Sunshine Carwash Centers: Empowerment of People with Disabilities Through Employment

Sunshine Carwash Centers: Empowerment of People with Disabilities Through Employment

Taiwan
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Employment is a basic right of people with disabilities, ensuring their social participation, economic independence and personal empowerment. Unfortunately, employment levels remain low. A Council of Labor Affairs survey (2009) showed that of 614,053 people with disabilities of working age, only 26.5% were employed, 67.9% were not in the labor force. Impairments and illness sometimes limit work ability, but often, exclusion from the work force is due to a lack of skills, as well as prejudices on the part of employers. By operating carwash centers employing people with disabilities, Sunshine Foundation provides training to improve work skills that will lead to employment in the open job market, but also “showcases” the work ability of people with disabilities to challenge prejudices.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Sunshine Carwash Centers target people with disabilities, whose employment needs and abilities vary greatly from one individual to another, depending on the type of disability. Their education and work skills are often inadequate to adapt to the changing job market reality. A 2009 survey shows that people with disabilities work mostly in the manufacturing (25%) and wholesale (14.5%) sectors in non-technical, labor-intensive jobs (25%). Although these jobs require lower skills, they are the most precarious, offering limited promotion opportunities and lower salaries. While the average monthly salary in Taiwan is NT$44,000, people with disabilities only earn on average NT$23,000, and 38% earn less than the monthly minimum wage of NT$17,280. Low skills, low paying jobs also provide little or no benefits such as pension. This is particularly critical because as people with disabilities age, their functioning and quality of life deteriorate faster, meaning that their productive years are shorter than regular workers, and they require more care and support in their old age. Underemployment is another problem. Qualified people with disabilities who are willing to work are denied the opportunity due to worries about the troubles of workplace accommodation, or due to prejudice regarding work abilities.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

- Integration: Sunshine deliberately avoided segregated employment such as closed-type manufacturing prevalent in many countries, choosing instead a service-oriented business to maximize contact between customers and people with disabilities. - Standardization: With job accommodation, standard training and operation procedures, people with various types or levels of disabilities can work together, in jobs suited to their abilities. - Competitive business: Because carwash technical requirements are low, NPOs often employ low-skilled disabled employees in mobile work crews or mom and pop-type carwash. However, small scale means smaller sales, less customer interaction and limited learning opportunities. Sunshine carwash centers scaled up to offer a professional car care “total solution,” building a professional brand that not only attracts customers, but also suppliers of innovative products. Because of size, quality and added value of services (professional car care as opposed to only car wash), the centers can stay ahead of competition, and employees can develop a wider range of skills, making them better adapted to market needs. - Equality of wage: Unlike other sheltered workshops, wages and benefits (insurance, bonus, pension) of full-time employees meet or exceed minimum wage requirements. - Employee competitiveness: Advanced training programs update skills (ex: car care specialist certification) for enhanced competitiveness. A system also cultivates employees to managerial positions.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Sunshine operates 4 carwash centers located in busy commercial sectors of the greater Taipei City area, offering customers a car care “total solution,” including manual and automated carwash, as well as car care services (wax and polish). Employees with disabilities (representing 9 types of disabilities ranging from mild, to moderate and severe) learn under the supervision of vocational counselors the hard skills of car wash/care techniques and operations, but also the soft skills (work ethics, attitudes and values) that will allow them to thrive in regular employment and live independently. Carwash Centers employ 85 people, of which 72 are people with disabilities. Because the carwash centers operate as regular work environments and actually compete with regular carwash businesses, they serve as a stepping stone for employees to (re)integrate the open labor market by learning new work skills, building self-confidence and enhancing work motivation. For some, the carwash centers lead to certification necessary for a career in the car care business, promotion to managerial position, or even entrepreneurship. Sunshine Carwash Centers aim to change the public’s perception towards people with disabilities. Daily contact between customers and employees helps the public look beyond disability and see the potential of employees as autonomous, industrious people who play a constructive role in society. Sunshine Carwash Centers are an employment and training environment for the social inclusion of the disabled, but also a social education platform for the general public.
About You
Organization:
Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation
About You
First Name

