Programme to help special education students find work

Programme to help special education students find work
Ms Salina Ismail, a lead teacher at MINDS Lee Kong Chian Gardens, is one of the three winners of the MOE-National Council of Social Service Outstanding SPED Teacher Award.

Students from special education (Sped) schools who are unable to get skills certification that helps in securing jobs will be given greater support to progress to the workplace.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) and SG Enable, which offers services for people with disabilities, have started a school-to-work transition programme.

SG Enable will match final-year students who have the potential to work with job or training opportunities.

They will also get training and support from a job coach.

For a start, the programme has 40 students in five schools - Grace Orchard School, Pathlight School, Minds Woodlands Gardens School, Metta School and APSN Delta Senior School.

The two-year pilot will be scaled up to more Sped schools from 2016. The MOE and voluntary welfare organisations here run 20 such schools with some 5,000 students aged seven to 18.

Three of the five schools do not offer certification courses, although they train students in work skills. The rest - APSN Delta Senior School and Metta School - run national vocational certification programmes, which enable students to get Workforce Skills Qualifications certification in areas such as food and beverage.

Most - but not all - of the students at these schools graduate with such training, making it easier for them to find jobs.

For instance, 10 per cent to 20 per cent of Metta School's students are not on the vocational track as they do not meet certain standards in areas such as literacy, numeracy and gross motor skills.

Others are not keen on its three programmes in baking, food preparation and housekeeping.

Its principal, Madam So Kah Lay, said: "At the moment, schools have to look for employers ourselves. Support from SG Enable will help a lot as it has more resources and connections. It can convince employers to take our students on internships and redesign the workflow to fit their needs."

Technician Patrick Ng, 52, is glad his son, Ivan, 18, is in the programme at Metta School. He said: "We were worried and lost as it isn't easy to find jobs for him. We hope more employers will join the programme to help autistic students find employment." Minister of State for Education Sim Ann said yesterday that the programme represents a "whole-of-government effort to ensure seamless support for our students at a very critical transition point in their lives". She was at the third Special Education Conference, where three educators and four schools were honoured for their work in special education.

Ms Salina Ismail, 48, who won the MOE-National Council of Social Service Outstanding Sped Teacher Award, started a programme last year to prepare some students in Minds Lee Kong Chian Gardens School for work. They go on work stints, learn money management and interview skills, and how to manage their emotions better.

She said: "Teaching them challenges me to think how to reach out to them. When I teach them how to roll, I have to roll."

ateng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 13, 2014.
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