Asia Pacific, 29 April 2021 – Since the launch of the Microsoft APAC Enabler program seven months ago, sixteen PwDs have secured full time roles, internships, mentorships[i], and training[ii] opportunities through the program, with more than 110 PwDs currently being matched to 65 potential roles with Microsoft Partners.
Sri Lanka joins Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea and New Zealand, where non-profits like Enable Lanka Foundation and the Korea Employment Agency for Persons with Disabilities educate and train Partners on creating inclusive workplaces and being inclusive employers. These nonprofits join 19 other Microsoft Partners including ZILLIONe Systems Solutions, Redstone System, and DDLS Philippines to remove barriers for a more diverse workforce.
“In 2020, we saw an incredible number of businesses which have pivoted to cloud. With this, being equipped with a digital skillset is fast becoming the currency of our post-pandemic world. To unlock more for PwDs, it’s imperative that skilling and employment opportunities in technical roles are front and center of our economic reset in the region. Which is why we are so proud of the next step Microsoft is taking in our accessibility journey, a 5-year commitment to help bridge the global “Disability Divide”, doubling down to expand what is possible with accessible technology, opening doors for disabled talent to enter the workforce and continuing our journey of disability inclusion in the workplace,” said Pratima Amonkar, Chair for D&I and Accessibility for Microsoft APAC who leads the Microsoft Enabler Program.
In a roundtable discussion on digital skills during a virtual visit to Asia Pacific yesterday, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella shared that to transform society, we need to create opportunities for the more than 1 billion people in the world who have disabilities, so they can participate in the world economy. He shared the importance of having a continuous learning mindset and reiterated Microsoft’s mission that is grounded on ensuring every person has the tools and skills that allow them to create, build and change the communities they live and work in.
PwDs hired by employer partners
- Zeus Oliveros is one of the first PwDs to be hired through the program. He joined Cognizant Philippines’ call center team as an Associate for three and a half months doing callouts and data analysis. Through this experience, he found his passion for content development and marketing and is now looking for a role in that area.
- Kang Joohyun, a person who is deaf, is currently employed in Cloocus Korea. While she is still new to the team and is learning about the company’s major sales and purchasing structure, she will in time take a leading role in the cost accounting department.
- Marcus Tan is a third-year student at Temasek Polytechnic with cerebral palsy. He joined NTT Data in Singapore for a three-month internship in October 2020 and was tasked with developing an internal application. Following his internship, NTT Data Singapore is now conducting talks to PwD students and their wider cohorts in local polytechnics to raise awareness around diversity and inclusion.
- Jidapa Nitiwirakun and Thatsaphon Chikhunthod are currently interning at NTT Asia Pacific (Thailand)’s information technology department while completing their degrees at the Pattaya Redemptorist Technological College. This internship has shown Thatsaphon that his physical disabilities do not inhibit his dreams of being a programmer; a career which he finds challenging as there are always new developments to learn, practice and apply.
Building an inclusive economy in APAC
Accessibility must be a priority. And every one of us will experience a form of disability at some point in our lives, whether temporary, situational, or permanent. By empowering PwDs to fully participate in our economies, we are effectively increasing our productive population, and this can lead to a 1-7% rise in GDP.
Microsoft provides training in technology skills including cloud and artificial intelligence, bi-monthly tech consult sessions where volunteer employees share their tech expertise with Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Teams. More than 120 PwDs have benefitted from these sessions.
“The feedback from the Microsoft Partners have been extremely encouraging. By supporting them through the program and enabling them to have a focused approach, our Partners are seeing their cultures improve, their people becoming more inclusive and their community being more empathetic.” Pratima continued.
Microsoft has rolled out 45 training hours focused on inclusive hiring and design as well as assistive technologies enabled through artificial intelligence on Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Partners receive education and training by NPOs, on topics such as workplace modifications required and on how to best work with and mentor PwDs.
“The last seven months have been an incredible period of learning and growth for us and our Partners and we have just begun the journey. For the Microsoft APAC Enabler Program to reach its full potential, I hope that more Partners, nonprofits, PwDs will join us, so that together, we can work collectively towards an inclusive future for every person.” Pratima concluded.
Microsoft’s country managers from the launch markets:
- Ji Eun Lee, General Manager and CEO, Microsoft Korea: “Digital skills will be the underlying source for economic recovery, and diversity and inclusion will be the essential factor for growth for all organizations. We will actively support to create an environment in which anyone can develop capabilities and realize potentials, to accomplish our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
- Vanessa Sorenson, Managing Director, Microsoft New Zealand: “We are so proud that New Zealand is one of the pilot nations in Microsoft’s Enabler Program. This is empowerment in action. This is inclusion and accessibility. This is tapping into and upskilling an incredible pool of talent, and it’s why we are delighted to work alongside Be. Lab and the Global Centre of Possibility.”
