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EFC Network on Disability PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 13 July 2009 15:45



Activities of the Network
History and Objectives
The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC), with an overall vision statement to promote social harmony through productive employment, is implementing several proactive measures to encourage its members to hire people with disabilities. The EFC is the representative employers’ organization in Sri Lanka, on social issues. Its membership of 550 companies represents an employee base of about 365,000 people. Formed in 1929, it was the first organization to register under the Trade Unions Ordinance and is the principal Trade Union representing employers.
The EFC, with funding from the ILO, developed the Employers’ Network on Disability with the objective of facilitating employment and training opportunities in the private sector for disabled job seekers, which was officially launched in the year 2000. The object of forming the Network is to have a link between the business community and the organizations dealing with disability issues to facilitate mainstreaming its work. The Employers Network on Disability is not without a role model. In the year 1999, the ILO sponsored a study tour for the EFC to visit the Employers’ Forum on Disability in the UK, which is an employer funded and managed membership organization focused on issues of disability in the work place. With more than 375 members including an impressive list of corporations such as Abbey National, Barclays, Mc Donalds, Sainsbury’s, Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporaton, Glaxo Smithkline, and employing more than 20% of the UK workforce, the Forum is recognized as the authoritative voice on disability. It has achieved significant progress toward building positive employer awareness and of creating direct employment opportunities for disabled people. It is a major advocate of the case for hiring disabled people and attests to the bottom-line advantages of a disability diverse workforce. While the UK Forum proved to be a valuable model, the EFC found that it had to adapt rather than adopt its approaches.
As a direct result of the study tour, the EFC organized in 2000 a 15 member steering committee from its membership representing the Hotels, Plantations, Manufacturing and Banking sectors. This committee became the basis of the Employers Network on Disability.
Initially, it was felt that the most important area to concentrate was to build awareness among the employers. A few seminars were held with the assistance of the ILO, mainly to raise awareness and dispel negative attitudes with regard to disabled people in employment. Development of a database of employable disabled persons was also undertaken by the EFC, as there was hardly any information available for employers in this aspect.
With a strong foundation being laid by conducting awareness raising activities and the development of a data-base consisting of 1500 names of disabled job-seekers, the next step was to give the employers specific options about ways in which they could further the training and employment opportunities.
The EFC set itself as an example to other employers when it hired a female with a visual impairment as its receptionist and secured the appropriate assistive technology to enable her to perform her job duties. As a result EFC has enhanced its credibility with its members by encouraging them to hire workers with disabilities.
In order to encourage more direct hiring of people with disabilities, the EFC felt that the Network should adopt a more proactive approach that made hiring easier. The ILO suggested a job-fair to bring disabled job seekers, screened according to employer needs and trained in job searching, together with many employers who expressed an interest in hiring people with disabilities.
However, as the EFC needed expert assistance to proceed further in the area of disability issues, the Ministry of Social Services and Motivation Charitable Trust, a UK registered charity, were invited to join the Network. Motivation Charitable Trust is a UK based NGO that receives USAID funding in Sri Lanka for coordinating the services of other NGOs dealing with disability issues. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Motivation to obtain their expertise in the field of training disabled job seekers as potential employees. At the same time, the Ministry of Social Services agreed to provide the services of a trained officer to work with the Network on a part-time basis.
In preparation for the job-fair, Motivation and staff member from the Ministry and the Steering Committee of the EFC further organized the data-base, selected and interviewed job-seekers and provided effective training on job-seeking techniques based on a training module prepared by the ILO. HR Managers from member companies and the EFC staff assisted as Resource Persons.
Motivation conducted five training courses in groups of 20 persons, of which two were residential programmes to enable persons from out of Colombo to follow this course. These training courses were free of charge and travelling and accommodation costs for all participants were met by Motivation.
The job fair was held on 3rd July 2003. It was a daylong event that began with a half-day awareness programme entitled ‘Promoting the Employment of People with Disabilities. Attended by more than 40 companies, the event included presentations with follow up discussions on interviewing, hiring and managing workers with disabilities. During the formal programme for employers in the morning session, the job seekers who were waiting to be interviewed further practised their training on how to face an interview.
During the afternoon session 22 companies participated. Among them were Sri Lankan Airlines, Commercial Bank, John Keells Group, MAS Holdings, Galadari Hotel, Watawala Plantations Ltd; Cargills Ltd, CEI Plastics Ltd. 14 people were recruited by these companies at the job fair, and many others were called for follow up interviews. Finally, a total of 37 people with disabilities, more than half of those who participated, found jobs in the member companies of the EFC.
These companies were informed that if they need any assistance in the integration of these new recruits to the workplace, they should contact the EFC to organize assistance such as counselling and other related assistance.At the end of the job fair, it was encouraging to see the disabled voicing their appreciation about the training they received, in facing an interview and the opportunity to meet employers at the job fair, which gave them confidence and hope for the future.
The Employers Network, in pursuance of its commitment to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities, initiated another innovative project to train disabled job seekers in marketable skills. The Network, with its partners, is well placed to provide “market driven” training for disabled youth to enter the job market. The youth who enter the job market annually cannot be gainfully employed because they do not possess the required skills, a key one being an adequate knowledge of English, which stands in the way of them reaching their full potential.
The Network was able to take the skills training project off the ground due to the generous gesture of a member company, International Distillers Limited, which pledged a substantial sum of money to facilitate training of disabled youth. This money is used to train 20 disabled youth free of charge in “Business English”. This course is designed to improve the reading, writing and speaking skills of the participants.
It is the intention of the Network to extend these skills training project to other areas such as IT skills, to enable people with disabilities to be gainfully employed, and also to support the integration of the disability dimension into broader corporate responsibility. Another innovative programme conducted by the Employers Network on Disability was for the Association of Human Resource Professionals (AHRP) on managing disability in the workplace.
This programme was organized by the Srilankan Airlines and Lions Millenium. 35 Human Resource managers from EFC member and non-member companies attended this seminar on 28th January 2004. The objective of this seminar was to impart interviewing skills to HR Managers in dealing with job seekers with disabilities. A CD-rom on basic sign language interpretation useful for Human Resource Managers in interviewing speech and hearing impaired people was distributed. The CD-rom was produced by Srilankan Airlines with the assistance of a trained sign language interpreter.
Since holding the first job fair in July 2003 the Network throughout the year continued training disabled job seekers selected from its data base on job seeking skills based on the ILO training manual. Member companies and the EFC assisted Motivation in providing resource personnel for these training programmes. By mid July 2004 there were about 120 people trained in job seeking skills awaiting to be interviewed. The second job fair was organized on 7th September 2004 for these trained job seekers and member companies. 30 companies from sectors ranging from including Banks, Plantations, Garment manufacturing and other services attended the job fair to interview 110 disabled job seekers. Most of the applicants were afforded the opportunity of attending many interviews during the day which in itself was a welcome experience giving them much required confidence. At the end of the day 14 were recruited and 52 others have been called for follow-up interviews. Many of them are likely to be recruited. The Network will follow-up with companies and the new recruits for any assistance they require in the process of integration.
Encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by many employers the Network proposes to make this an annual event and also explore the possibilities in holding similar job fairs in the outstations.
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Last Updated on Friday, 03 February 2012 09:21

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