While summer season is the time for relaxation and vacation, most University students would find themselves in a frenzy to secure a Summer internship either locally or abroad. Personally, I am one of those students and through my relentless search for that ideal internship, I have also noticed how much local companies place emphasis on grades and use that factor as a filtering process for potential candidates. In certain banking institutions, grades become the indicator of one’s work ability in the work place. Are academic results a good indication of your achievement or rather, ability to be an effective worker in the workplace? While some acknowledge that the amount of discipline and consistency put in place to achieve the stellar results reflects your drive and motivation as a person, some beg to differ. There are other factors that companies look out for in employees in the long run, such as personality traits, job-fit etc.
More importantly, the term “qualification” is very much subjective with the increasingly complexity of constantly changing work, training and education environment. For example, who is more qualified for the post of an accounts executive?
(A) Person A who has a CAP score of 4.8
(B) Person B who has a CAP score of 4.3, leadership experience in school, represented Singapore in a debates competition and came in as 2nd runner up.
Well, it depends on what companies are looking out for in their candidates. With all things held constant, I would pick person B, Nonetheless, questions are emerging as to the validity of many qualifications as a measure of competence, for competency is more important in the long run for companies.
This brings me on to the next point: How qualified are disabled people to be employed?
As seen from the excerpt, even in a developed country like Singapore, disabled people are still stigmatized in the workforce. In America, employers fear the cost associated with hiring. Despite the implementation of American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1995 to help level the playing field for people with disabilities, there is still an education gap in the workplace. Many employers assume that they would have to spend unnecessary amounts of corporate funding to bring their business up to ADA standards if they were to hire someone with a disability. More so, there is a fear of additional supervision and loss of productivity. Employers are concerned about the special attention that may need to be devoted to employees with disabilities and may view this as a waste of time. Secondly, employers are concerned with their perceived requirements to have different productivity standards for two employees doing the same job. Imagine the workload of the Human Resource Department if such accommodations have to be made!
However, not every company is deterred as there are benefits involved when hiring disabled employees! The Holiday Inn is one of the few encouraging examples who see this pool of workers as alternative source of employment to solve their labour crunch woes. According to them, they stated that the company saved a lot on training and levies because of the high retention rates. Savings can amount up to $100,000 a year in foreign worker levies and staff training costs just by hiring 35 disabled workers!
Furthermore, from a public relations standpoint, hiring disabled workers can improve the image of the company in the eyes of the public. If the company hires a small community, they can establish a reputation as a company that offers a more diverse workforce, attracting prospective employees, customers and business associates. Other companies may also be inspired to follow, creating a more diverse and accommodating business climate.
Needless to say, government support plays a crucial role in encouraging companies to hire disabled employees. For example, the new Open Door Programme announced recently by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, helps facilitate the hiring of disabled people by setting aside $30 million in funding.
This scheme is a greater incentive for companies as they can apply for subsidies of up to $100,000 if they hire at least one disabled worker and are committed to hiring people with disabilities. The money can be used on equipment, to redesign jobs, to train co-workers and to renovate the building to make it more accessible. There are also integration programmes in place to assist the HR department to train supervisors on how to manage persons with disabilities or training of co-workers on how to effectively interact and work with persons with disabilities.
In conclusion, I feel that potential employees need the chance and avenue to prove their competency and commitment to their job. While paper credentials are important, it cannot be used as a one-size-fits all approach to hire. There are many research that address the various aspects of what defines a good employee for the company, little has been done to include the marginalized community of disabled people in Singapore. It is my wish that apart from chasing productivity and being results oriented, local companies can invest more time to consider embracing such employees since they already have ample support from the government.