SINGAPORE: Ms Jessica Szeto, who has Down's Syndrome, was a little nervous when she started work at The Social Kitchen in December last year, but seven months on, the social enterprise is looking to train her to become a supervisor.
Ms Szeto, 30, is now a service staff packing food products to be delivered to customers. It is her first full-time job.
"I've made a lot of good friends, they really trained me ... I enjoy working with my colleagues. They're very good to me," she said on Wednesday (Jul 14).
Before this, she had attended seven schools including Margaret Drive Special School, Rainbow Centre and Towner Gardens MINDS.
She told reporters that she moved to Australia for some time before moving back to Singapore last year, and looked for a job for about a month before landing her current position.
The Social Kitchen, which launched in August last year, now runs six F&B outlets across the island. The social enterprise focuses on hiring people with special needs and other disadvantaged individuals such as single mothers or homeless people.
It was highlighted by Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Tuesday as a firm that has actively hired people with disabilities, as he visited The Social Kitchen's outlet at Jurong Bird Park.
Giving an update on the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) scheme on Wednesday , Dr Tan said that the scheme has supported the hiring of more than 1,600 people with disabilities.
"Similar to the general hires, about six in 10 were not employed at the point of hire, and more than half had been out of work for more than six months. They can enter the workforce and enjoy meaningful work," said Dr Tan.
The top hiring sectors for such workers are the food services sector, environmental sciences and wholesale trade, he said. These sectors account for slightly more than four in 10 of the JGI-supported workers who are people with disabilities.
It was shared in Parliament in November last year that that there were around 32,000 people with disabilities aged 15 to 64 in Singapore, of whom around 9,000 were employed.
About 1,000 are unemployed, and around 22,000 are outside of the labour force, the Ministry for Social and Family Development had said then in response to a parliamentary question.
Ms Avelyn Lee, director of sales and marketing for The Social Kitchen said that it has hired 15 more employees since September last year, when the JGI began. It now has 34 workers, half of whom are people with disabilities and beneficiaries.
The JGI scheme is meant to boost local employment and it provides additional incentives for firms which hire older workers, people with disabilities and ex-offenders.
Companies that expand the number of Singaporean or permanent residents they hire can get 25 per cent of wage support for the first S$5,000 of each new local worker's salary for up to 12 months.
For local workers aged 40 and above, workers with disabilities or ex-offenders, employers get 50 per cent of the first S$6,000 of their monthly income for up to 18 months.
Employers of people with disabilities also receive the Enabling Employment Credit, which gives additional wage offsets for each Singaporean with disability earning below S$4,000 per month.
"We are a new start-up so we have limited capital resources," said Ms Lee. "With JGI and a lot of subsidies from the landlords, we managed to open up new outlets, and then we can take in more (people with disabilities)."
On Ms Szeto, Ms Lee said that she already had the skills needed for the job and just needed time to build up confidence in her role.
"She's very jovial, very positive. I think the next thing (for her) may be taking orders online. So the target is, of course, maybe she can be a supervisor," she said.
"We will have to do it step by step."