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New tripartite initiative to help Singapore firms hire persons with disabilities

A NEW inclusive-hiring initiative has been launched to promote sustainable employment for persons with disabilities (PWDs).

"The Unlimited" initiative will connect Singapore companies with suitable candidates and facilitate the hiring process for interested employers.

This is the first such partnership among the "public, private and people sectors" in Singapore, United Overseas Bank (UOB) said in a media statement on Tuesday evening.

It is a collaboration among UOB, government-established agency SG Enable, Autism Resource Centre (ARC), Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) and SPD.

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The tripartite initiative aims to encourage firms, starting with UOB’s corporate clients, to take the first step in inclusive hiring.

Two-thirds of business leaders in Singapore said they would hire PWDs if they received sufficient guidance on the hiring process, according to a UOB survey in July.

The Business Times reported in May that the lack of know-how can be a significant barrier for employers.

Under "The Unlimited", the bank will raise awareness of and generate interest in inclusive hiring among companies. It has been actively engaging its corporate clients, business partners and other organisations to share best practices, said Gan Ai Im, head of group brand at UOB.

Interested firms can first conduct an online self-assessment of their readiness for inclusive hiring using the Workplace Disability Inclusive Index, developed by SG Enable and Cornell University.

Afterwards, UOB will link these companies with SG Enable, which will in turn work with the voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) – ARC, MINDS and SPD – to identify suitable candidates for the job roles.

SG Enable and the three VWOs will provide training and support for both the employers and employees before, during and after the hiring process.

SG Enable will also administer relevant grants to eligible employers, under the Open Door Programme, a government-funded initiative by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and Workforce Singapore.

SPD president, Chia Yong Yong, said: "We hope more employers will create opportunities for people with different abilities to contribute to our society."

MINDS’ deputy CEO, Koh Gee May, urged companies to embrace a broader definition of employment and support different employment models that match PWDs’ needs and abilities.

"For persons with intellectual disability, there is a continuum where some can work in open employment, while others will need supported employment," Ms Koh said.

UOB has been hiring PWDs since 2013 at the UOB Scan Hub, its nerve centre for checking, digitisation and archiving of customer documents. There are currently more than 20 PWDs employed there.

“(The PWDs’) attention to detail and high levels of concentration and accuracy have improved UOB Scan Hub’s productivity and employee retention rates,” the bank said on Tuesday.

UOB started a pilot of its inclusive hiring initiative in July 2017. Under the pilot, UOB facilitated the employment of PWDs by three companies in the food and beverage (F&B), hospitality and manufacturing industries, including Thong Siek Food Industry.

Fayy Lim, deputy chief operating officer of Thong Siek Food Industry, said that since 2017 under the pilot, the company has created 10 roles, including internships, ranging from administration to food packing. It currently employs seven PWDs. "We will continue on this journey and expand our efforts at providing sustainable employment for PWDs," Ms Lim said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Food restaurant chain is keen to explore inclusive hiring. Its managing director and founder Lena Sim said the firm is looking to hire PWDs for five roles at its central kitchen and across various outlets. "The F&B business is very labour-intensive, so we were inspired and excited when UOB shared this initiative with us," Ms Sim said.

For its July 2019 study, UOB commissioned independent research agency InsightzClub to survey 220 key decision makers at companies in Singapore across the manufacturing, retail trade, hospitality, food and beverage, transportation and warehousing industries.

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