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SMPP Project Report 2001-2002

SMPO Preeya Prasad, SMPO Assistant Samia Ahmed


I joined IWSA in March 2002 employed as a Skilled Migrant Placement Officer replacing Kim Neville. Samia Ahmad continues as SMPO assistant and is employed two days a week. The NSW Department of Education and Training's Skilled Migrant Placement Program had just gone through changes with the specific purpose of addressing the needs of skilled migrants in a more effective and efficient way.

The implementation of a new online data base earlier this year had it's share of teething problems. Thanks to Samia's hard work and persistence together with assistance from Renee Rehbein and Sudha from the Department of Education and Training, certain glitches were quickly resolved.

Generally speaking, our clients possess skills mainly in three areas; education; accounting; finance and IT. Their skills and experience were gained overseas. Most hold a Bachelors degree or higher qualification. These skills are often overlooked, as employers tend to focus on issues, which become significant barriers to NESB women gaining relevant employment. These barriers include; limited local work experience; lack of local industry contacts; lack of knowledge of cultural norms; presumption of a lack of English proficiency for the local workplace; childcare issues; confidence and lack of self-esteem.

The SMP Program focused on assisting clients with employment and work experience placements and referrals to TAFE, private education providers and other training institutes. The change in funding guidelines meant a change of focus directed strongly at outcome based performance. The primary focus for this funding period was increasing outcomes, (Number of clients in full time, part time and casual employment and number in work experience) which we have successfully accomplished. Another addition to our qualitative outcomes was providing 10 presentations to employers over the funding period regarding issues faced by skilled migrant women while trying to access employment. The challenge this year was reminding and reiterating to the funding body the importance of recognising and addressing systemic barriers before success can be determined in terms of gaining employment or securing a work experience placement.

The SMPO also provided preparatory assistance, career counselling, and strategic goal setting. Significant time was spent on supporting clients to develop job search skills in preparation for employment. This included building resumes, writing covering letters and applications, undertaking company research, interviewing, contacting employers and using office equipment and computers for Internet searches.

Case Study

A success story for this year relates to Svetlana. She holds a Diploma in Information Technology and was desperately looking for WE. This is when she came into contact with SMPO at IWSA. Svetlana received intensive support and training on job searching skills and through careful negotiation a work experience placement was arranged with an employer. Her supervisor acknowledged her enthusiasm, hard work and her technical skills and encouraged her to apply for a paid position in another company where there was a vacancy. Svetlana is now employed full time. IWSA continues to have a successful relationship with employer and has secured work experience placements for other clients.

Highlights for 2002

The E-Commerce skills exhibit organised by Merryn Jones (SMPO) from The May Murray Neighbourhood Centre along with Kim Neville and other SMPOs. Fifteen IT clients showcased their skills by displaying a brief individual presentation, each on laptop computer. Their expertise was in e- commerce, multimedia and web design, software development, database design, network administration and project management. Guest speakers included Neville Roach, Chairperson of Fujitsu Australia Limited and George Green The Assistant Director of DET. The event attracted employers, and recruitment agencies, education providers, and was designed to help the clients obtain employment in their fields.

The highly successful Employment Expo was held at Riverside Theatre. It attracted around 1200 people who took advantage of the workshops, stalls and presentations held on the day. Topics like setting up your own business, applying for jobs in the Public Sector, job strategies and assessing hidden job market, and recognition of overseas qualifications were covered. This event was a brainchild of ex SMPO Silvia Noriega from Parramatta Migrant Services and was supported by Parramatta Council, government and community agencies including IWSA. Clients of IWSA attended and found the expo very informative.

One of the focuses this year was on training clients to apply for work or work experience in the Public Sector. The Office of the Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment (ODEOPE) offered 50 paid Work Experience placements this year. Clients and SMPO were invited to participate in one of the 5 workshops held by the office to assist clients regarding application processes. The workshop covered subjects like addressing selection criteria, ad analysis, common selection criteria and it finished with a mock panel interview made up of SMPO and staff of ODEOPE. This was an extremely beneficial workshop as it gave clients a first hand experience of the job seeking process in the Public Sector. For some clients it was the first time they had been through this process as this is not a practice in their country of origin.

1) 25 Paid Work Experience Positions offered by the NSW Ambulance Services for Trainee Ambulance Officer. 10 SMPP clients were successful. Other positions were readvertised and a second opportunity to apply was given. One IWSA client has proceeded to the interview stage.
2) 5 positions offered by the NSW Fire Brigades.

Workshops for the above positions were being held by SMPO to help clients with the application and interview processes.

Policy and Advocacy

The SMPO team at Speakout continue to advocate on employment training and education policy issues affecting migrant and refugee women.

Achievements in 2002 included:

· Participation in discussion and consultation at the SMPP forums regarding the restructure of Skillmax courses and the impact on SMPP clients. SMPO contributed in formatting a referral system between SMPP and Skillmax as the key change to Skillmax component is that they will no longer be arranging work experience placements for clients but referring them to SMPP.

· Participation in the quarterly Multicultural Consultative Forum, which is a state wide consultative forum with the community hosted by Commonwealth Departments of Employment & Workplace Relations and Small business and Educational Training and Youth Affairs. A presentation was made by Kim Neville at the February meeting, highlighting the plight of skilled migrant women, their position in the Australian labour force and an Introduction to the Skilled Migrant Placement Program aims and goals.

· Participation in The Migrant Employment Taskforce NSW monthly forum: The Peak advocacy body for employment and education issues for refugees and migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds.

· A submission to DEWR by MET responding to the proposed changes to Job Network Services and it's impact on skilled migrants from NESB backgrounds. Changes such as clients being referred to a single job network member by Centrelink as opposed to registering with multiple providers. Job seekers are to be notified of a job match by email or through telephone message bank service assuming clients have a degree of fluency and good command of the English language. This also assumes that clients have access to and are familiar with such technology.

Finally the SMPO team would like to extend its thanks to all volunteers and staff here at Speakout. We also extend our thanks to Members of the Management Committee for their guidance and support throughout this dynamic year, and to our colleagues in the community sector for their ongoing dedication, and to DET NSW for their support for this program.

Specialist outcomes for this year 10*
Quantitative outcomes 20
Total 30

Total number of clients 174
Eligible clients 56

* Specialist outcomes are presentations to employers outlining the issues affecting skilled migrant women. The figure (10) was negotiated by DET Gricel and Kim at the beginning of the funding period