I would like to thank you for your presence today. First we would like to thank you for doing so much, all these years, to help persons with disabilities find employment. I know that many of you have gone out of your way to make it possible for them. Many of you have adjusted your work processes and redesigned the workplace to make it work for persons with disabilities. For that, we are truly appreciative for all that you’ve done. And we hope that more employers will join the Network.
We want to do more. As I was speaking to the employers here today, the lifespan of PWDs is now the same as able bodied persons. They would like to find employment as per any able bodied person. We have to find better ways to assist them, not just from the financial perspective but also to meet their socio-emotional needs. This is why we want to make a big push to up the employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, to enable them to take care of themselves financially, and to fully integrate into society that we live in.
As part of our Enabling Masterplan (2012 to 2016), we will make a big push to increase the employment of persons with disabilities. Today about 1 in 5 persons with disabilities are employed; the rest are in sheltered workshops or other care arrangements. Going forward, we hope to improve on this and to get as many of persons with disabilities, those who are able to, into open employment in the open market.
We need to do this together. There are three things we need to do better to achieve this vision of providing better employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. The first thing to do is to strengthen the network between the VWOs taking care of persons with disabilities and employers. Employers may not fully know the abilities of persons with disabilities that they could employ. They may also not know the type of training that is needed. We need a closer linkage between employers and VWOs and this is where networks like the Enabling Employers Network is important. Over engagement sessions, we can share with each other what are the kinds of challenges we all face, adjustments we may have to make in order to create those employment opportunities.
The second thing we ought to do better is to have a systematic way of assessing and training persons with disabilities in certain core skills. These core skills should not be perishable, as it takes a lot of effort to help persons with disabilities adjust to their new work environment. We should make sure that what they have learnt can be useful for a long time to come. To do that, we must identify the key types of training that is needed to prepare them for open employment opportunities. This is something we have started. For example, you may have visited the Autism Resource Centre in Ang Mo Kio, where they have codified the type of skills needed to provide the basis for employment training requires. We also have more employers coming on board this Network like and providing purpose built training facilities for persons with disabilities, such as building a full scale hotel room for training in housekeeping services. Others such as NTUC FairPrice, have built a packing station for training purposes. This are examples how we can codify the training skills needed, in order to systematically create the best training opportunities for persons with disabilities.
The third thing that we need to do in order to reach our target of improving employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, is to make sure that at the system level we have a co-ordinating body to do the work that needs to be done. For this reason, we will build up SG Enable and an entire village at Redhill. We will share more details of this space next year. We want to provide a focal point where employers and VWOs can come together, PWDs can come together to share and talk about issues, challenges and their training needs. This is no different from any other training institute or other focal points t we have to help fellow Singaporeans who may be in need or who are disadvantaged in any area.
Going forward, SG Enable will serve as this focal point, to focus resources, the community and VWOs to strengthen employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Only so will we be able to make a breakthrough in the current 1 in 5 persons with disabilities in open employment we have so far achieved today. We will not be able to do this without the outstanding support that you have given us all this while. Many of you have gone out of the way to re-design the work environment and process to facilitate the employment of persons with disabilities among us. This speaks louder, of our care and concern for persons with disabilities, and that they are persons with certain abilities. It is up to us to make use of these abilities to engage them as fully contributing members of society.
On that note. I thank you for joining the Network and being part of this effort to reach out to even more employers to come on board and to provide many more exciting job opportunities for persons with disabilities. We fully recognise this is not easy to do overnight and needs to be done progressively. As long as we are determined and continue to push, I’m certain we will be able to reach our goal and to make a breakthrough.
In summary, three things we need to do better:
- Strengthen networking between employers and VWOs to better understand needs and to create opportunities for persons with disabilities.
- Make sure we have systematic way to train persons with disabilities for open employment and this means we have to codify our processes and strengthen our training systems.
- Have a focal point to pull together these different strengths.
If we are able to achieve these three points, I am confident we can make a breakthrough in caring for persons with disabilities to take care of their financial and socio-emotional needs.
On that note, thank you very much, and I wish you all a very good afternoon.