Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Disabled but not daunted - Optimistic youngsters eye workforce

Published:Saturday | May 27, 2017 | 5:04 AMSyranno Baines
From left: Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson; Christine Hendricks, executive director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities; and Taje Anderson-Little, a student at the Abilities Foundation, examine some of the craft items on display.
Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson showing interest in craft items, some made by Kimo Gordon (right). The occasion was the Abilities Foundation’s Open Day yesterday.
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Despite the hand they were dealt, come July, 20 young persons afflicted with disabilities will be keen to capitalise on a six-week work apprenticeship programme, with the objective being fully integrated into the labour force.

Funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to the tune of J$13.4 million, the Abilities Foundation launched the third round of the 'Workforce Inclusion Project' at 191 Constant Spring Road yesterday.

Through skills training and job placement, the project's aim is to integrate disabled persons into the wider society.

"Seventy per cent of our graduates leave with full certification or unit competences," said Susan Hamilton, managing director of the Abilities Foundation, while declaring the previous two rounds of the project as a great success.

"Over the three-year period, we've been able to place more than 25 students in permanent jobs, and that is an achievement for the disability sector. It also enhances capacity building for staff and supports the beneficiaries who are on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) through provision of an additional stipend. The project also caters for job coaching, so while we place them on the job, the coach is there to sensitise the employer, as well as the employee."

Now in its 25th year, the Abilities Foundation caters to persons with all form of disabilities.

It currently hosts 72 students and has a staff complement of 24.

Private sector lifting profile of disabled

In her main address, Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson thanked private-sector partners for their support and outlined several plans for the immediate future.

"Through a mix of scholarships, internships, grants and training, these companies are lifting the profile of the disabled in communities and empowering them with serviceable skills," she said.

"Starting August, two new skill sets will be introduced for students. One is a seven-month nail technology and make-up artistry course, while customer service, level two, will be taught over a 10-month period."

Additionally, the institution will see a new course in cosmetology being funded from the Digicel Special Needs 5K run.

Under this year's theme, 'Inclusion Matters - Opening Doors of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities', Hamilton shared her optimism for expansion with The Gleaner.

"I would love to see an Abilities Foundation in the west, as, currently, we're not impacting those students in the rural areas. I hereby encourage and appeal to other private-sector entities to come on board and let's continue to make a positive change."

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com