenticeship Programme (ITAP) received their certificates.

ITAP provides customised training in three areas – corporate services, multimedia, and music and video production. Prior to joining the course, each trainee is evaluated before courses are recommended based on ability and aptitude.

IAC is managed by the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) and the centre is 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, allowing people with disabilities an opportunity to achieve industry-recognised certification to prepare them for employment.

Since the inception of Infocomm Accessibility Centre in July 2008, more than 2,200 training places have been offered by the Centre and more than1,000 people with disabilities have so far received IT training.

For Ms. Ang Kai Lan, who is a 2009 Microsoft Scholarship recipient, said the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship has given her more opportunities: “Thanks to Microsoft, I have successfully completed my Diploma in Multimedia and Infocomm Technology at Nanyang Polytechnic and my qualifications has helped me find employment as a Catalogue Specialist at Hewlett Packard.”

Microsoft Singapore was a catalyst in the development of IT training services for people with disabilities. Since 2007, the company raised S$1.1 million over three years through donations from Microsoft employees, customers and partners, which helped established the Microsoft Accessibility and IT Center. Building further on this, the IAC was established in 2008.

Besides setting up the Center, the funding has also helped defray course fees for those enrolled in Microsoft courses, paid for the manpower cost of trainers and investments in scholarships and certifications grants such as the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship, and even transportation services so that the people with disabilities would be able to attend IT training.

With the additional commitment from Microsoft, the existing services under the IAC will be enhanced. IAC will embark on a review of the apprenticeship curriculum to consolidate all apprenticeship tracks providing training for administrative positions. The funding will also allow IAC to provide job placement and support services for trainees undertaking Microsoft related apprenticeship training.

“After training over 1,000 people with disabilities since opening in July 2008, we’ve identified some areas of improvement, which this additional funding can help address. We want to prepare our trainees and graduates for full-time employment and help them find suitable jobs after they’ve received their IT training at IAC. Our plan to refine our course offerings and match them with suitable employers will hopefully provide better opportunities for them in the long term,” said Ms Chia Yong Yong, President of the Society for the Physically Disabled.

“At Microsoft, we believe that leveraging technology and IT training can help people realize their full potential. Over the past three years, we have been working closely with our employees, partners and customers to raise funds for SPD to improve employability and quality of life for these beneficiaries through the use of technology. The Microsoft Unlimited Potential scholarship recipients are outstanding in their drive to excel, and are an inspiration to us all, as they overcome their disabilities to pursue IT careers. We look forward to leveraging the IAC even further in the coming years to help more people with disabilities get ahead in the working world,” said Ms. Jessica Tan, Managing Director of Microsoft Singapore.