On 27 August 2016, APSN conducted its 40th Annual General Meeting and the one of the agendas for this meeting was to elect a New President for the association. APSN is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year and we have aspired to be the Thought Leader and Advocate for the Special Needs Sector. With this determined aspiration and goal, the newly elected President will set new grounds and direction for APSN for the next 40 years to come.
- Dr Victor Tay elected as President at APSN 40th AGM announces its next lap of strategic focus
- Minister Grace Fu commended APSN for its role in disability sports and Paralympics
- APSN strives to be a thought leader and advocate for the Special Needs Sector
- Pertinent role for Special Needs Individuals to Contribute in an Aging and Declining Population
- Technology-enabled Learning and Social Enterprise to simulate real-life working environment to enable better special needs employment
- Engaging Strategic Corporate Partners for collaboration to foster an Inclusive Society
Advancing APSN cause at its 40th Anniversary
“Our Children were too smart,” recalled Dr Dixie Tan, a former MP who became the first President by establishing APSN with a group of parents in 1976 who wanted a more challenging curriculum for their high functioning but mildly intellectually disabled children. Since then APSN has come a long way. Today, 40 years on, APSN is the only organization with an integrated programme for the special needs across 4 MOE-supported schools, Chaoyang School (Primary), Katong School (Primary/Secondary), Tanglin School (Secondary), Delta Senior School and a training Centre for Adults. Under the APSN umbrella, it provides education for 1,250 students and trainees annually supported by a staff strength of 400 specially trained educators, instructors, job coaches, psychologists, therapists, social workers and administrators.
In APSN history, past Singapore President Nathan was a strong supporter of the special needs sector and had opened both Chaoyang and Katong Schools at its new location. Delta Senior School was accredited as an Outstanding Approved Training Organization by WDA with its curriculum attaining WSQ certification so as to provide an equitable salary at a national level for its graduates. To align to Singapore’s need of urban farming, the Centre for Adults has also launched Singapore’s first vertical green structure to train the special needs individuals in July 2016, with Minister Tan Chuan Jin as the Guest of Honour. Today many APSN alumni have become supervisors at various F&B and hospitality industry. Some even progressed to be teaching aides at special education schools to inspire many other special need individuals.
Dr Victor Tay elected as the new President at the 40th AGM
At the 40th Annual General Meeting conducted on 27 August 2016, Dr Victor Tay was elected as the new APSN President, taking over from Mr Chan Chee Keong who had served as the President for the past 4 years. Mr Chan was a public service medal (PBM) awardee and had previously served as the Patron and grassroot Chairman of Teck Ghee Constituency. He was a believer in listening to novel ideas and always encouraged the recruitment of new fresh talent into the organisation and EXCO with the hope of improving APSN’s positioning and relevance in the community as well as the improvement in the quality of services that APSN offers.
Dr Victor Tay has been serving at the board of APSN since 2007 and more recently for past 3 years as its Vice President. He is currently the Chief Development Officer with Nanyang Technological University and used to be the Vice President of Singapore Compact for CSR (a member of United Nation Global Compact for CSR). He had also served in a variety of senior management appointments with SPRING Singapore, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG Management Consultancy.
Technology-enabled Learning and Social Enterprise to simulate real-life working environment
Dr Victor Tay was instrumental in injecting technology enabled learning like iPad, smart board, assistive technologies, robotics and virtual reality into APSN curriculum so that the students are equipped with future skills for ready employment. He has also launched a series of new Social Enterprise initiatives, such as the Bakery (Mystical Cookies), Café, Horticulture (Vertical Farm, Container Garden, Potted Plants) and F&B (Catering, Hot-meal) projects are some of the programmes that will adopt the Social Enterprise model. APSN’s focus is in transforming its existing training line into social enterprises so that the clients will be upskilled and in the future be highly employable in similar outfits or industry.