Marie-Claude

Last Name

Pelchat

Twitter
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation

Organization Country

, TC

Country where this project is creating social impact

, TC

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

There is no single founder. Sunshine Carwash Center is the result of efforts by clients, staff and trustees of Sunshine Foundation, as well as government and corporate partners. Sunshine Foundation provides physical, psychological and rehabilitation services to burn survivors since 1981. In the early 1990s, without universal health insurance, and with limited government welfare and employment support, many burn survivors unable to find work after rehabilitation faced financial difficulties. The idea of a carwash to provide a stable work environment for people with disabilities to learn skills and earn an income was proposed by burn survivors with experience in this business. There were no precedents, nor was there any legal framework to support such project. In fact, the idea of people with disabilities able and willing to work challenged the traditional view that they are helpless and need to be cared for. Sunshine convinced Taipei City government to support the project by leasing land, and secured financial and technical support for the venture from the corporate sector. The Sunshine Carwash Center finally opened in 1992 in a busy commercial section of Taipei City, the first enterprise in Taiwan specifically set up to promote employment for people with disabilities and help them achieve their goals of economic and personal empowerment.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Since 1992, carwash centers have employed on average 70 people with disabilities every year. On average between 2003 and 2010, 88 people benefited from employment services, 32 people benefited from job placement, 34 people from short-term vocational training and 15 people have been referred to jobs on the open labor market.

The carwash center is the first wage-earning job for many employees. Through work, they not only become self-sufficient, but their sense of self-worth and confidence is increased. Daily activity and contact with people improves physical and psychological functions. Employees with disabilities help one another, building a peer support network that broadens their social circle. Relationship between parent and child also benefits. Parents gain a different perspective of their child’s potential and abilities, they become confident in their child’s future. The public’s perception of disability is also changed. Each transaction is an opportunity to demonstrate to customers the work abilities of people with disabilities and bring visibility to this issue.

The Foundation sets annual goals to measure performance of the carwash centers. Key performance indicators measure the number of employees with disabilities employed and employee wage. Performance indicators measure the number of employees promoted, number of employees to have taken part in professional skills development project, and number of employees to have been successfully referred to the open labor market.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

101-1,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

101- 1,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Since 2010, Sunshine opened 3 new carwash center branches. Apart from reaching out to more customers, these new branches will be part of the system to cultivate managerial talent inside the carwash business and create opportunities for promotion. As employees acquire skills and become involved in the broader operations of the carwash center (ex: customer relation, marketing), it is hoped that they can start to take on more managerial responsibilities. Another important future development will be to build a greater sense of ownership and responsibility of employees by developing more projects that emphasize employee participation in the overall operations of the centers, and that will positively link the outcome of their work performance with the development of the carwash centers.

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

One barrier comes from new government policies for employment services targeting people with disabilities. Organizations operating registered employment services and receiving government resources are now required by the Council of Labor Affairs to have at least 50% of their staff composed of employees unable to work in a competitive employment setting (usually people with severe handicap). This new policy requires long term or permanent placement of employees, as opposed to transitional employment. Furthermore, Taipei City government, which leases the land on which is built the main carwash center, now requires that contributions to the city’s Disability Employment Fund be calculated based on revenue from operations instead of profits. These policies not only affect future expansion by raising costs and lowering revenues, but also by going against the operation model of Sunshine based on encouraging reintegration in the open labor market.

Another barrier is the difficulty of cultivating able managers for future expansion. The aim is for carwash centers to be managed by people with disabilities, but this is a process that requires time and is also dependent upon individuals’ interest and motivation.

Tell us about your partnerships

Taipei City government: Since 1992, Taipei City government has been leasing the land for the main carwash center (Heping branch).

Council of Labor Affairs: Sunshine partners with the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training of the Council of Labor Affairs to organize car care specialist training. The Council also provides funding for salaries of vocational counselors working with employees with disabilities.

