Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship Awards and IT Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony – Speech by Ms Chia Yong Yong

Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director of Microsoft Singapore

Distinguished Guests,

Scholars and Graduates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the 2009 Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship Awards & IT Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony.

Today, technology plays a role in almost everything – whether it is education, employment or recreational based activities. Access to this technology, something as basic as access to a computer, for example, has the potential to help people with disabilities. It can help them communicate with their peers and mentors, it can help them take on high-tech careers, it can help them pursue various goals. Most importantly, it can help them take the initiative, and lead self-determined lives.

The Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IAC) has set out to do just that. IAC recognises the importance of IT training, and aims to bridge the digital divide by making a wide variety of training available to all who want it. We are the first centre in Singapore to provide IT training across disability types. To date, 1,495 training places have been provided to 563 clients. These came from a total of 177 IT courses.

This would not have been possible without the support of our partners from the government sector, members of the public and the private sector. The centre is managed by the Society for the Physically Disabled but is backed by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, the Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports, the National Council of Social Service, the Tote Board, and not forgetting, Microsoft Singapore.

Microsoft Singapore has been a generous partner. Over three years, the organisation has raised close to $1 million to the growth of the IAC. The funds came from Microsoft employees, customers and partners. In particular, these funds were used to fund the IAC Microsoft Unlimited Potential Technology Lab, for the manpower costs of trainers and coaches, for training subsidies for trainees, for professional certification and training grants and to provide transport for trainees of IAC.

Today, that generosity extends to the development of a new resource. Microsoft Singapore is adding another element to the programme – the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship Awards – which will be presented later today.

At this point, we must also take this opportunity to thank our other partner VWOs, training agencies and employers who have undoubtedly contributed to IAC’s success. IAC is designed to be a one-stop centre. Beyond the IT courses offered, trainees who have potential for employment can progress to the IT Apprenticeship Programme. The programme aims to give people with disabilities an experience of the working environment by providing on-the-job training which is realistic, application-based and industry-relevant. These courses are meant to help the trainees get places in the workforce. So far, 54 trainees have enrolled at ITAP, of which, we are proud to say, seven have managed to find employment. Today, we shall honour 18 such trainees by presenting them with their graduation certificates.

Before I end and we move on to the award and graduation ceremony, I would like to introduce you to a campaign which IAC proudly launched just last month. The ‘SOW – It’s Time to Grow’ campaign is designed to increase the awareness of the activities of IAC and to boost enrolment in our programmes through some fresh and innovative approaches. When the IAC was launched last year, we set a target of providing 4,000 training places by 2010 and we believe that ‘SOW – It’s Time to Grow’ will help us achieve that target and encourage independence among people with disabilities through infocomm technology education.

This is but one of the ways in which IAC is continually reaching out to the community. As the centre grows, we have various initiatives that we plan to implement to meet our goals and ensure the future is bright for IAC, and for the community it serves.

With that I thank you once again for joining us here today.