x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Course prepares students for a spot in workplace

Some of the special needs students who completed the Enoc Challenge yesterday have already found jobs.

DUBAI // Fifteen special needs students who crossed the stage at a graduation ceremony yesterday left with broad smiles and a more certain future.

They were the fourth group of students to take part in a nine-month training programme, organised by Emirates National Oil Company in partnership with Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre, to enhance their professional and social skills, and prepare them for a place in the workforce.

All of the students are around the age of 18 and, after walking off the stage, they were eager to show off their new certificates to family and anyone else who would listen.

Anita Menon is 18 and has Down syndrome.

She giggled and smiled as she recounted her days in the programme. "I was excited in the office, doing photo-copy, fax and scanning also," she said. "I did work a lot."

Her father, Ramdas Menon from India, said he was appreciative of the training his daughter had received.

"She is very happy to have completed the programme and her typing speed increased a lot," Mr Menon said.

Khalid Hadi, the director of brand and corporate communications at Enoc, explained: "We gave them on-the-job training at Enoc, which gave them a chance to work closely with staff and customers to build in their competency levels."

The students worked with mentors to improve their computer skills, data entry, language and communication.

According to one mentor, the challenge was difficult for both students and teachers.

"I had first-hand experience in teaching them last year and it's not easy," said Sameera Lashkari, a learning and development officer at Enoc. "You have to talk to them slow and hold their hand."

Ms Lashkari recalled a lesson she gave in CV writing that went horribly wrong after one of her students made a fuss after being told she could not put down "princess" as her name. The student replied: "But everyone says that I am a princess".

"I explained to her that no employee will take you seriously for a job," Ms Lashkari said.

"Then she cried and was angry for a whole day. You have to be very careful about how you approach them because they can be very sensitive."

In the end, however, the CV writing lessons appear to have paid dividends.

"We can see the progress they have made since first joining the programme," said Maryam Othman, director of Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre. "We are happy to say that some of them have already found jobs."

aalhaddad@thenational.ae