Employment programs give refugees a head start

The overseas experience is often viewed as a positive by employers, at least for those whose majority of education and work history has been in Australia. It is often a different story for refugees. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, only around a quarter of refugees find employment within their first two years in Australia.

This is an issue being tackled by a recently launched digital skills training program for refugees. Over the next 18 months, the five-month program will develop skills and find employment opportunities for at least 65 participants. This will also play a role in reducing the shortage of workers in IT roles.

Shahad Almajidi (right) with Sarmad Sako, who is also on the program.

Each organization will offer the benefits of their expertise or network: ServiceNow offers eight weeks of technical training and accreditation, Community Corporate offers soft skills training, and 12-week internships at Woolworths or Accenture help participants gain valuable local experience.

“This program helps unlock this untapped talent pool and responds to the significant demand we are seeing among our customers and partners for technology talent,” said Eric Swift, vice president and general manager of ServiceNow Australia and New Zealand.

For Shahad Almajidi, a refugee from southern Iraq, programs like this are key to finding a tech job in Australia. Since arriving in Australia in 2019, she has completed an intensive year of study in English, taking TAFE NSW courses in Information Technology and most recently Web Development. She has also actively taken up the opportunities offered by the Western Sydney Migrant Resource Centre. This has not been easy.

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“I applied for many jobs in IT or web development, but got no response,” she says. “I thought my Cert 3 and my degree would help, but almost every tech job I looked at required a bachelor’s degree or was looking for tech work experience.”

After recently completing vocational training, Almajidi began his internship at Woolworths. The opportunity to put her newly developed computer skills to good use left her positive: “I learned so much and met so many great people. I feel like it’s helped me create a great network of people like me who have faced the same challenges and also want to work in the tech industry,” she says.

Almajidi’s story probably sounds familiar to Harriet Pope, project manager of Ikea’s Skills for Employment program. As part of Ikea’s global commitment to supporting 2,500 refugees and asylum seekers with vocational skills, Pope worked on a similar project with Community Corporate, albeit in a different sector. To date, IKEA has provided paid internships to 100 refugees in customer-facing roles in its Australian stores.

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