Looking to the Future: Employment Support Key to Settlement Success

Looking to the Future: Employment Support Key to Settlement Success

“Most of us refugees have problem in getting job. Yes we get people to help us with medical things, (for example), but how to get job? What skills do we refugees need living in this country?” – Kwibe Nickolas, 27, SCARF Community Member

Kwibe Nickolas, a determined young man originally from in the Congo, stressed the critical importance of employment support for people from refugee background in an interview with SCARF.

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed widely in our community, and consequently, it forms a key part of our strategic plan as we look to the future. You can read more about our future directions in the President’s Address to our 2016 AGM. 

It’s not as easy as ‘just finding a job’: 

For Kwibe Nickolas and for the majority of refugee entrants, finding a job in Australia is a significant challenge – despite the diverse skills, qualifications and experience entrants bring with them, and a determination to work. This is because refugee entrants face specific barriers to employment. Just a few of these barriers, as recognised by The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), include:

  • English proficiency challenges
  • Lack of Australian work experience
  • Lack of access to transport and affordable housing close to employment
  • Lack of knowledge of Australian workplace systems and culture
  • Lack of targeted services to support employment transitions
  • The refugee experience and resettlement (Past experiences of torture and trauma, destitution and extended periods of time living in refugee camps)
  • Discrimination in employment
  • Difficulties with recognition of skills, qualifications and experience

The ‘Entrepreneurial Spirit’ of refugee entrants: 

Despite a web of barriers to navigate, refugee entrants are particularly determined to find work, even if it means building a business from scratch.

Data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009-10) indicates that refugees are the most entrepreneurial of all migrants, with the study reporting refugee entrants as the category with the highest proportion of their incomes that year “from their own unincorporated businesses.”

It’s no surprise to us – given the determination to survive inherent to all refugees. Additionally, many refugees are impatient to work, after having spent years waiting in limbo. Kwibe Nickolas explained his own eagerness to be earning his own money to us:

“I’ve been in a camp for 5 years receiving help from UNHCR, so when I came to a new country, I can’t just be waiting for help from the Government. I can work and make my own money, so the Government can give that money to other people. This was hard for me.”

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Our Strategic Plan for Employment Support 

Almost 40% of the SCARF community are of working age (aged 18 – 40 years [539 individuals out of 1420 community members registered with SCARF]).

In line with our commitment to providing support that’s responsive to the changing needs of our community, we aim to orientate our services to fill the gap in employment assistance for our community in 2017 and beyond.

But we know that employment support alone won’t equip our community to tackle the challenges of working in Australia. It’s going to take SCARF’s wrap-a-round support to ensure people from refugee background feel confident, supported and empowered in the short, medium and long-term.

Our priorities for 2017 and beyond will comprise of a combination that we know works – English, Education and Employment support, coupled with social inclusion initiatives.

Specific initiatives in 2017 and beyond include:

  • SCARF, with much appreciated support from Kiama Community College, is currently conducting a career skills survey for working age people from refugee backgrounds. The purpose of the survey is to map existing skills, interests, qualifications and experience among refugee entrants and gather information on key challenges to obtaining sustainable employment. This will help us to develop programs that support skills-development, work experience, and employment for people from refugee backgrounds in the Illawarra through SCARF and/or partner agencies.
  • SCARF, with support from Unitive Consulting, plans to convene an inter-agency workshop with key refugee support agencies in the Illawarra to openly explore ways that we can collaboratively respond to the most pressing needs in effective end-to-end settlement support. This will include exploration of key gaps in service such as:
  • Establishing a multicultural community hub space for delivery of a range of services including informal English language support, form-filling support, tutoring for primary school children, social inclusion & community engagement activities
  • Establishing an employment agency & work transitions hub providing specialised ‘JobActive’ support for people from refugee/CALD backgrounds in the Illawarra.

We’re excited to be taking on a new challenge, and working with our community to overcome a significant barrier to successful settlement. As always, we’re grateful to our community members, volunteers, supporters and partners for their continued handwork and dedication – without you, none of this would be possible!