SINGAPORE (July 16): To help put more people with disabilities into jobs, United Overseas Bank (UOB) on Tuesday launched a programme to connect their private sector clients with social service agencies that can help with the hiring process.

Called The Unlimited, the initiative was unveiled to more than 160 business leaders over dinner at the St Regis Singapore. This inclusive hiring effort sees the bank partnering SG Enable, Autism Resource Centre (ARC), Movement for the Intellectually Disabled (Minds) and SPD, formerly known as the Society for the Physically Disabled.

Businesses keen to hire staff with disabilities can conduct an online self-assessment on their readiness for inclusive hiring before UOB connects them with SG Enable, the national agency tasked with helping people with disabilities. SG Enable will then work with ARC, Minds and SPD to identify suitable candidates for the available jobs.

The agencies will provide the companies and new hires with support and training before, during and after the job placement. Eligible employers can also apply for relevant grants from SG Enable under the Open Door Programme — a government-funded initiative by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Workforce Singapore to encourage employment of those with disabilities.

The employment rate for people with disabilities in Singapore is not high. In 2017, over 8,600 persons with disabilities were hired in the private and public sectors. In comparison, there are 176,000 residents with disabilities in the working-age range of 20 to 64.

But according to a UOB survey of 220 decision makers at local companies this month, this was not because of a lack of willingness to hire. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they would hire, provided they had sufficient guidance on how to do so. Hence, The Unlimited initiative plans to fill this gap.

UOB has been hiring people with disabilities since 2013, and said that experience has led the bank to recognise “the opportunity for businesses to create meaningful employment”. About a third of UOB’s staff at its Scan Hub, the nerve centre for checking, digitisation and archiving of customer documents, are persons with autism or hearing impairment.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who was present at the MoU signing between UOB and the agencies, called the partnership encouraging, saying it is a reminder that working together, organisations can use their unique strengths to help persons with disabilities gain employment. “And in so doing, help to create a caring and inclusive Singapore where every individual is valued and respected,” said Lee.