x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Special needs students graduate

Fifteen young people have completed a vocational programme through Emirates National Oil Company to prepare them for jobs.

ABU DHABI // Fifteen young people with cognitive disabilities and learning difficulties took their first steps towards full-time employment yesterday. The students, from Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre in Dubai, began a seven-month vocational training programme set up by Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc) that will lead them into a job either with the oil company or another corporation.

"We want to be responsible towards all segments of society," said Noaman al Saleh, who heads Enoc's corporate social responsibility programme. "People with special needs are part of society too and through this programme we teach them how to be involved as well as educating others towards accepting their contributions." The students attended classes, learned basic office skills and received on-the-job training. They were also assigned mentors by professionals already in the workplace.

Lima Ghulmi, one of the centre's occupational therapists, called the opportunity invaluable for the students. "It really makes a huge difference to them," she said. "Their whole lives they have been living in the centre under the protection of those who are very familiar with them. So to send them out into the community to be part of a team and work with others gives them a huge boost of self-esteem and confidence. We see a whole new language emerging, where they talk of plans for the future and have a lot of pride."

The programme, called the Enoc Challenge, is in its fourth year and was originally set up for children from low-income families. It started taking on special needs students last year. Six young people from the Rashid Paediatric Centre who graduated from the programme are already working full time. Saif al Falasi, Enoc's group's general manager, said the programme was in line with a general goal by the Government to integrate people with special needs into society and the private sector.

"If we charge other corporations to do more then it won't be so hard for those with learning difficulties to integrate into society," he said. @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae