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EFC’s Employers’ Network on Disability celebrates 2017 ICT graduation PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 11 December 2017 00:00

Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) Director General Kanishka Weerasinghe, while speaking about sustainable enterprises, underscored the importance of leaving “no one in society” behind.

“When we talk of sustainable enterprises, we need to ensure that no one in society is left behind. The Employers’ Network on Disability of the EFC, which champions this notion and was set up way back in 1999 and implemented in 2001, is a reflection of the foresight my predecessors had of the requirements in the evolving world of work,” said Weerasinghe. 

The EFC’s DG made these remarks at the 2017 Award Ceremony of the ICT Training Centre of the Employers’ Network on Disability held last week at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute. 

The ICT Training Centre, which was launched in 2009 with the support of the ILO, is the nucleus of the Employers’ Network on Disability. Embracing the vision of ‘productive employment through social harmony’, its objective is to develop the employability skills of persons with diverse disabilities in the country.

The Employers’ Network on Disability, which was inaugurated during former EFC Chief Gotabaya Dasanayake’s tenure as a CSR project, has today evolved into a fully-fledged ICT training unit and an integral part of the EFC.   Lauding the efforts of Specialized Training and Disability Resource Centre Manager Manique Gunaratne, who was recruited by the EFC initially as a role model with disabilities and is now internationally acclaimed for her commitment towards people with disabilities, EFC’s DG added that her endeavours have become more valid in a setting where the number of visually-impaired people was on the rise. 

“People with disabilities are very much a part of our workforce and enhancing their confidence to be gainfully employed is of immense value to society.”

The awards ceremony was also graced by Simrin Singh - Country Director ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives and Melissa Paulsen - Cultural Affairs Officer of the US Embassy in Colombo.  Congratulating the award-winners who successfully completed ICT modules in Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Computer Concepts, Windows Operations, Microsoft Powerpoint, Surfing the Internet, CISCO-ITE and CISCO CCNA and also spoken language skills, the ILO Country Director urged several other organisations to take a cue from the Disability Code promoted by the EFC which is on par with global standards. 

“People with disabilities are underutilised in the workforce and the EFC is facilitating a process of inclusion which is commendable,” noted Singh, adding that EFC’s efforts in engaging with the private sector to champion the same was praiseworthy.

Urging everyone to celebrate the mettle of the award-winners who have proven their skills despite the odds, Paulsen remarked: “I encourage you to be each other’s advocates and support one another.” 

Commercial Bank Plc HRM Deputy General Manager Isuru Tillakawardana in his remarks noted that integrating youth with different needs was imperative to realise a diverse workforce, adding that as a country we have a long way to go in terms of mindset changes and streamlining processes to achieve the same. “Nevertheless, we have taken the first step and EFC’s support in furthering the cause is significant.” The award ceremony also marked the launch of several devices and mobile applications specially designed for the visually impaired. These included the Obstacle Finder, English Eye (an English learning app), Schmoozer Mobile Application which assists the visually impaired to navigate material with charts and images) and Finger Reader which identifies objects for the visually impaired. 

The special devices were rendered with the expertise of the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) and Singapore Institute of Technology. Several scholarships were also awarded to graduating students. The ICT Training Centre of the EFC Disability Network, which was recently upgraded with a special library and resource centre, also collaborates with the Curtin University of Technology in Australia and SLIIT, Malabe. The programs are also recognised by the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) and within the EFC membership, which consists of 680 companies. The ICT Training Centre is also the only training centre in the country which trains people with diverse disabilities in globally sought after CISCO courses. The training team consists of Gunaratne and Anuradha Jayakody - Senior Lecturer from SLIIT.

In her concluding remarks, Gunaratne urged more women with disabilities to come forward to become part of the workforce. “Out of 1.6 million people with disabilities in Sri Lanka, 57% are women and in considering the significant numbers, we will be launching a special women’s leadership program in 2018,” she noted.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 December 2017 14:54