Help the disadvantaged learn new skills during Covid-19 pandemic, President Halimah urges employers

President Halimah Yacob (left) is introduced to Spic & Span's products by CEO Benjamin Chua during a tour of the company's showroom on Jan 29, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - After a stroke left him with speech difficulties and weakness in his right hand, Mr Ang Kuan Heng struggled to find employment.

That was until he landed a job with social enterprise Spic & Span, which on Friday (Jan 29) received a visit from President Halimah Yacob.

The head of state met employees of the cleaning firm, which creates job opportunities for people with disabilities and marginalised groups.

She called on more social enterprises to harness technology to run businesses that do good. And she urged employers to spend time during the pandemic redesigning their work processes and jobs to prepare for opportunities in the future and help disadvantaged workers acquire new skills.

In Mr Ang's case, after the stroke in 2017, he had physiotherapy for a year but continued to feel flustered when meeting people, making it hard to find work.

He joined Spic & Span as a project coordinator in October last year. He gained newfound confidence to try new things, even picking up computer skills despite the weakness in his right hand.

"I was initially very worried about finding a job and when I joined the company, I found people who accepted me just as I am and understood my condition," said the 57-year-old. "I am happy here and I plan to continue staying on till my retirement age, perhaps even after that."

During her visit to the Speco Experience Centre showroom in Kallang Place, Madam Halimah watched demonstrations of the social enterprise's new products and spoke to its employees. In a Facebook post after the visit, Madam Halimah said she was "heartened that Spic & Span has taken on the mission of employing people from disadvantaged backgrounds, like ex-offenders and persons with mental and physical disabilities. This has given them an opportunity to earn a decent income and live meaningful lives".

She added: "We need more social enterprises like Spic & Span to transform, be agile and leverage technology to run a business and do good to the society at the same time."

Founded as a housekeeping and cleaning services provider in 2017, Spic & Span has since created Speco solution, a durable antimicrobial protection which is non-toxic, alcohol-free and effective against bacteria, mould and viruses such as Covid-19. Speco users include Singapore Airlines, DBS, Eton House and Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

About 80 per cent of the company's workforce comes from disadvantaged backgrounds. The enterprise partners over 60 social service agencies to train, upskill and provide employment opportunities to more than 300 individuals.

Spic & Span employees Mohamed Dhiyaul Fajri Bin Mashudi (left) and Juriya Binte Ammak during President Halimah Yacob's visit to the company on Jan 29, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

It also carries out pro bono disinfection work to improve the safety of 64,000 elderly residents at nursing homes, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises facing challenging times.

The chief executive of Spic & Span, Mr Benjamin Chua, said: "Caring for the environment is a natural progression for us into caring for the people, especially those who have been disadvantaged by economic or medical circumstances in Singapore."

He added: "Marrying both commitments allows us to protect health, ensure safety, provide jobs to those who lack access to such opportunities, and in the process maintain sustainability. We are also gratified that our clients share our business ethics."

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