Third Job Fair for the differently-abled
By Quintus Perera
The third Job Fair for the differently abled people – a commendable initiative by the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) in collaboration with Motivation Charitable Trust, UK (MCT) -- again bore good results at the Colombo Plaza Hotel last week.

Out of 100 persons, 37 were identified and selected on the spot for various jobs in different companies. The balance 63 persons would face 110 interviews as some of them would be facing more than one interview. The annual fair held since 2003 enlightened the corporate sector in increasingly recognising the talents and skills of these people, who are otherwise overlooked as a group dependent on sympathy and charity.

At the previous Job Fairs, there were 200 applicants and out of them 100 are now employed. The Sunday Times FT interviewed a cross section of companies who were present to gauge the suitability of these differently abled persons to work in their establishments. These companies said that they have found that if suitable opportunities are provided, these individuals would be more efficient, loyal and honest and providing them with employment would be not only a help for them but an asset to the employer.

Altogether 42 companies came forward to offer places in their establishments.
C Madubhashini, a 28 year-old female from Maharagama is completely paralyzed and gets about on a special, electronically-operated wheelchair, handled by her leg. She has studied privately and passed her O Level and also has gone through courses in computer operation, music and also a comprehensive course in English. She was seeking employment either as a telephone operator, computer operator or to work as a journalist.
She has contributed verses to several Sinhala newspapers and said that she could do journalism in English, if she could obtain some training. Kelum Chandima, 27, from Moratuwa said that at the age of 10 years he was playing with firecrackers and one cracker (Batta) burst in his right hand and he thus lost all the fingers and the palm.

He is already employed as a telephone operator. But now with experience he was hoping to better his prospects. He had faced several interviews at the Job Fair and is certain that he would get a better place. Mithraka Fernando, Head, Human Resources Development, James Finlays & Co (Colombo) Ltd, said that they are more conscious of their obligation towards society, and this was really felt after the tsunami disaster.

He said that they have built 17 houses for homeless tsunami victims. He said that it has become difficult to attract and retain people in such positions as Inventory Controllers and they are keen to recruit one of these differently-abled persons as they are confident that they would be loyal apart from their high efficiency and integrity at work.

Deshan Devasagayam, HR Manager, MAS Active of the MAS Holdings group, said that they are part of a range of companies having around 30 factories with a workforce of around 25,000 employees. He said that MAS Holdings companies have recognized the versatility of these differently-abled persons at work and in fact several of their factories have recruited more than 30 of them.

He said that five MAS Holdings companies were at this Job Fair and were determined to select several of these people for employment in their companies.

Vasanthi Stephens, HR Manager, Trans Asia Hotel said that this was the first time they have participated in the Job Fair. She said, “It is our obligation to look after this human resource as well and I think they have lot of efficiency and intelligence inside them. I do not think they are second to any one.”
She said that they have so far interviewed 10 differently-abled persons and among them there were two undergraduates. One of them was recognized and offered a job on the spot and the other two in all probability would be recruited. She said that they have short-listed five others and called for second interviews.

The HR manager of a foreign commercial bank said that they have interviewed five differently-abled persons and among them were graduates, too. There was one person who spoke perfect English who is also A Level qualified, she said. She said that he could be employed at their call-centre where he would be able to answer the queries of the customers.

She said that they came across a person whose eyesight was little weak and had been unable to find a job for five years. He is having his ‘A’ Levels and has done courses in German, English and also a computer operation course. Out of the five they have interviewed three potential candidates. She said, “We are looking beyond their disability and try to understand their capabilities and talents”.

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