He remarked, “The aim is to provide sustainable revenue for the social enterprise which provides socially integrative opportunities while our trainees undergo training from the APSN social enterprise and earn a dignified pay. Previously, our trainees pay a net training fees to us, but with the social enterprise, they now bring home a respectable pay to reduce the family burden while await for successful placement to any prospective employer.”
The Next Lap for APSN – Being a Thought Leader and Advocate
Dr Tay pointed out to a recent incident at the food court of the Jurong East Mall where a special needs server was verbally abused, “Singapore’s society lacks understanding of the special needs sector. Many are not familiar with the special needs sector, nor aware on how to better engage the special needs individuals to contribute to the society. While we aspire to be an inclusive society, many Singaporeans were tolerant and co-existed without clear ideas on how to integrate them socially. This gives opportunity for ASPN to bridge the gap as the Thought Leader and Advocate for special needs sectors. APSN will derive research and thought leadership to assist employers to employ the special needs segment”. He also plans to extend APSN’s collaboration to like-minded organizations within the social needs sector. Dr Tay believes that there is always room for greater awareness building, workflow redesign and special needs productivity.
With a shrinking population, special needs individuals will be valuable resources for employment especially in an aging and manpower scarce environment. During his tenure, Dr Tay will be spearheading the transformation of APSN training centres towards social or sheltered enterprises to enable our clients* to earn a dignified wage with better social integration. He will also looking into building new training capabilities for APSN such as logistics and the technology arena and spearheading a new entrepreneurship programme to better prepare and equip our clients for the future.
APSN Role in Sports
Beyond employment, APSN also helps to support the lives of the special needs individuals to be socially integrated through sports.
Mutual Beneficial Relationships with Corporate Partners
On the corporate relations front, APSN actively pursued a mutually beneficial relationship with its corporate sponsors and volunteers. “Throughout the years of partnership, ANZ has shown and delivered our commitment to the Singapore community through APSN and its students not just by event sponsorship, but more importantly, spending time and effort with the students to encourage and cheer them on. Similarly, the ANZ volunteers diligently and whole-heartedly enjoy every minute spent with APSN students, that some have become familiar faces to the students even! We would love to continue this relationship under the leadership of Dr Victor Tay for more years to come and explore new avenues to provide encouragement to the students of APSN,” said Rahni Rull-Svenningsen, Director, Lending Products Asia, Retail Asia Pacific (ANZ WeCare).
Bob Harayda, Senior VP of Finance, Marina Bay Sands, commented that enabling APSN clients had also rallied strong staff engagement, “Our partnership with APSN has opened up so many opportunities for us to engage our staff to show support for your programmes. Last year, our team members from the Banquet Operations department conducted a Learning Journey workshop with APSN. This allowed the beneficiaries to pick up a new skill and try their hand at table setting.”
Another of APSN’s long term partners is ABR Holdings, SWENSEN’s parent company. One of the group’s significant contribution to APSN is providing employment opportunities for APSN students to work with them after graduating from Delta Senior School, under the APSN’s Work Experience Program. The group’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Khoo congratulated APSN for having its new president. He remarked, “The relationship between our respective organisations is something we truly value. It’s to make sure (the beneficiaries) are gainfully employed, and they have the chance to gain confidence to work in a real restaurant environment. ABR will carry on its ongoing partnership with APSN and we hope deepen our relationship with them.”
Mr Chan completed the final lap of fulfilling the organisation’s Mission and Vision for the past 40 years. And now, APSN aims to renew its dedication to the special needs community and has set its course towards a new direction, a new Mission and Vision for the next 40 years to come. Inspired by Mr S R Nathan’s legacy of championing the special need’s causes and his resilient desire for inclusivity, APSN is geared up to innovate itself to take the next step in continuing the work and vision of our Former President. And with the winds changing, the organization looks towards moulding an inclusive society which the special needs can lead dignified and fulfilling lives as integral members of Singapore’s society.