Scheme kept flexible to help students cope

NorthLight Academy student Joslyn Low, 17, enjoys her work at FairPrice supermarket's online sales section.

Her work at the inventory requires her to pick out the items on an order chit, which are then packed and delivered to customers.

"I took about two months to get familiar with the work," she said. "At first, I was a bit scared. But you cannot be shy. If you don't know something, just ask."

Joslyn has always been interested in retail and hopes to continue working in the industry after the programme.

Said FairPrice's human resource director, Ms Rebecca Teo: "We hope to play a part to help them be more work-ready and, in turn, increase their employability in the local workforce."

But not all students display the sort of enthusiasm and readiness that Joslyn does for work.

Vice-principal of NorthLight School Jayvin Yeo said she recently handled a case of a girl who stopped turning up for work.

Ms Yeo decided to take her out of work and put her in school for a short period - what the school terms an "incubation period" - where the student is able to think about what she wants and discuss with her school officials.

"We spoke to her company and took her out of work for two weeks to let her cool down," said Ms Yeo.

So from Wednesday to Friday, while her peers were at their various companies, she spent time in school and spoke to her counsellors.

"We need to find out what the issue is. We can't let them give up so easily," said Ms Yeo, adding that at that age, students may sometimes be unsure where their interests lie.

In another case, a student was posted to a fast-food outlet for work, but could not carry out his duties well as he was found to have an eyesight problem.

"He was not able to differentiate the buttons in the kitchen," said Mr Mike Chua, head of department of the NorthLight Academy. "So we worked with the company and decided to redesign his job."

The student agreed and was happy to switch to housekeeping duties, such as cleaning and washing.

His job coach, Mr Andrew Tan, said the job redesign has worked out well. "He is able to do his tasks now, and he's very well-liked at his workplace," he added.

The student has even been asked by his company if he could work on the weekends. He now earns more allowance than his peers, and is a step closer to securing full-time employment, Mr Chua said.

Ms Yeo said these tweaks, such as the job redesign and the incubation period, were put in place along the way. "We have to keep it very flexible because every child is different. There is no set formula or a one-size-fits-all approach for them," she said.

This article was first published on October 26, 2015.
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