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New SkillsFuture study awards for workers with disabilities: DPM Tharman

The Deputy Prime Minister announced that the Government will introduce a new category of study awards to benefit those with disabilities as well as the job coaches and professionals who support them.

SINGAPORE: The Government will provide employers with more support and leverage SkillsFuture to empower people with disabilities, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced on Friday (Feb 26).

Speaking at the Inclusive Business Forum, where employers who have hired people with disabilities shared their experiences and best practices, Mr Tharman said there will be a dedicated category of SkillsFuture study awards for those with disabilities as well as the job coaches and professionals who support them

.More details about these study awards would be announced at a later date by SG Enable and the Workforce Development Agency, he added.

Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, noted that the Government has been encouraging the employment of persons with disabilities particularly over the last few years.

Some examples include providing incentives and support to employers, helping those with disabilities overcome barriers to work, and matching them with employers.

"Particularly in a tight labour market, we must make use of every Singaporean and allow them to contribute in every way," he said.

"That's one part of it - meeting manpower needs. But it's really not the most important part of this journey. The most important part - which employers who have done this tell us - is that by hiring persons with disabilities, we also change the culture of the workplace, and we change the broader culture. That's what we find - customers become more understanding, co-workers and co-employees become more supportive of each other,” he added

But he said there was room to build on this momentum and that is where SkillsFuture comes in.  

"SG Enable has worked with WDA and 23 training providers to offer more than 1,300 places in training programmed tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities, but we are taking a more comprehensive approach," Mr Tharman said. 

We're going to encourage and empower persons with disabilities, through SkillsFuture. And SG Enable and WDA are going to work with VWOs, employers, and persons with disabilities themselves to come up with a comprehensive and impactful programme through SkillsFuture."

More help will also be given for persons with disabilities to gain employment. SG Enable for example, has created a series of online Human Resource Management Guides – to equip employers with what they need to know about hiring, accommodating, and retaining people with disabilities.

It has also created a disability employment portal that will provide information on training, internship, and employment opportunities.

Separately, S$5 million of an existing S$30 million fund committed by the Tote Board – will focus on helping those with disabilities make a transition into the workforce.