Getting Closer to a Purposeful Future
Ts. Sharifah Alauyah, Head of Yayasan Gamuda (middle) and Hong Kok Siong, Project Leader of Enabling Academy (fourth from left) with the
Job Coaches of Enabling Academy.
It was a question that bogged our minds as an organisation: How do we foster an environment that embraces neurodiversity in the workplace?
Before Enabling Academy became the growing force that it is today with over 50 trainees, Project DA which stands for Project Differently-Abled humbly began in 2013, after identifying the revelation that unemployment for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) was notably high.
Because we believe in embracing diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace, Yayasan Gamuda, the Group’s foundation arm, rounded up volunteers within the organisation to embark on Project (DA), which aimed at providing individuals in the high-functioning autism spectrum with gainful and sustainable employment opportunities within the Gamuda Group of Companies.
Enabling Academy conducts a 3-month Employment Transition Programme, focuses on personal development, career development, soft skills training and a simulated office environment.
One of our first volunteers helming the project was our Group Procurement Deputy Director and Enabling Academy’s Project Leader Hong Kok Siong,
“I always enjoyed doing my part in helping people with special needs whenever I can and believed in the saying: Bless to be Blessed.”
At the time, Hong Kok Siong was only in his third year with the organisation when he jumped at the chance to voluntarily facilitate this project.
Reminiscing on Project DA ‘s humble beginnings, he says “We started from Ground Zero, and it was a discovery journey for all of us.”
With the success of Project DA, Enabling Academy (EA) was established in 2017, aimed at preparing more young adults with autism for gainful sustainable employment in corporate companies. To establish more Employment Training Centre, EA is a registered Practical Assessment Centre for Accreditation of Prior Achievement since November 2018. This programme is a collaboration with the Department of Skills Development under the Ministry of Human Resources.
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“We recognised that young adults with high-functioning ASD might make it to university but securing a job after graduation is a challenge even with proper qualifications,” he noted as one of the challenges.
There was and is still a need for transition opportunities to enable school leavers and those who are in vocational programmes to progress into employment.
Other challenges presented were getting ASD individuals to come forward, and rightly so as Project Differently-Abled and Enabling Academy were both pioneer projects. There was no blueprint to follow before these programmes existed.
“Parents would question our intentions because they were worried as a lot of them were also afraid to allow their children to explore the real world because it can be very harsh,” he shares.
“On top of that, we were also figuring out how to profile each candidate and match them with the right employers, with a conducive environment while making sure that these jobs offer them a purpose. We wanted to make sure our trainees could find the job they love and be independent” Hong Kok Siong said.
With the guidance of some NGOs and assistance from willing parents, the team slowly managed to overcome those obstacles.
“People were saying that we were crazy to choose Autism as one of our initiatives, but with perseverance, encouragement and guidance, we kept on progressing since then,” he explained.
Challenges are still present today as the programme grows but with sheer determination and experience, our dedicated Support Team, volunteers and job coaches are better prepared and are always ready to face new challenges.
Enabling Academy’s Job Coaches.
When Hong Kok Siong takes a step back and looks at the work our team has done, it is said to bring him complete joy and satisfaction.
“Knowing our young ASD people are getting closer to a purposeful future and blossoming into independent young adults is an indescribable feeling,” Hong Kok Siong concluded.
On top of having necessary qualifications and experience in special needs, we’re looking for candidates who have the passion for working with special needs people. Stay connected with us at email@example.com