Inclusive hiring in Singapore has been given a boost of late, with initiatives such as the HR Power Bank programme by Human Capital Singapore (HCS), which will soon support training and employment opportunities with big name partners such as Microsoft Singapore and Alibaba Cloud.
Such moves have been championed by President Halimah Yacob, who has pushed for more diverse and inclusive hiring practices in the island state. On a positive note, in a reply in Parliament in March, then-Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that the average employment rate for resident Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in the working ages of 15 to 64 has been sustained at around 29 per cent despite an economic downturn.
Support these local businesses that have been flying the flag of equal opportunity proudly, over a period of uncertainty.
Rich & Good Cake Shop
Founded by Lily Liu in 1997, Rich & Good Cake Shop has become something of a standard bearer for light, pillowy swiss rolls – their signature kaya roll is a crowd-pleaser – having earned a cult-like following in Singapore. The confectionery is also distinguished by its Silver Enabling Mark, a national-level accreditation framework that recognises organisations for their best practices in disability-inclusive employment.
According to second-generation owner and managing director Jeanne Liu, they work with the likes of APSN and Metta School to recruit PwDs, and tailors their roles according to their unique requirements. One such employee is an individual suffering from mild intellectual disability and Microcephaly, who lost his job during the pandemic. Upon hiring the former restaurant steward, the company implemented a flexible work arrangement, created visual aids and customised job roles to accommodate him.
“Given the right job fit and proper training and support, PwDs can settle into their jobs and become valuable team members. Inclusive hiring can therefore be mutually beneficial to both the PwDs as well as the company,” said Liu.
Get this: Apart from their popular Christmas log cakes, Rich & Good has curated a special Christmas gift set that comprises a regular swiss roll, soft cookies, cold brew and handmade chocolates.
Those with a tendency to dismiss the ranks of “apathetic millennials” need only refer to the duo of twenty-something-year-olds behind Foreword Coffee to feel contrite. Started by Lim Wei Jie and Nadi Chan in 2017, the social enterprise boasting a Platinum Enabling Mark aims to provide an inclusive workplace for those with disabilities, special needs, and mental health issues.
From selling speciality coffee from a kiosk at National University of Singapore (NUS), the business has grown into a chain that looks at the holistic development of its employees. “We do not hire our employees to do “menial work”. We emphasise the importance for them to be independent at work and everyone contributes meaningfully to the team at the cafes,” shared Lim, who added that the company provides staff with year-on-year salary increases commensurable with recommendations laid out by the National Wage Council.
According to the company’s Impact Report 2020, its eco-friendly initiatives resulted in 3150 ‘bring your own cup’ discounts being dispensed, and 2610 milk bottle caps collected and donated to upcycling projects. It has also pledged five per cent of its sales revenue derived from coffee brew bags to community development projects in coffee growing regions in Asia.
Get this: Let your caffeinated compatriots brew their own drip coffee with the Coffee Fanatic Gift Bundle, which includes single origin coffee beans, filter paper, a glass server and a HARIO V60 dripper.
Singapore Fashion Runway
Individuals with special needs are entitled to a place in the fashion industry. This is the premise on which Eileen Yap, a trainer at Mountbatten Vocational School built Singapore Fashion Runway (SFR), a social enterprise that nurtures people with special needs and from disadvantaged groups in the creative and performing arts, as well as entrepreneurship.
Aside from running a retail arm that provides youths with training and a craft making store at Esplanade, the company this year opened a Food for a Social Cause store at Marina One offering a slate of Christmas menus. According to Yap, all SFR stores are managed by families with special needs and disadvantaged groups. Among the programmes’ beneficiaries is Ng Xiu Zhen, who suffers from cerebral palsy and hearing impairment. Ng initially modelled for SFR’s fashion shows, and was later trained in craft making and sewing, as well as retail management.
“Not only has she gained independence, but she’s also able to coach other youths,” shared Yap, who lent that SFR operates on a results-driven model. “We often ask the employees how else we can train them, so that they understand the role they play will be important to our livelihood. For instance, if a person wants to be paid $X,000 a month, he/she needs to be very independent, able to look after our retail store, source for projects, fulfil them and help us to be sustainable too,” she revealed.
Get this: Aside from their adaptive fashion collection designed for people with disabilities, the brand has also curated a Christmas gift collection arrayed with personalised drawstring pouches, coasters, tissue pouches and face masks made with a sustainable ethos.
The Social Kitchen
Ang Kian Peng (above, left) and founder of private Peranakan museum The Intan Alvin Yapp launched cloud kitchen The Social Kitchen during the Circuit Breaker last year, with the aim of giving local F&B operators stymied by high rental and manpower costs a “fighting chance” during the pandemic.
The social enterprise hires and trains workers from disadvantaged backgrounds, including persons with disabilities, single mothers and mature workers. “The Social Kitchen is filling the employment gap for underprivileged groups, which has been widened by Covid-19. Ultimately, The Social Kitchen is intended as a steppingstone. The hope is that the cloud kitchen’s workers can pursue a career with the F&B brands it partners with,” shared Ang.
This isn’t the entrepreneur’s first rodeo in the social impact sphere. The President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Award winner is also the founder of Samsui Kitchen, which engages prison inmates and people with disabilities to prepare nutritious meals for the elderly and marginalised. Similarly, Ang offered that his new venture is “open to hire anyone without discrimination”, and lets beneficiaries test their mettle by undertaking different roles, from processing online orders to supervising. Funded largely through grants from government organisations, The Social Kitchen has seven outlets.
Get this: Treat your mate to a conscience-cleansing meal at Zing by Xi Yan Group, prepared at The Social Kitchen’s newly launched space at Paya Lebar Quarter. The new cloud kitchen has a focus on plant-based dining presented in collaboration with The Vegetarian Butcher.
Answering a paucity in healthy snack options, former management associates Andrew Lim and Walter Oh set up snack subscription service Boxgreen to offer affordable pretzel trail mixes and vegetable chips as an alternative to the ubiquitous sugar- and sodium-saturated treats in the market.
This wholesome slant extends to various aspects of the business, which started off by committing to a one-for-one meal initiative to support local soup kitchen, Willing Hearts. From there, the co-founders worked to deepen their social impact by partnering Yellow Ribbon Project to set up a manufacturing facility in Changi Prison Complex, thereby creating training and work opportunities for inmates.
According to Lim, Boxgreen has hired ex-offenders in its logistics operations and is currently working with Open Door Policy, which trains and equips refugees with remote working skills.
“Many beneficiaries of the Yellow Ribbon Project have skills from previous job experiences and provided suggestions to improve our workflows,” shared Oh. He added that the Certified B Corporation – whose efforts to balance profit with purpose have been verified by non-profit B Lab – works with NTUC through their affiliate FDAWU (Food, Drink, and Allied Workers Union) to ensure that their wages and hiring practices are equitable.
Get this: Share the gift of guilt-free snacking with Boxgreen’s 12 Snacks Christmas Gift Box, which contains plant-based snacks. Purchase an additional Good Vibes Deck card game, proceeds of which will be entirely donated to Prison Fellowship Singapore’s Angel Tree Project 2021. The latter spreads cheer to families of ex-offenders during the festive season by gifting them with treats and essentials.