“It’s not just about helping students with the problems they face; it’s preparing them with lifelong skills and the confidence to handle challenges on their own.”
A Desire to Help Others
I’ve always known that I would like to spend my life helping those in need. This was partly why I chose to pursue a degree in psychology, which would help me understand people better.
When I first joined social service, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how I could make a meaningful difference. As I grew and progressed in my career, I realised that there are many roles and ways in which I could help. From my initial position as a Research Officer at Delta Senior School where my work consisted mostly of planning and coordination, I got to know and learn more about the role of a Job Coach. Having a desire to play a more active part in reaching out and supporting others, that led me to my current role here at Metta School, which offers special education to children with Mild Intellectual Disability (MID) and Autism (ASD).
Enabling Students for the Real World
As a Job Coach, my responsibilities are to support students with opportunities for workplace attachments, so they can gain valuable skills and experience that will help them in their transition to full-time employment upon graduation.
What I do is really to help these students adapt smoothly to a real working environment. Having slower cognitive processes, they may face challenges in many situations that we would take for granted.
For instance, there was this boy who had problems with time telling. He basically couldn’t tell the time with a normal analogue clock, those with the mechanical hands. So he didn’t know what time he needed to go to work! We had to get him a digital watch and start by teaching him very simple stuff like time keeping, and how to take the bus and MRT to work.
That’s my role in a nutshell – to ensure my students are job ready and to provide support and guidance when they encounter any issues at work.
All in a Day’s Work
In my line of work, there’s never a dull moment. You literally do not know what is going to happen on a daily basis! There are so many facets to the job and so many things to learn. While it can be challenging, being able to overcome these problems and knowing I had made a difference is an immensely satisfying feeling.
When I first joined Metta School, I was tasked with helping over 50 students find 2-week workplace attachments within a month. What’s more, they all needed to be around the same vicinity, and have the same starting and ending time so we could support all these students easily during the 2 weeks. So I spent a few days going everywhere in Tampines, knocking on doors and looking for employment partners to work with. I think most of the storeowners in Tampines know me very well by now!
Our students are sent on work attachments in a wide range of industries, including food establishments, hotels and hospitals. To be able to help them resolve issues in their work, I have become somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades! I have taken courses in baking pastries, learnt how to make a hotel bed and cleaned hospital rooms. I love to study and learn new things, so it’s been quite an interesting experience for me as I get to see how things are done in different industries.
Growing into Independence
One of the more memorable students I’ve worked with was Joe*, and it fills me with immense pride to see how much he’s grown. When we first started, he didn’t even know how to tie his shoelaces at age 16, and his mother was quite resistant to the idea of letting him go out to work. It took a lot of effort to finally convince her that it would be good for Joe to learn important life skills that would allow him to earn a living for himself.
Initially Joe faced a lot of difficulties at work, not being able to stand for long periods of time and sometimes not even turning up at all. I always saw the potential in him though, and now he is much more confident and responsible, able to carry out higher-level tasks like measuring ingredients. He’s also opened up a lot; previously he would keep to himself and not say much, but now he will greet his colleagues brightly and wish them a good day.
Students like Joe make me enthusiastic about going to work everyday, because I know that every time I go in, I’m helping somebody. I look forward to the day when my students no longer need me, for that is when I know I have done well.
*The client’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.
Job Coach is one of many roles in social service. To find out more, click here.
Eleanor supervises a student while he hones his cooking skills.