Sunday 18 October 2015

Special education grads to get more help finding jobs

The school-to-work scheme will be expanded to more SPED schools in phases from next year
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2015

Graduating students with special needs have been getting help to find jobs via a school-to-work scheme, which will be expanded next year.

The scheme, started a year ago, has helped place 30 students who graduated from five special education (SPED) schools last year, on work stints with 10 firms.

Acting Minister for Education Ng Chee Meng, who gave this update yesterday at the biennial Special Education Learning Day, said employers are interested in hiring SPED graduates after they finish training.

"These graduates are acquiring important work skills and gaining greater confidence as contributing individuals in their work place," said Mr Ng, who was speaking to 1,700 educators at the Resorts World Convention Centre.

The scheme was developed by the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and SG Enable, a government-established body that offers services for people with disabilities.

It will be expanded to more SPED schools in phases from next year, said Mr Ng.

The schools currently on the scheme are Pathlight School, APSN Delta Senior School, Grace Orchard School, Metta School and Woodlands Gardens School.

This year, another 30 final-year students from these schools will join the scheme. They will be referred to SG Enable to identify employment or training opportunities.

The first batch of 2014 graduates started their nine-month internship in March. They have been receiving training from job coaches at their workplace.

Prior to the stint, they had two months of training with SG Enable to learn social skills and build up their physical stamina for work.

Currently, one in four SPED graduates is employed successfully after vocational education programmes in SPED schools. There are 20 SPED schools here with about 5,000 students aged seven to 18.

Yesterday, Mr Ng said that MOE has improved the quality of SPED in the past five years through efforts such as literacy and numeracy programmes.

It will increase funding for SPED schools to hire IT professionals and use technology for learning, and ensure that staff salaries remain competitive so they can attract and retain quality staff, he added.

Mr Don Tay, who graduated from Woodlands Gardens School (WGS) last year, started work this year at food and beverage chain Han's central kitchen at Senoko Avenue.

The 19-year-old, who has Down Syndrome, has been learning food preparation skills, from sorting seafood and meat to marinating them.

Ms Yang Suk Hwa, who was his form teacher, said: "We know he has the potential to work because he can clean and wash; he's a neat person, and is receptive to feedback."

Mr Tay, who now earns $25 a day, has already picked up 85 per cent of his job scope, according to Han's factory manager Leong Eng Chai, who said: "He understands his supervisor very well and completes his tasks."

His father, Mr Paul Tay, 60, said "He looks forward to going to work every day and he has made new friends there. I'm thankful that the programme came at the time when he was graduating."

WGS principal Lawrence Chong said: "We equip them with vocational skills in school, but it's good that more companies are willing to hire them so that they can learn in real work environments."

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