Renewed Commitment to Provide Training and Employment for Disabled Workers | SPD - Singapore

Renewed Commitment to Provide Training and Employment for Disabled Workers

  • Launch of SPD Ability Enterprise in line with government’s objective to focus on education and training to raise earning power of lower skilled workers
  • First VWO in the physical disability sector to be recognized with the Certified On-The-Job Training Centre status by ITE
  • Supported by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports and the National Council of Social Service


42-year-old Yusoff bin Atan was jobless for the past 10 years, despite having gone for numerous job interviews. A hit-and-run accident had left him paralysed, causing him to lose his job and leaving his family struggling to make ends meet.

Today, his prospects look brighter, as he has recently found gainful employment at The Society for the Physically Disabled’s (SPD) Ability Enterprise.

The SPD Ability Enterprise is a training and employment centre for people with physical disabilities. Those with moderate to high functioning skills at the Enterprise will engage in a range of activities depending on their interests and abilities, from creating customized photo albums to packing, letter-shopping, and even web designing, data entry and video editing, and will earn an allowance or a salary for the job done.

The Enterprise will combine employment with progressive learning. For its commitment towards staff training and people development in having a comprehensive on-the-job training plan, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will award the SPD Ability Enterprise COJTC (Certified On-The-Job Training Centre) status, making the SPD Ability Enterprise the first workshop in the physical disability sector to receive the recognition.

The COJTC status given to SPD is reviewed annually and renewable every 3 years.

A structured on-the-job training programme has already been developed for the production of customized photo albums, where standards are specified from the binding to the hot-stamping stages. A similar structure is being put together for packaging of materials. More areas are being identified for similar structures to be developed, to help increase cost effectiveness and productivity, create versatility amongst the staff and trainees and to improve work effectiveness. Clients will learn through structured instruction and undergo guided practice through an instructor, and will be assessed upon completion of the programme. Those found to be proficient by the trainer will be awarded with a certificate from ITE.

Aside from the training, the SPD Ability Enterprise will focus on being more commercial and productivity-based instead of following the traditional welfare/rehabilitation model. This means that clients can look forward to operating in a professional environment where productivity and professionalism are encouraged and rewarded. This move will help to maximize the potential of the clients, and encourage them to perform at their best.

A Training & Placement Executive will also help look into training and opportunities for open employment for those enrolled with the SPD Ability Enterprise.

Clients can also benefit from the other services offered at the SPD. Stroke survivor Rodney Rodrigues is one recipient of this overall care.

Following his stroke in September 2003, he was referred to SPD for rehabilitation in November 2003. While receiving therapy, he was found to be suitable for vocational skills training and was subsequently in the sheltered workshop. With the new Ability Enterprise, he can look forward to receiving better training and eventual employment.

Having its humble beginnings as a ramshackle workshop employing people with physical disabilities in the production of bottle crates in 1964, the SPD Ability Enterprise now employs 106 clients. In its establishment, it has merged three different departments, namely the Production Workshop, Work Activity Centre and Multimedia Centre.

Previously, the workshops operated separately. With the streamlining and centralization of operations, there will be better economies of scale in administration, operations and marketing. There will also be consolidation of training resources, where a vocational development service will be set up, focusing on career development of the clients.

The SPD Ability Enterprise will offer a host of services, including bookbinding, making of customized leather bound photo albums, design and production of greeting cards, production of lifestyle products like fancy files, notebooks and CD holders, web designing, hosting, domain registrations and web maintenance, video editing, data entry services, and also sub contract work like packaging and other finishing work such as putting handles on paper bags.

"SPD started over 40 years ago with the mission of integrating people with physical disabilities into mainstream society by giving them employment. Today, this mission still stays but our operations have evolved. We aim to provide physically disabled people the skills and know-how to maximize their potential. For those unable to find work outside, they also have a place here and can still contribute to the society. Our move is in line with the government’s call to focus on education and training, raising earning power and to ensuring that people are better skilled and have better prospects for earning higher salary," said Dr Ow Chee Chung, Executive Director, The Society for the Physically Disabled.

Contractors who have been working with SPD are supportive of the setting up of the SPD Ability Enterprise and its COJTC status. Mr Michael Goh, Managing Director, Adam’s Apple Multimedia, which has been collaborating with SPD on the Digital Arts Social Enterprise since March, said, "It’s good that SPD is implementing structured training and personal coaching to train the workers to improve productivity. The COJTC status shows SPD’s commitment to its business partners and its trainees and workers. It will certainly help to attract good contracts for the workers and trainees."

Having just joined the SPD Ability Enterprise in September, Yusoff Bin Atan is excited about working there and has high hopes for the future.

"I don’t need to worry anymore about not finding work. Here, I can train and grow. Although I may not be able to work outside, at least I can earn an income at the SPD Ability Enterprise and help to support my family. I hope to become a master craftsman one day," said an enthusiastic Yusoff.