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Microsoft launches program to help people with disabilities excel in tech

17 Sep 2020

Microsoft wants to help people with disabilities excel in their technology careers, which is why it has launched a first-of-its-kind pilot program to achieve those goals.

The Microsoft Enabler Program encourages a more diverse workforce by working with non-profits and Microsoft partners to create new employment opportunities for those with disabilities. 

The program will help to provide online training in areas such as application development on GitHub, cloud computing on Azure, as well as data engineering and programming courses.

Microsoft says that the training modules are designed to provide sought-after technology skills that are recognised around the world.

“In today's workplace, it is imperative that we include everyone, and accessibility is the vehicle to inclusion. It is a responsibility and an opportunity. There are no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it,” explains Microsoft Asia Pacific chief partner officer Vivek Puthucode.

“Inclusive organisations outperform their peers and attract and keep top talent, and we have seen how inclusion drives innovation.”

The pilot program is being trialled in five countries including New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Korea, and Thailand. The program will then expand across the wider Asia Pacific region later this year.

Microsoft is partnering with six non-profit organisations from each of the five countries. These organisations will provide training and education about people with disabilities to employer partners from the same countries. 

The six non-profit organisations include Be. Lab (New Zealand), JA Korea, KODAF (Korea Differently Abled Federation), SG Enable (Singapore), The Redemptorist Foundation for People with Disabilities (Thailand), and Virtualahan (Philippines).

“At Be. Lab and the Global Centre of Possibility we are delighted to be working alongside the team at Microsoft and their partners on such a critical programme to advance access and employment in Aotearoa and the wider Asia Pacific,” comments Be.Lab’s founder Minnie Baragwanath. 

“Access citizens are an untapped pool of talent that bring a unique set of skills to forward-thinking, 21st-century workplaces such as problem-solving, agility, persistence, and innovation.”

The six non-profit organisations will work with 14 employer partners, including:

1.    Cloocus (Korea)
2.    Cognizant Technology Solutions (Singapore, Philippines)
3.    Crayon (Singapore, Philippines)
4.    Datacom (New Zealand)
5.    DXC Technology (New Zealand)
6.    ePLDT (Philippines)
7.    HCL Technologies (Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, New Zealand)
8.    Ingram Micro Asia (Singapore)
9.    Metanet Tplatform (Korea)
10.  Nexus Tech (Philippines)
11.  NTT Asia Pacific
12.  NTT Data (Singapore, Philippines)
13.  Tech Data (Singapore)
14.  Wipro (Singapore, Philippines, Thailand).

Microsoft says its regional partners are committed to providing opportunities for people with disabilities by providing job shadowing, training, mentoring and internship attachments in technical roles. These opportunities will be offered in close collaboration with the non-profit organisations, who will match the most suitable people based on their profile, skills, qualifications, and ambitions with the requirements of the role.

Employer partners will also be able to access a Microsoft Learn course called Accessibility Fundamentals, which explains how to create inclusive design and how to leverage assistive technologies.

"Life with a disability in Thailand can be a daily struggle that can include discrimination,” explains The Redemptorist Foundation for People with Disabilities’ Narong Rattanasopa.

“A person may not be able to access a place of learning or a place of work, therefore people with disabilities are left to simply exist at home. Microsoft has supported us for many years with trainings and software, now with increasing support of employment opportunity. We’re thankful to Microsoft for ensuring that people with disabilities can have better jobs and importantly, better living.”

The Enabler Program will also host a job fair next year, which aims to connect non-profit organisations and Microsoft partners with people with disabilities. People with disabilities will be able to showcase their skills and experience and connect with potential employers.

“2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and when we look at the incredible number of businesses and governments who have pivoted to cloud with Microsoft in the region, tech roles and digital skills will be the backbone of the economic recovery every country. And one of the ways we can enable an inclusive recovery is by empowering every person and every business with technology skills,” concludes Puthucode.