SINGAPORE — When national para-athlete Apple Yap pondered a job change last June, she approached the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) for assistance.
Within two weeks, the 26-year-old — a paraplegic because of spinal inflammation caused by leukemia — was matched with a suitable position through the Sports Excellence (spex) Business scheme.
The success of Yap’s job search highlights how local athletes can benefit from the initiative, which was boosted by nine new partners on Friday (Feb 17), including her new employers, Pan Pacific Hotels Group.
At the Celebrate What’s Right event at Parkroyal Hotel on Friday (Feb 17), which was graced by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, three new academic institutions were also officially announced as partners in the spexEducation scheme.
Launched in November 2013, the two initiatives support Singaporean athletes in their career and educational aspirations in conjunction with their quest to pursue high performance sports. This includes flexible work and school arrangements, which helps them to avoid compromising their training schedules.
Close to 500 athletes have benefitted directly to date and partners from both schemes, which now stands at 39 companies and 10 institutions for spexBusiness and spexEducation respectively, were recognised for their “invaluable” support by Minister Fu.
“Together, all of you will open up new and diverse opportunities for our athletes,” she said on Friday. “With the expanded network, we will be able to support even more athletes in their pursuit of sporting excellence in future.”
Yap, who represented Singapore in sailing at the Rio Paralympics last September, recalled how Pan Pacific had offered to delay her commencement date as she did not expect the process to take place so swiftly.
“It (the job-matching) was very fast, everything happened so quickly!” she chuckled on the sidelines of the event. “I told them I wasn’t keen to start with them until I came back after Rio, I just wanted to focus on my training; they were very accommodating and they waited for me.”
Yap, now an accounts officer with Pan Pacific, added that the company also did some renovations to their office - such as to the toilets - to accommodate her needs.
“As a person with disability, I wanted to experience how it is ‘out there’ in Singapore; how accessible it is right now and if the corporate world will accept us,” explained Yap, who has worked from home as an accounts assistant for two years prior to joining Pan Pacific.
“I took this (job) up so I can better share with and encourage fellow friends, who are (also) people with disabilities, that we don’t have to find work that is home-based – we can also start to explore (other such opportunities).”
Apart from Pan Pacific, new spexBusiness partners include OCBC Bank, ONE Championship and The Fullerton Hotel, while both Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and SIM Global Education have come on board for spexEducation.
OCBC’s head of HR Planning, Jacinta Low, said the bank is pleased to support local sports by creating career development opportunities for athletes for their transition into the working world when they stop competing.
“We believe that this partnership with the Singapore Sports Institute is mutually enriching as these athletes are able to apply the transferable life skills and values they have learned and contribute positively to our workplace and add to the diversity of our talent pool,” she explained.
Two new initiatives were also launched as part of spexBusiness.
The first is an application to streamline and automate the process of job application and matching of athletes with all spexBusiness partners, which is a collaboration between SSI and local start-up Jobook Singapore.
The second is the SSI-e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) Career Coaching Network, which aims to provide quality career advice to athletes to help them make better choices.
Three current spexBusiness partners have also pledged further support to Team Singapore, with Adidas, Deloitte and OSIM International donating a total of S$70,000 to aid the high performance system.
With Singapore due to take part in the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games later this year, Minister Fu also announced that Sport Singapore will set aside S$2 million to support athletes’ preparations for both campaigns.
“I hope that more partners will come on board,” she said. “Your encouragement and support…goes a long way in helping our athletes excel at the highest level and bring glory to Singapore.”