Executives at top firms help mentor disabled tertiary students

SINGAPORE - Learning the skills necessary to adapt to a work environment is tough for most tertiary students, but 23-year-old Jaslyn Tan may have an edge. 

A new initiative by SG Enable paired Singtel finance director Tan Teong Guan, 46, as the Temasek Polytechnic graduate’s mentor, to help her develop workplace skills.

SG Enable is a government agency set up in 2013 to support people with disabilities through initiatives like the Rise mentorship programme that Ms Tan, who has been deaf since birth, was on.

Over 12 weeks, Rise paired 15 students at local tertiary institutions with 15 mentors in senior positions at four firms – Accenture, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Singtel. 

Designed to impart soft skills to help those with disabilities integrate into the workplace, the programme was inspired by a similar set-up, Pace, run by the Australian Network on Disability. 

“Through our mock interviews and resume-vetting sessions, I learnt a lot about working life,” said Ms Tan, speaking in sign language through an interpreter.

“The experience also taught me a lot about taking initiative and opened my eyes to the career options available to me.”

With a flexible structure, the pilot programme leveraged on the executives’ commitment to helping the students while accommodating their tight schedules. 

“Helping Jaslyn taught me a lot as well. I learnt how to slow down, how to be more inclusive in how I do things,” said Mr Tan. 

The initiative was first launched on Feb 16 at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Faishal Ibrahim.

The Enabling Village was developed by SG Enable and MSF, and features accessible design and facilities that support the disabled and promote inclusiveness.

Rise held its closing ceremony on Thursday (June 6), coinciding with a visit to the village by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

The President toured the community facility, which was established in December 2015, and spoke to staff, volunteers and people with disabilities who use the various amenities. 

Dr Tan emphasised the need for a more inclusive Singapore. 

“We should learn from them (the staff at Enabling Village) to see how we can integrate those with disabilities to play a full part in life, because they’re also Singaporeans and members of our society.”

SG Enable hopes to expand the Rise programme in the future, taking the positive results of the pilot as encouragement.