- Andrés Ortola, General Manager, Microsoft Philippines: “It’s a privilege for us to be part of this initiative here in the Philippines, not only because this program is the first of its kind, but because the opportunity here is enormous. The Microsoft Enabler Program has successfully provided full-time employment for three individuals here in the Philippines and we’re committed to driving the same outcomes for more persons with disabilities in the years to come.”
- Kevin Wo, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore: “Marcus is a shining example of how anyone can achieve more in life. His success at being differently abled encourages all of us to do more to build an inclusive society in Singapore. As we enhance employability locally, our work in the Microsoft Enabler Program, together with partners like Sumitomo Life Insurance, Temasek Polytechnic and NTT Data will pave the way for more to be done together to ensure accessibility for all.”
- Hasitha Abeywardena, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka and Maldives: “The Microsoft Enabler Program aims to increase employability prospects and skills of people with disabilities living in Sri Lanka. Access to digital skills and employment opportunities must be given to every community and individual as we look to rebuild our economies. Many Sri Lankan PwDs need assistive technology but only a few of them have access, and this means many of them cannot fully participate in our economy and society. At Microsoft, we believe accessible technology and skilling can allow them to fully participate.”
- Dhanawat Suthumpun, Managing Director, Microsoft Thailand: “We have always believed in the power of technology to reduce gaps in opportunities that people have access to, and the Enabler Program has proven that as long as the opportunities are there, talent will always shine through. I would like to congratulate all participants in the program for taking full advantage of this opportunity to enhance their digital skillsets and gain highly valuable experience for their future careers. Furthermore, I would also like to thank all the partners of the Enabler Program – including NTT in Thailand – for sharing our commitment to inclusion and making this happen together.”
Our NPO partners on the Microsoft Enabler Program:
- Ryan Gersava, Founder and President of Virtualahan Inc., Philippines: “We always dream for our graduates at Virtualahan to work for big tech companies and Microsoft Enabler Program made it happen. It is definitely not an easy ride so far, but the support system makes this challenging endeavor more manageable. This pioneering initiative is not only opening new doors for our current graduates but it’s paving the way in breaking down systemic barriers for inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in workplaces. It is not a band aid solution this time.”
- Tonya Baker, Director of Social and Economic Development, Be. Lab, New Zealand: “New Zealand has the fifth highest employment rate for 15-64 year olds in the OECD. Our unemployment rate data for the December quarter fell from 5.3% to 4.9%, amazing all economic predictions, yet the unemployment rate for access citizens still sits at 11.4%. Programmes such as the Microsoft Enabler partnership aren’t just nice to have. They are essential to create deep commitment and shift the dial of equity in employment opportunities for access citizens.”
- GongYeol, Choi, President and CEO Of Korea Differently Abled Federation, Korea: “It’s a tough time because the job opportunities for people with disabilities are narrower due to Covid-19. We will continue to work with Microsoft to contribute to the revitalization of employment for people with disabilities in the IT sector.”
- Moonhwan Yuh, Executive Director of JA Korea, Korea: “Microsoft Enabler program is providing inclusive opportunity to people with disabilities. Through the program, people with disabilities grow into a member of digital society. Through this project, we hope that more disabled people will overcome their differences and live together as members of our society.”
- Tan Ko We, Assistant Chief Executive, SG Enable, Singapore: “At the core of workplace disability inclusion is focusing on the skills and abilities that persons with disabilities can bring to the workforce. We have been journeying alongside with, and are appreciative of Microsoft and the employer partners on the Enabler Program who share the same vision as us, offering mentorship, internship, and employment opportunities to persons with disabilities. We look forward to our continued partnership to offer more employment opportunities to persons with disabilities.”
- Krystle Reid Wijesuriya, Co-founder of Enable Lanka Foundation, Sri Lanka: “Sri Lanka even after ratifying the UNCRPD in 2016 still has the challenge of integrating the marginalized communities, especially persons with disabilities socially, economically, culturally and attitudinally into the rapidly expanding spectrum of development opportunities. There is a dire need for capacity building, community-based empowerment and skill development in gearing the poor and the marginalized towards the aforementioned momentum of progress. Through the Microsoft Enabler program, we are trying to create greater awareness around disability inclusion and make companies/our partners embrace true diversity and inclusion and make persons with disabilities not only economically independent, but also learn to take control of their own lives and to become real change agents.”
- Narong Rattanasopa, The Redemptorist Foundation for People with Disabilities, Thailand: “Life with a disability in Thailand can be a daily struggle that can include discrimination. A person may not be able to access a place of learning or a place of work, therefore PwDs people 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.”
TOP IMAGE: Jidapa Nitiwirakun (left) and Pairin Chakaja (right) from the Pattaya Redemptorist Technological College for People with Disabilities in Thailand at Microsoft Thailand.
[i] Mentorships prepare our PwD talent for employment by pairing them with a potential hiring manager in a mentor-mentee relationship that can last up to one year or more.
[ii] Training offered by employer partners equip our PwD talent with skills and knowledge related to upcoming projects to prepare them for a potential full-time role.