Enabling the Differently-Abled

Emelyn Lee Sian Mey 

As a beneficiary of Project Differently-Abled (DA) myself in 2016, I was really glad when Gamuda established the Enabling Academy (EA) in May 2017.  

While many are aware that EA conducts the Employment Transition Programme (ETP), I wish to share that its true value lies where individuals with autism feel comfortable at the workplace and are able to integrate well with their colleagues, knowing that the ecosystem is conducive for work and career growth. 

The ETP goes beyond classroom learning, for both the trainee and job coach. It’s just the beginning for individuals with autism in their workplace journey.   

It’s with great pride to share that EA is a recognised centre for candidates to earn the Skills Certification in Office Administration, Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM) Level 2 (Certificate).  

This is something to be reckoned with because EA is the first appointed SKM examination centre in Malaysia that offers Office Administration skills assessment for individuals with autism. Hence, it is heartening to know that EA will soon be offering SKM Level 3 by the end of this year, and Level 4 and 5 in the future.  

Since its establishment, the academy has trained more than 60 qualified candidates for the job market. More than half are currently employed in the fields of property and construction, banking, programming, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, retail, legal and agriculture.  

Gone are the days when we often hear individuals with autism taking on laborious roles such as packing and storage as their common job options. 

Some of the academy’s graduates have gone on to pursue further education and vocational training; and others are venturing into social enterprises and self-employment as their career path. This is made possible as they have benefited from the soft skills and practical skills training in a simulated office environment in EA, with continuous support from their job coaches. 

Attesting to the success of the ETP, I spoke with two fellow graduates – Darren Maung and Shashidharan Subramaniam, who are amongst the 60 EA graduates who have been working throughout the challenging COVID-19 pandemic and when layoffs abounded. 

Shashi (in green shirt) in a small group discussion with his fellow trainees.

Darren conducting a presentation.

Shashi (standing, third from right) with his fellow EA graduates and job coaches. 

“Before joining EA, I knew little about finding employment. Upon reflection, I definitely have a better outlook on myself. I’ve gotten used to the feel of corporate life, working at my computer and doing paperwork,” said Darren, currently interning at Roche Holdings. 

He works in the IT support and writes pieces on his colleagues’ contributions and achievements, similar to our Rise newsletter. He aspires to excel in whatever he undertakes and appreciates the friendly teamwork he has with his colleagues.  

Darren’s joy of work resonates with Shashidharan as well. “My confidence at work has improved after attending the ETP. I have learned how to use the IFCA accounting software for data entry, and how to process Purchase and Delivery Orders,” he said.  

As a data analyst in Gamuda’s Group Corporate Communications and Sustainability department, Shashidharan is fortunate to have colleagues who embrace neurodiversity and inclusion in the workplace. With detailed discussions, he understands the requirements of his tasks better, especially when he gets new assignments.  

From our conversations, I learned that their success stems from their motivation to work. This is further made possible from having encouraging coworkers who have also learned the essential techniques in supporting their differently-abled colleagues.  

With job coaching and guidance, EA graduates have proven that they are capable of handling more than just administrative tasks, among other fields of work, in partner companies such as DRB-Hicom and Uniqlo.  

EA has since motivated and supported 16 corporate organisations to embrace an inclusive work culture, in which seven of them have recruited at least two adults on the autism spectrum.  

This holistic approach has been useful in ensuring the continuity of support and employee retention, promoting sustainable employment as a valued contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). 

Beyond knowledge transfer 

The EA team has taken a step further by publishing Malaysia’s first ever ETP trainer’s manual in July.

Available in paperback and e-book form, it aims to equip individuals and companies in training employees with autism.

It was a milestone when the Special Education Division of the Education Ministry approved the ETP trainer’s manual for nationwide distribution to secondary schools with special education programmes.