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80% of special-needs students in jobs programme employed

SINGAPORE — A programme launched two years ago to help a small group of students with special needs prepare for the workplace has enjoyed promising outcomes, with 80 per cent of these students successfully employed after graduation, and 83 per cent staying employed for at least six months.

80% of special-needs students in jobs programme employed

Mr Chong Voon Teck is hoping his daughter Chong Wan Shuen will be given more tasks to do at the National University Hospital, where she is working. Photo: Ernest Chua/TODAY

SINGAPORE — A programme launched two years ago to help a small group of students with special needs prepare for the workplace has enjoyed promising outcomes, with 80 per cent of these students successfully employed after graduation, and 83 per cent staying employed for at least six months.

The School-to-Work (S2W) Transition Programme, currently available at five Special Education (Sped) schools, begins in the student’s final year of schooling and extends for up to one year after he or she graduates.

Under the programme — a collaboration involving the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Social and Family Development and SG Enable — graduating students with the potential to work are identified and matched to a suitable training or employment pathway based on their strengths, interests and job preferences.

Since November 2014, 30 students from the five Sped schools have graduated from the programme, which involves a two-month orientation with SG Enable, an agency that empowers persons with disabilities and looks into job options for them.

This is followed by a nine-month internship in a range of industries, including food and beverage, healthcare, and tourism, where training is modified to cater to the special students’ needs. About 20 businesses are involved in the programme so far.

Out of the 30 graduates, 24 gained employment, with 83 per cent of them holding a job for at least half a year.

The participating schools are Pathlight School, APSN Delta Senior School, Grace Orchard School, Metta School and Minds Woodlands Gardens School.

The MOE said 40 students with employment potential were shortlisted for the programme, but 30 were eventually selected after employer interviews and parental consent was given.

“With the successful completion of the prototyping, MOE, MSF and SG Enable are looking at extending the benefits of the S2W Transition Programme to more Sped schools,” a ministry spokesperson said.

One of the programme’s graduates, Ms Chong Wan Shuen, 20, who has moderate intellectual disability, landed a job as a health attendant at National University Hospital after interning there last year. She said she learnt the ropes without much difficulty during her internship as the tasks were customised according to her ability.

To enhance the transition process for Sped students, MOE will roll out a transition planning guide in all 20 Sped schools next year.

Educators will be trained to use the guide to work with students aged 13 and above and their families, to plan for life after school.

Schools will also help link students to relevant post-school services to help them achieve their goals after graduation.

For instance, those who would like to explore a career in the food and beverage industry may be assisted in seeking work experience in a restaurant; while a student interested in dancing could be supported to join a community dance club.

At Grace Orchard School, its S2W transition curriculum is aimed at helping students achieve their goals, from learning to travel independently to pursuing further studies, said its principal, Lisa Goh.

To help students find their way to various destinations, they are taught how to use Google Maps on the school’s iPads.

“This skill is then transferred by allowing students to use Google Maps on their own personal devices during their weekly travel training lessons,” she said, adding that the students’ parents are also involved in this process.

Those who wish to further their education will have a chance to attend the open house of the school they are eyeing with their families.

“Grace Orchard School would help students with the application process and also prepare them accordingly for their interviews,” said Mrs Goh, who noted that transition planning may not be available in mainstream schools.

Recognising that its students “have a right to have aspirations”, the school will not tell them that their declared goals are not feasible.

Instead, it will guide the students to set Smart (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals and work towards them.

“... In the process, the students will find that the goals may not be attainable and may then realise that they need to pursue different interests or related interests,” said Mrs Goh.

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