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    Microsoft launches Enabler Program to increase employability of PWDs

    The first of its kind, the Microsoft Enabler Program is an integrated approach that provides cloud and AI training for persons with disabilities, accessibility education for employer partners, and inclusive hiring from non-profit organizations supporting PWDs.

    With more than 1 billion people with disabilities (PWDs) in the world, disability-inclusive employment can lead to 1-7% rise in GDP in Asia Pacific through increased economic productivity. The program will pilot in five markets: Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, before expanding to the rest of the region by the end of 2020.

    Skills and Knowledge

    Microsoft will provide online training in data engineering and programming, cloud computing on Microsoft Azure and application development in GitHub to the PWDs. These modules will provide crucial technology skills that are globally recognized, and highly sought after in our digital first and remote everything world, therefore providing them with a learning path for industry leading skillsets that improves their employability. For the employer partners, Microsoft will conduct workshops on inclusive design and assistive technologies enabled through artificial intelligence on Microsoft Azure.

    “At the heart of the Microsoft Enabler Program is a comprehensive accessibility model that will not only improve inclusion of people with disabilities across Asia Pacific for years to come; it also connects to local talent from underrepresented communities and improves our society,” Vivek Puthucode, chief partner officer at Microsoft in Asia Pacific.

    The Non-Profit Organizations:

    • Be. Lab (New Zealand)
    • JA Korea
    • KODAF (Korea Differently Abled Federation)
    • SG Enable (Singapore)
    • The Redemptorist Foundation for People with Disabilities (Thailand)
    • Virtualahan (Philippines)

    These NPOs will provide education and training to the employer partners to help them learn about working with PWDs, offer inputs on workplace modifications they may need to be an accessible employer, and guidance on mentoring PWDs.

    According to Ryan Gersava, founder and president of Virtualahan Inc., Philippines, “Our experience taught us that Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are positive investments. Together with Microsoft, we train them for competitive employment in the digital economy. Employers especially noted their loyalty and passion for learning; jobs liberate them from the destructive impact of poverty and low self-esteem. Unfortunately, the PWDs are already left behind because of outdated labour practices in the Philippines. The impact of 4IR and COVID-19 could push down even further unless we act now by making inclusive hiring the new normal.”

    The employer partners:

    • Cloocus (Korea)
    • Cognizant Technology Solutions (Singapore, Philippines)
    • Crayon (Singapore, Philippines, Thailand)
    • Datacom (New Zealand)
    • DXC Technology (New Zealand)
    • ePLDT (Philippines)
    • HCL Technologies (Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, New Zealand)
    • Ingram Micro Asia (Singapore)
    • Metanet Tplatform (Korea)
    • Nexus Tech (Philippines)
    • NTT Asia Pacific (Singapore, Philippines, Thailand)
    • NTT Data (Singapore, Philippines)
    • Tech Data (Singapore)
    • Wipro (Singapore, Philippines, Thailand)

    These organizations, in addition to receiving training from the NPOs on creating inclusive workplaces, will also accelerate their disability inclusion program by completing Accessibility Fundamentals, the course by Microsoft Learn which provides guidance on inclusive design principles and leveraging assistive technology.

    Engaging PWDs in the workplace

    Microsoft’s partners in the region commit to providing opportunities for PWDs by providing job shadowing, training, mentoring and internship attachments in technical roles. These opportunities will be offered in close collaboration with the NPO’s who will match the most suitable PWD profile, skills, qualifications, and ambitions with the requirements of the role.

    “Accessibility starts with building a culture of inclusion in the workplace. The more you focus on it, the more your culture will improve and evolve. The company culture and workplace environment are important elements of a successful accessibility program. At Microsoft, our vision and strategy of accessibility was to embed inclusive, accessible design into the fabric of the company. And we want to enable every organization to be inclusive,” concluded Vivek.

    Enabling the employment of PWDs

    To expand the talent pipeline for partners and connect job-seeking PWDs to tech roles, the program will also feature a virtual job fair, held at the end of second quarter of 2021, that brings together the Microsoft partners and NPOs. PWDs can use the opportunity to showcase their skills, experience from their job attachments and interests, while businesses share roles available to connect with potential hires. In addition to job matching, the virtual event will include educational sessions about accessibility in the workplace, assistive technology as well as training, support and tools to help organizations sustain their accessibility programs.

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