Polytechnic students with disabilities gain job skills with career programme

Mr Marcus Tan and Ms Alina Seow participated in TAP last year. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - Students with disabilities can tap more digital training and career opportunities through a 12-week career preparation programme, which offers technical skills and attachments with corporations to help them get jobs.

Nineteen graduating students and recent alumni from all five polytechnics here took part in the second edition of the programme this year, and shared details about their final projects during a demo session held at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) on Wednesday (June 1).

Among the novel project ideas the students presented was a digital voiceover feature to make food delivery applications easier for visually handicapped users, and an interactive application that helps young children with special needs learn oral care efficiently.

Launched last year, the Talent Accelerator Programme (TAP) is organised by TP and non-profit organisation TomoWork, which advocates for disability inclusion in companies.

For its second edition, TAP linked students with companies such as Foodpanda, Unilever and Sembcorp Industries, where the participants helmed projects that improved operational efficiency and made products or services more inclusive for people with disabilities.

Mr Xavier Chung, 24, a recent graduate from Republic Polytechnic who has autism, said the programme gave him a boost of confidence.

He said: "In addition to acquiring fundamental knowledge such as digital skills, TAP also provided opportunities to develop soft skills such as how to write biodata and... make a presentation that enhanced my employability."

Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Eric Chua, who was guest of honour at the demo session, urged participating companies to offer career opportunities to the participants and tap initiatives such as the Enabling Mark and Open Door Programme to support their inclusive hiring practices.

He said: "Over the 11 weeks, participants have had the opportunity to develop and acquire new technical, personal and job-readiness skills. I encourage you to continue to pursue lifelong learning opportunities for ongoing professional and personal development, even after graduating from formal education."

The Enabling Mark is a national-level accreditation framework to recognise disability-inclusive employers, while the Open Door Programme provides assistance to employers to provide a conducive work environment for those with disabilities.

Graduates from TP who took part in the project last year said it was a stepping stone to practise their skills before pursuing employment and higher studies.

Singapore Management University student Alina Seow participated in TAP as a graduating TP student last year, exploring automation processes for Bloomberg with her team.

Ms Seow, 23, who has cerebral palsy, said that while she chose to pursue higher studies instead of employment after graduating from TP, her experience helped prepare her for the rigours of university life.

Mr Marcus Tan, 26, who also has cerebral palsy, was offered employment by Certis after the TAP initiative last year. He joined the company after graduating from his IT course at TP.

Among the projects the students presented was an app that helps children with special needs learn oral care efficiently. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Both Mr Tan and Ms Seow said initiatives like TAP showed an increasing focus on the needs of people with disabilities.

Mr Tan said: "When I was at the primary and even secondary level, there were limitations to our schooling, such as the lack of lift facilities. It was also hard for me to study as I felt that even if I tried my best, I could only be an average student.

"Things have definitely improved now, and what I wish for is more activities and initiatives like TAP, which help students with special needs build skills beyond the classroom that they can use in their future careers."

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