Mr Justin Chua is a bright young man who holds a diploma, but he could not get a permanent job.
It was not because the 27-year-old did not try his best. Mr Chua, who has autism, could not cope with the demands at work and did not know how to clarify expectations with his employer. He also did not understand unwritten social rules in the workplace.
Mr Chua’s big break finally came in the middle of last year, when he was enrolled in Employability & Employment Centre (E2C), an employment service programme by the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) that aims to equip suitable youth and young adults with autism with employable skills and to match them to suitable jobs with appropriate job support.
Under E2C, Mr Chua underwent employability training in office skills. He also learnt soft skills, such as good work habits, workplace communication, awareness of hidden social rules, and emotional self-regulation.
When he completed the training and was assessed to be job ready, E2C helped him to secure his first-ever permanent job as an executive at corporate shared services firm Vital, where he does digitisation work. He takes pride in what he does as he knows that he is a valuable, contributing member of the team, processing important documents which he has to keep confidential.
Job training and placement
The E2C programme currently operates at a dedicated space at the Enabling Village called Hive, which houses eight worksites for E2C with partner employers such as UOB Bank, the National Library Board, and local SME, Edible Garden City. They offer employability training and employment to 80 beneficiaries a year.
Global statistics have shown that less than 20 per cent of people with autism are employed.
Ms Jacelyn Lim, deputy executive director and head of E2C, says employers and employees fare better when there is a structured system that places youth and young adults with autism in appropriate work.
She adds: “We believe that with training and support, many people with autism can work.”
E2C showcases models, systems, possibilities and success cases that prove that employment is possible for people with autism.
It also educates people and employers on job carving and models of employment which could be viable for people with special needs.
The programme’s five-step structured process ensures that there is a good job fit, adequate training on hard and soft skills, and that clients have access to a job coach to support them in the workplace.
They are also encouraged to constantly upgrade or learn new skills to remain relevant in their jobs.
Since E2C’s launch, close to 300 individuals with autism have benefited from the programme, and about 120 have been placed in open employment.
About 95 per cent of those placed remain in employment for more than six months and close to 90 per cent are still working.
The worksites at Hive were made possible by the Care & Share Movement, launched in 2013 to celebrate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee.
Share as One
Make a difference by creating a lasting impact through sustained giving and volunteering!
Since its launch in December 2013, the Care & Share Movement led by Community Chest has rallied people from all walks of life to provide help for the disadvantaged. The Movement ended its run on March 31 last year.
To keep the spirit of caring and sharing alive, and to sustain collective efforts to show care and concern for those in need, the Government launched the SHARE as One programme on April 1 last year.
Under the programme, the Government provides dollar-for-dollar matching for any additional donations through SHARE, Community Chest’s monthly giving programme, over and above the amount donated in Financial Year 2015. Besides regular donations, there are also opportunities to be a volunteer.
Visit www.shareasone.sg for more information about SHARE as One and how to sign up.
Under the Movement, eligible donations raised by Community Chest and 240 participating social service organisations between December 1, 2013 and March 31, 2016 were matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government.
The matched amounts go towards building the capabilities and capacities of the social service sector to meet rising needs in the future.
Getting a skills upgrade
Mr Arthur Koh, who holds a special education qualification, is another E2C success story. The 19-year-old has been undergoing digitisation training at E2C since last September.
While learning to scan and process books as well as newspapers, he is also picking up soft skills such as good work habits and how to ask for help when needed.
His elder brother Andrew, 24, has observed a vast improvement in his brother’s behaviour since the latter enrolled in E2C.
The younger Mr Koh used to have difficulty expressing himself verbally and needed help understanding instructions at work. With E2C’s training and support, he can now execute suitable tasks and work independently.
Ms Lim hopes there will be a greater appreciation of the unique abilities of people with autism in Singapore.
She says: “People with special needs want to lead financially independent and dignified lives like you and me.
“We hope more companies will provide them with equal employment opportunities and let them earn their own pay cheques instead of receiving welfare.”