Help under way to get special needs students ready for work

Help under way to get special needs students ready for work

A new school-to-work transition programme will give students with special needs greater support when they move on to the workplace, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed yesterday.

His ministry will work with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and agency SG Enable to develop the pilot progamme, which will begin this year.

At yesterday's official opening of the Association for Persons with Special Needs' (APSN) Delta Senior School, Mr Heng said the plan is to have "more customised training pathways to benefit more special education students".

Currently, only Delta Senior School and Metta Schools - both for students with mild intellectual disabilities - offer national vocational certification programmes.

These have enabled one in four special education (Sped) graduates to find work, he said, adding that the new transition programme will give students access to job training and opportunities.

There are 20 Sped schools here catering to 5,000 students, aged from seven to 18, who have intellectual disabilities, autism or visual and hearing impairments. A multi-agency committee will work with a few Sped schools this year, Mr Heng told the audience.

The team, he said, will "study the critical success factors, processes and resources needed for effective transition support for students with the potential to work".

The programme will start in a student's final year of school and continue after he graduates and starts work. It will be rolled out to more schools in phases from 2016.

Delta Senior School, which has 380 students, moved to its new 12,000 sq m campus in June last year.

The $18 million campus in Choa Chu Kang has training facilities, including kitchens, a supermarket, garden and restaurant.

The post-secondary school, set up in 1997, caters to youth aged 16 and above with special needs.

It offers nationally recognised Workforce Skills Qualifications certificates in four areas: hotel and accommodation services, horticulture and landscape operations, food and beverage services or culinary arts, and retail operations.

The school has partnerships with more than 50 employers. More than 90 per cent of its students find work upon graduating.

Student Felicia Toh, 19, who will graduate with a certificate in food and beverage services, said: "The new campus is so much better. There are more facilities and everything is bigger."

The school is one of four run by the APSN, along with Chaoyang School, Katong School and Tanglin School.

The association, established in 1976, also has a centre providing education and job training to adults with mild intellectual disabilities.

ateng@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 16 in The Straits Times.

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