What does the NLB-ARC partnership mean to me?

In January this year, the autism community in Singapore witnessed a milestone partnership between the National Library Board (NLB) and the Autism Resource Centre (ARC),

a significant step that opens up possibilities for more dignified employment opportunities for adults with autism.


The ARC and the NLB have entered a five-year partnership from this year, following a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on 26 November 2015. Under the MOU, NLB will provide ARC’s beneficiaries, who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), with employment opportunities at ARC’s Digital Services Centre at the Enabling Village – a community space in Redhill.  NLB is the first library service in Singapore to partner with ARC to provide employment opportunities for persons with special needs.llis.

At the centre, ARC’s beneficiaries are trained as Digital Services Assistants to digitise and catalogue NLB’s historical archives and library collections. Job functions include scanning and digitisation of Singapore publications, handling data entry for NLB’s register and performing quality control checks on digitised newspapers.

This is the second collaboration between ARC and NLB. In 2011, NLB outsourced data entry work for cataloguing and quality control checks to ARC. ARC’s beneficiaries completed the project in half the expected duration with 100 per cent accuracy.

While this seems like an exciting development for the autism community, we do have parents from the community with concerns and questions about this. Some were worried that such opportunities may only be for high-functioning candidates with autism, while others asked if the job functions were limited only to seemingly rote work. Some wanted to know how to get on board the programme.

These concerns and questions were addressed via an e-mail interview with Ms Denise Phua (President of ARC and Mayor of Central Singapore District) and Ms Evelyn Quek (Assistant Director of Corporate Social Responsibility & Volunteer Management at NLB). The extract is as follows:

Specialseeds (SS): What was the thought process like in selecting and designing such job domains for beneficiaries with autism?

Denise Phua (DP): Matching people with autism to suitable jobs or tasks that leverage their strengths (e.g. attention to details and routine work) and minimise their challenges (e.g. social communication and interaction) will bring about better success.

SS: How do youth with ASD get into the radar for such job selection / matching?

DP: ARC helps these youth and young adults through our Employability and Employment Centre (E2C), which has a structured 5-step process of pre-assessment, assessment, employability training, job matching/placement and job support.  

Anyone with autism can email E2C at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to understand its services and find out if they may be suitable for open employment or other settings.  Alternatively, they can also visit our website and download the Client Request Form

The purpose of the Client Request Form is to allow us to have a better understanding of the client’s situation and assess his/her suitability in obtaining E2C services. However, the submission of this form does not constitute an admission to E2C services. Admission to E2C services will be subjected to the outcome of the Pre-Assessment.

SS: Does NLB or other government agencies have plans to introduce job matching and training for persons with autism in areas other than data entry, digitalisation support and archival work, e.g. in higher level work like software development, coding and architectural drafting?

Evelyn Quek (EQ): The Digital Services Centre with ARC is part of NLB’s continuous efforts to provide social support and empowerment for communities-in-need to assimilate with society, following NLB’s successful partnership with ARC in 2011. 

The jobs opportunities from the new partnership have evolved from simple metadata entry for NLB’s Web Archive Singapore in 2011, to a remodelled work process. This includes digitising materials from the library’s heritage collections, starting with government reports and school magazines, digitising and data entry of register books and files comprising old photographs and posters, and performing quality control checks on digitised newspapers.

Together with ARC, NLB strongly believes that everyone can make a significant contribution in their own ways. NLB will be keen to explore similar collaborations with other voluntary welfare organisations in the future to establish meaningful partnerships.

SS: How will the success in this partnership be translated and shared with other agencies, institutions and corporations in Singapore to open up similar opportunities for persons with other forms of special needs e.g. cerebral palsy, the deaf and hard of hearing, and the visually impaired?

DP: ARC shares our best practices through various platforms such as forums, conferences, agency networks, employer networks, media publicity, etc. This is an ongoing effort.  We also plan to publicise our efforts in movements such as the Purple Parade and other national awareness initiatives.


If you are a parent, and have any views/questions about what this programme can mean to young adults with ASD, keep the conversation going by adding your comments/questions to the comments area below this article or send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Look out for more articles in June that touch on employment and training for adults with varied special needs and where to find help.

Relevant News Links / Websites

1. NLB Tie-up : People with Special Needs Hired 

2. Employment & Employability Centre 

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