YMCA plans partnership with Danish SPF

The Young Men’s Christian Association of Singapore (YMCA) has plans to partner with Danish social organisation Specialist People Foundation (SPF) to match autistic workers with high-skilled jobs.
At the sidelines of the “4th Ideas for a Better World Forum” on 21 July hosted by Singapore International Foundation, the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) president Denise Phua said that ARC is planning to start a job centre early next year, supporting those who have left school but are not job-ready by providing assessment of the applicants’ abilities and employability training.
Where employers once would not hire people with autism, there is now unprecedented interest in hiring these workers and the need to support such employers who might not know where to begin.
“There should be room for everyone in the society and not just for those who fit in, and these people have the potential to contribute, just like everyone,” said the founder of SPF Thorkil Sonne, who was also speaking at the forum.
Ms. Phua, who is also Member of Parliament for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, said there has been growing interest among employers compared to five years ago, due to greater awareness of autism and more Special Education schools focusing on vocational training.
“They may think that hiring people with special needs is charity but they may not be aware that if planned and executed well, the special-needs workforce can be a reliable and valuable workforce,” said Ms. Phua.
Along with a manpower crunch and restrictions placed on hiring foreign workers, this has created opportunities for people with autism, she said.
There was “no shortage of compassionate employers” willing to employ special needs staff, but there is still insufficient work-ready and skilled employees, said Ms. Phua.
The job centre could also offer services such as job matching and preparing workplaces through awareness talks and training, but Ms. Phua noted that the initiative faces financial constraints and there is a shortage of trained manpower to support the autistic workers.
And there remain many firms out there which have yet to be part of the Enabling Employers Network – an alliance of employers championing the employment of people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, the YMCA’s partnership with the SPF will replicate the foundation’s business arm and provide training, short-term work exposure and work placements, as well as negotiate with companies on making allowances for their autistic workers.