Last year, the government started taking the 1% affirmative action of people with disabilities (OKU) seriously.
This policy has been established in the past before, but the enforcement of it is weak as there aren’t penalties for failing to practice it, said Hannah Yeoh in a Malay Mail interview.
“Now we put the 1% (OKU employment) under the KPI of the Secretary-General of every ministry… which means the Secretary-General now will have to go and make sure that they hire OKUs,” she said.
But the government still has a long way to go to be more inclusive in their hiring.
We can wait for that change to happen, but in the meantime, we already have smaller players doing exactly that.
STAND, a Malaysian social enterprise, is one of the many that are making that difference.
Helping Young Adults With Disabilities Break Through The Market
STAND was started with a goal to employ young adults with disabilities and provide them with a decent salary.
It was started in 2011 by pastor Lee Hock Cheng and his wife Wai Sze at Full Gospel Assembly Church.
The workers with disabilities were just packing serviettes, sugar and sauce for KFC, and straws for Vitagen at the time. From those jobs, they were only earning RM45-100 per month for 6 years.
In 2017, the pastor and wife duo realised that they could be doing more for the workers with disabilities, hence Persatuan STAND was registered as a social enterprise.
When Sarjit Singh joined them in 2018 as vice chairman, he helped with setting up the kitchen organisation and advising the team.
In July 2020, he stepped up as chairman of STAND.
He came from an F&B background and has worked in hotels, cafes and was an airline steward prior to this.
“I’ve always had an interest in doing something for this sector of society because my son is dyslexic. My wife and I went through a lot finding a place for treatment and a school where he can finish his studies,” Sarjit shared with Vulcan Post.
“We are challenged to take this group of young people into the next phase. We believe that they can be developed and trained to do more than what they are currently doing. We want to build their self-confidence, dignity, and recognition of their potential in contributing to society.”
Sarjit Singh, chairman of STAND
Standing By Those Who Need Them
Stand Pie Me is an extension of their social enterprise. It’s a bakery that makes and sells fresh pies.
Most of their employees are currently young adults who are autistic and slow learners, whom they get connected with via word of mouth.
Young adults with disabilities often get bullied in their workplaces, so Stand Pie Me wanted to create an inclusive and safe workspace for them.
There, you’ll find individuals as young as 17 and as old as 50.
Potential employees go through a 2-month probationary period. Their confirmation for the job is based on whether or not they can get along with colleagues and cope with work stress.
As for why they make pies in particular, Sarjit explained, “Pies are made in a sequence so it is easier for them to follow and learn the techniques of making it since everything is measured accordingly. There is no agak-agak!”
Growth Opportunities And Monthly Salary For Their Employees
Besides baking, their employees will also be trained to cook, sweep, and mop, amongst other handy life skills.
As far as their growth opportunities go, it seems that it’s mostly just training them to be more hands-on in different operations of the bakery.
The main challenge that comes with that is the pace of their work. They can’t push their employees to work faster because it’s difficult for them to adjust to a new routine.
Which makes sense why their growth opportunities go as far as simple things like mopping and washing up.
They were able to get some of their employees to adjust to new routines, but generally, they’d have to brief everyone and follow through the new routines and individual job scopes closely to ensure that they’re coping well.
“It takes a few days or sometimes a few weeks before they can adjust to a new setting,” Sarjit shared.
All their pies are baked at their OUG Parklane bakery and follow a standard recipe. Quality control of the pies is managed by Sarjit himself along with two other colleagues.
Stand Pie Me caters a lot to homeschools and corporate functions, but that service was paused from March to June this year.
Since they don’t have a retail store to sell these pies, they mostly promote and sell them on Facebook and Instagram.
They kickstarted the business by selling them to their friends and family, who remained loyal customers till today.
As for the pay, potential employees can expect a monthly salary of RM500-700 for now, which includes the RM400 welfare fund provided by the government.
This range is actually below the minimum wage of RM1,200 for the area, but Stand Pie Me is hoping to provide a salary of at least RM800-1,000 a month in the future.
Hopes For A More Inclusive Norm In Malaysia
STAND’s goal is to branch out to all 13 states in Malaysia and have kiosks in office buildings, schools and private institutions.
They envision these kiosks to be an inclusive space where the public can interact with their workers with disabilities, so that more awareness can be raised on people with disabilities.
Sarjit wanted to see that through this year, but unfortunately with MCO, he had to put it on hold.
They also weren’t able to do cater to schools anymore, so they worked around that paused income stream by starting delivery services for their pies.
Social enterprises like these give me hope that we can further change the job market for Malaysians with disabilities.
I hope they’d get paid at least the minimum wage for all their work like everyone else, but this will take time and structural change spearheaded by the government.
Hopefully with the 20% incentive the government is promising in Budget 2021 for employers to hire OKUs, we can see more changes happening next year.
- You can learn more about Stand Pie Me here.
- You can learn more about other social enterprises we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Sarjit Singh, Chairman of Stand Pie Me