Jockey Club Collaborative Project for Inclusive Employment – CareER Thriving Grass Career Development Program (Thriving Grass Program) is the brainchild of CareER Association that targets to help higher-educated students and graduates with disabilities and Special Educational Needs (SENs) in Hong Kong to explore their potentials and career aspirations.
Symbolising resilience and adaptability of people with disabilities and SENs, the Thriving Grass Program is currently funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust with the aim to empower all disabled members by building their self-confidence, emotional competence, social skills and job skills needed to thrive in their future careers. Through a series of professional training, coaching and counselling, and employer and alumni sharing events; members who are ready and willing to join the workforce will then be matched with a range of inclusive employers for a job internship.
Up until today, the pioneering job-matching program has successfully matched hundreds of higher-educated talents with disabilities and SENs with 130+ inclusive employers, ranging from large corporations to startups; social enterprises to non-profit organisations alike in Hong Kong, but finding and matching the suitable candidates may not be as straightforward as it may seem.
“Our challenge comes to matching members with ‘invisible disabilities’ such as emotional and mental illnesses especially. They are more difficult to be matched because employers have little understanding of them. Some employers did not know how to work with them in the beginning.” Ada Lee, Senior Manager of CareER Association,says. “Although we do have enough job opportunities for our members, the available roles are sometimes very limited in some particular departments or industry sectors. We are working to tap into more industries and open up more job options for our members.”
In CareER’s experience, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and disability inclusion topics currently appear to be more popular in international firms thanks to their better awareness and understanding of the issues. Ultimately, tapping into more local conglomerates and SMEs are key to taking D&I and disability inclusion in Hong Kong onto the next level. In 2021, CareER joined forces with four local organisations, including The University of Hong Kong, Heep Hong Society, SAHK and St. James’ Settlement, as project partners under the Jockey Club Collaborative Project for Inclusive Employment for its Thriving Grass Program, to further extend its network reach in promoting D&I and disability inclusion to local employers, while leveraging on each partner’s expertise and resources to further support the disabled and SENs community.
To drive Hong Kong towards having a diverse workforce, CareER works hard to ensure its disabled and SENs members are well-equipped to pursue their dream careers. However, the flip side of the coin is the employers and managers’ readiness and commitment to push the agenda forward. Despite the tough and unforeseen impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on businesses and the community in general, the pandemic comes with a silver lining that helps accelerate diversity and inclusion (D&I) and disability inclusion in Hong Kong in the most unexpected way.
“The employers’ mindset shift is very obvious. More employers are now paying closer attention to social and societal issues, and their employees’ mental wellbeing in general because of COVID-19. Many become more empathetic to those who are in need, which in turn indirectly improve the employers’ understanding of people with disabilities and SENs. We are grateful that our long-term donors and partnering employers do not lose their commitment under this difficult business environment. We are happy to see even more employers reaching out to us during the pandemic, and some even offer to recruit more members for us.” Walter Tsui, Co-Founder & CEO of CareER Association, says.
To CareER, employers’ understanding and perception of higher-educated talents with disabilities, and their employability goes hand-in-hand. While raising employers’ awareness on D&I is an important first step, demonstrating business success to industry peers is even more crucial now to really persuade undecided employers to take a positive step forward.
“In the past years, we have seen tremendous efforts in the community towards raising awareness in D&I and disability inclusion. But for us, we have witnessed many successful cases working with our members and employers in the past years, and we are now at a point where we need to pass on our know-hows to others in a data-driven, evidence-based way.” Tsui says. “This is the reason why we are launching our own CareER Disability Inclusion Index (CareER DII) this October.”
With a total of 35 questions under 8 sections covering areas of a business from policy-setting to internal and external engagement, the CareER DII is a holistic business assessment tool that helps employers develop their disability inclusion strategy and roadmap, and at the same time learn about local industry peers’ actions and best practices.
“While our recruitment team will continue on our current qualitative, case-by-case follow-up support to our members and partnering employers; CareER DII will take care of the quantitative side of things, making sure all actions, no matter big or small, are measurable and comparable. This will help middle management to justify to their management board, and provide incentives for more companies to consider hiring disabled and SENs talents.” Tsui continues.
Looking ahead, CareER will be launching an E-Learning platform in 2022, allowing members to learn at their own pace with 24/7 access to all training and workshop materials, while taking some loads off CareER’s team to focus on improving its job-matching services.
All in all, CareER and its project partners will surely have a busy yet exciting new year ahead as they see more new faces of international and local employers joining the disability inclusion movement in Hong Kong.