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Microsoft launches program to increase employability of PWDs

By Christian Imperio Published Sep 16, 2020 12:00 am

Microsoft recently launched a program that pioneers disability inclusive workplaces across Asia Pacific by removing the barriers for a more diverse workforce.

The tech company said that the Microsoft Enabler Program, described as "the first of its kind," will pilot in Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, before expanding to the rest of the region by the end of 2020.

Organizations committed to the program will receive training from Non-Profit organizations (NPOs) to become inclusive employers, and these businesses will in turn provide job shadowing, internships, mentoring and opportunities in tech jobs for PWDs identified by the NPO’s.

Microsoft said that it will provide industry required training in cloud and artificial intelligence, as well as a platform for all three to collaborate towards an inclusive future for every person.

“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,” said Vivek Puthucode, chief partner office at Microsoft in Asia Pacific. “Inclusive organizations outperform their peers and attract and keep top talent, and we have seen how inclusion drives innovation.”

Under the program, Microsoft will conduct online training in data engineering and programming, cloud computing on Microsoft Azure and application development in GitHub to the PwDs.

The tech company said that 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 added.

The company said that NPOs that will give education and training to the employer partners are 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). These NPOs will 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.

Meanwhile, the employer partners are 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), and Wipro (Singapore, Philippines, Thailand).

Microsoft said that 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.

“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,” he continued.

Microsoft said that its partners in the region commit to provide opportunities for PWDs by providing job shadowing, training, mentoring and internship attachments in technical roles. It explained that these opportunities will be offered in close collaboration with the NPOs which 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,” Vivek said.

Meanwhile, to expand the talent pipeline for partners and connect job-seeking PWDs to tech roles, Microsoft said that 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.

It said that 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.