Helping people with disabilities seek gainful employment is what our job placement officers (JPO) set out to do. SPD’s JPO Ms Elizabeth Chua sees herself as a recruitment and career consultant for people with physical and sensory disabilities. According to Elizabeth, what is more important than a fancy qualification to do the job effectively is the passion to help others succeed in their jobs. Elizabeth provides some insight into her role as a JPO at SPD, and what drives her.
Q: Assessment for readiness for work
EC: As a JPO, I help people with disabilities find jobs. A large part of what I do involves meeting PWDs who have expressed interest in returning to the workforce. Together with an occupational therapist, we would conduct an employment assessment to determine if an individual is suitable for open employment. Benchmarks of suitability include the candidate’s skills, work experience, qualifications, mobility functions and most importantly, his perspective and attitude towards work. Those found to be suitable would be registered under our Employment Support Programme (ESP). Those not yet ready for work would be recommended for SPD’s vocational training programmes such as the Sheltered Workshop, IT courses and office administration training in order to increase their employability.
Q: Meeting employers and finding the right match
EC: Besides managing the pool of people with disabilities looking for jobs, working with employers to find a right job match is the other part of the equation. This involves meeting with employers to explore possible placements for people with disabilities. This is often carried out through site visits to the employers’ premises so that we can understand more about the job nature and accessibility of the work premises.
We will be looking out for accessibility features such as wheelchair-friendly lifts and toilets, ramps, stairs, slopes and kerbs which are critical for mobility aid users. Understanding the job scope is also vital in helping the JPO find a suitable match within the pool of job seekers.
The JPO will also provide insights into job tasks and offer recommendations on job redesigning or job accommodation options, if needed. Job redesigning or job accommodation is carried out when tasks involved are complex or challenging for a person with disabilities to perform. The JPO may also seek the professional advice of an occupational therapist and assistive technology specialist for such recommendations.
Q: Job placement and job support
EC: After meeting and understanding the requirements of both job seekers and employers, the JPO will do a job match by sending in resumes of suitable candidates for the hiring managers’ consideration. Most employers make informed decisions to hire people with disabilities and offer competitive wages based on business sense such as merit and the ability to contribute to bottom lines, and not on personal factors such as sympathy.
If the candidate is offered the job, the JPO would have recorded his first milestone. The job support milestones with the new hire and the employer will come in thereafter. Job support entails areas like job coaching, workplace conflict resolution and counselling support for a minimum of six months. During this stage, the JPOs work closely with an occupational therapist, assistive technology specialist or social worker to support the person with disabilities in employment, and provide an open channel of communication for feedback from him and his employer.
Q: The challenges that a JPO faces
EC: Every person with disabilities would have his goals and ambitions. Not unlike other job seekers, some may have unrealistic expectations of what they want in a job and hope their JPO can help find them their ‘dream job’. JPOs will have to manage their expectations and encourage them to work together with us in their search for this ‘dream job’. By managing their expectations, the chances of successfully matching them to a placement are also higher. At times, we also encourage job seekers to play an active role in looking for employment on their own so that they have some ownership in managing their career choices. In instances where they have managed to secure a job on their own, the JPO could still come in to help provide job support and job coaching.
Like any able-bodied person, people with disabilities also possess different levels of stress tolerance and resilience. Some worry that with their disabilities, they may not have the mental and emotional strength to handle the stress in their job. A JPO may need to help the employee overcome his reservations and support him in adjusting to his job and environment.
Q: Satisfaction amidst the challenges
EC: The satisfaction of seeing people with disabilities secure jobs which they are happy with and succeeding in them outweigh the challenges we face. At the end of the day, the JPO works alongside them to achieve greater heights in their jobs and career progression.