Pegatron Corp.: Pegatron Corp. is a leading DMS (Design and Manufacturing Service) company specialized in electronics. The company worked with Sunshine to secure a location close to their headquarters in Taipei, and in 2010 sponsored the construction and purchase of equipment for the new Guandu Branch of the Sunshine Carwash Center.

Car care product suppliers: Sunshine Carwash Centers partner with various car care product suppliers, who provide training to employees or partner in marketing activities.

Explain your selections

Individuals support the development of Sunshine Carwash Centers through donations made to Sunshine Foundation. A portion of the Foundation’s income from donations is used towards vocational service development for employees with disability.

Customers support the Sunshine Carwash Centers by purchasing services and products.

Local NGOs working with people with disabilities support the Sunshine Carwash Centers by referring their service beneficiaries to become employees.

Businesses support the Sunshine Carwash Centers by organizing corporate volunteering activities, by providing technical support and sharing expertise, as well as by investing in the expansion of the carwash centers.

The regional government (Taipei City) support the Sunshine Carwash Centers by leasing land in Taipei City for the main carwash center (Heping branch).

The national government, through the Council of Labor Affairs, supports the Sunshine Carwash Centers by partnering to organize professional/vocational training, as well as providing partial subsidies for the salaries vocational counselors.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

1. Link corporate resources for common benefit: As companies explore new ways to demonstrate corporate social responsibility, Sunshine Carwash Centers will seek further corporate support for the expansion of carwash branches, notably through funding, but also through the contribution of business know-how like planning, market analysis and marketing.

2. Expand market coverage to increase visibility and customer loyalty: Carwash centers are highly localized businesses, and customers tend to choose a carwash close to their home or their workplace. With its 3 new branches, Sunshine is experimenting with different models: small neighborhood branch, larger corporate-sponsored branch in industrial/IT park, etc. By opening branches in the greater Taipei area, Sunshine will increase visibility of the carwash business. Also, by creating a membership program, Sunshine aims to strengthen customer loyalty.

3. Allow people with disabilities to become their own boss: After having opened new branches and by cultivating the skills of employees with disabilities to become managers, it is hoped that in a few years time, the branches operated directly by Sunshine can be progressively devolved to the managers as franchises, allowing them to become their on boss.

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

Lack of skills/training

SECONDARY

Other (Specify Below)

TERTIARY

Other (Specify Below)

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Sunshine Carwash Centers address:
- The lack of skills and training of people with disabilities by creating a work environment that cultivates hard/soft skills necessary for employment, as well as by providing specific professional training to enhance competitiveness in the open labor market.

- Low wage employment problem of people with disabilities by offering equal pay and benefits, but also by building the skills of employees with disabilities so that they have the competencies to seek higher paying jobs in the open labor market.

- Negative attitudes and lower expectation of the public towards people with disabilities by showcasing on a daily basis the potential and abilities of employees with disabilities.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

SECONDARY

Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

TERTIARY

Repurposed your model for other sectors/development needs

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

1. Sunshine plans to open more carwash branches in the greater Taipei area over the next two years to expand its market coverage and create more employment opportunities.

2. “Sunshine Creatives” project develops branded products (ex: bags, stationary) for the Foundation and its enterprises, as well as customized gift service to corporate partners. Apart from marketing the Sunshine brand, the project offers short-term work for burn survivors undergoing rehabilitation.

3. Because the carwash business is concentrated in Taipei and some of Sunshine’s service beneficiaries lack physical strength to return to regular full-time employment, Sunshine is developing a self-employment model for beneficiaries to work from home.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Sunshine collaborates with:
Local NGOs working with people with disabilities, by providing work and training opportunities to their service beneficiaries. Sunshine has also carried out training and knowledge transfer to help NGOs wanting to set up their own carwash business.

Businesses who support the Sunshine Carwash Centers by organizing corporate volunteering activities, by providing technical support and sharing expertise, as well as by investing in the expansion of the carwash centers.

The regional government (Taipei City) by contributing to the Disability Employment Fund for the development of employment opportunities.

The national government, through the Council of Labor Affairs, by partnering to organize professional/vocational training.