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Specialist Migrant Placement Officer Program (SMPO):

Project Officers: Denise Voros (July 2000), Kim Neville (Sep 2000-June 2001)
Assistant: Samia Ahmed

The Specialist Migrant Placement Officer Program (SMPO) at Speakout is one of programs to provide employment assistance and support services to migrants in NSW. Speakout specialise in delivering services to migrant and refugee women from non-English speaking backgrounds in NSW. The Department of Education and Training NSW fund this program as part of their Migrant Skills Strategy. Kim Neville has been the SMPO since late September. Samia Ahmed has been the SMPO assistant.

This year has been a fast paced and challenging one for the SMPO Program. Inception of new funding guidelines in July 2000 brought new challenges to the program and introduced some changes to our service delivery framework. The changes include a new focus to assist skilled migrants with their pathways to gaining employment. The program aims to 'increase the utilisation of overseas qualifications, skills and experience of migrants from language backgrounds other than English who are disadvantaged in the labour market.'

Client Profile & Trends

The SMPO clients provided the program with a wide range of resources and insights. The clients were mostly skilled migrants. Education, Administration, Finance and the IT & Communications industries were the four main industry areas from which their qualifications and employment experiences were gained overseas. Most had obtained Bachelor degrees or higher overseas while a number of our clients obtained their Masters overseas. (see graphs 1 and 2)

The main barriers to gaining employment faced by SMPO client's included an absence of local work experience, lack of local industry contacts and lack of local industry knowledge. Levels of English proficiency for the workplace, childcare and employer knowledge of overseas gained skills and experience were other significant barriers to gaining employment.

A notable trend in our client work this year was a significant service gap in the delivery of the SMPO Program. Migrant and refugee women who cannot access our employment support services include those from emerging communities who are unskilled (ie: without qualifications or without employment amounting to 12 recent months experience); those holding temporary protection visa's; those holding working visa's and those generally who are unskilled (such as migrant women who have been in Australia for more than five years.

Direct Services

The SMPO Program provided a range of direct services to assist and support SMPO clients with their pathways to gaining employment. Preparatory assistance and support to gain employment was the main focus of service provision this year. Facilitating placements into work experience and employment was the second key component of services provided to SMPO clients. The range of service provision components delivered by the SMPO Program included:

ˇ Individual casework: Casework continued to be the essential component of direct service provision. The program provided career planning, career counselling and job search support for 167 eligible clients. The program dedicated significant time to supporting clients to develop job search and preparation for employment skills. This included assistance and support to respond to advertisements, analyse industry and company requirements, build résumé's and covering letters, writing applications, undertaking company research, interviewing, contacting employers, using office based equipment and computers, and searching for employment.

Careers counselling involved providing information and referrals to TAFE and private education and training institutions for vocational training purposes, and the casework focussed on assisting clients to gain local work experience and employment placements and to gain recognition of overseas qualifications. Nine clients were placed into work experience and twenty-one clients were employed.

An emerging trend in our casework strongly suggests a need for some form of labour market/industry orientation for job seeking migrants. This need was most apparent among clients who migrated with skilled migrant visas. An apparent lack employment related advice and support with regards to available resources and services appeared to compound the difficulties already existing for families resettling, particularly for women.

ˇ Job search Training: Throughout the year the SMPO Program designed and delivered 27 group-training sessions that captured several general and industry specific areas to develop job-seeking skills. We developed training course materials, job search guides and job search packages that were relevant to the Accounting and IT & Communications industries. We arranged several industry experts as guest speakers to address a range of industry areas for clients including Industry Associations, Recruitment Agencies, Government representatives, TAFE planning representatives and other industry bodies. Eighty-nine clients undertook job search training.

Although most of training took place on the premises, we established strategic partners to conduct external training for industry specific courses. Our collaborative projects with May Murray Neighbourhood centre and other SMPO programs were particularly productive for our IT training. A major achievement was the planning of an IT industry day for migrant job seekers that resulted in participation of over 400 participants as well as over 20 corporate agencies and service providers who ran information stalls. Other outreach strategies included developing and delivering a job search-training course for the Women's Place in Lakemba. We also conducted information sessions at Granville TAFE and at the Vietnamese Employment Forum in Cabramatta arranged by the Department of Industrial Relations in March.

Policy & Advocacy

The SMPO team at Speakout continued to advocate on employment, training and education policy issues affecting migrant and refugee women. Achievements through out the year included:

ˇ Participation in a number of key statewide consultative, advice and advocacy committees to advocate on such issues as the proposed restructure of AEMP/AMEP language, literacy and numeracy programs managed by the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. On this amalgamation the SMPO worked strategically with the Migrant Employment Taskforce to develop a position paper addressing the access and equity implications of the program amalgamations.
ˇ Participation in the quarterly Multi-Cultural Consultative Forum, which is a statewide consultative forum with the community sector hosted by the Commonwealth Departments of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business (Cwlth) and of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.
ˇ Participation in the quarterly NSW Migrant Advisory Committee convened by Centrelink (NSW Office).
ˇ Participation in the TAFE Women's Advisory Committee which is the quarterly State-wide advocacy and policy review forum of NSW TAFE
ˇ The Migrant Employment Taskforce NSW: the peak advocacy and networking body for employment and education issues for refugees and migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The SMPO Program is looking at a busy year ahead with innovative and exciting developments and projects. Re-tendering, the opening of Speakout's Job Access and Resource Centre, the launch of the special Employment: Migrant & Refugee Women edition of Speaking Out and the collaborative IT Skills Exhibit in E-Business project are some of the projects in motion already.

SMPO staff would like to extend our warmest appreciation to our volunteers, Nadya, Nguyet and Thulasi for all your hard work. We would like to extend that thanks to our Management Committee for their guidance, to the Members of Speakout for their support, to our colleagues in the community sector for their ongoing dedication and to the Access Directorate of DET NSW for their support or this program.