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SMPP Project Report 2003-2004

Project Officers: PREEYA PRASAD, SAMIA AHMED and TRACY WU

Introduction

The New South Wales Department of Education and Training provided funding to the Skilled Migrant Placement Program (SMPP) for over a decade. SMPP provided much needed support and help for migrants from Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) to find a place in the workforce where they can use their overseas skills and qualifications. It was unfortunate that this project has been defunded.

This year proved to be challenge for the Skilled Migrant Placement Officer as the program shifted its focus to become extremely outcome based. The NSW Government Skilled Migrant Placement Program had just gone through changes by supporting only those who are job ready. SMPP is not for those who lack self-esteem and self-confidence because Department of Education and Training (DET) considers them as not job-ready.

Speakout, as part of the SMPO forum, was involved in ongoing discussions with the Department of Education and Training regarding strategic collaboration between SMPOs and key DET workers on the importance of pre-employment confidence building and other non-strict employment outcomes.

Our clients possess skills mainly in the areas of education, accounting, finance and IT (Information Technology). The skills and experience were gained overseas. Most hold a bachelor’s degree or a higher qualification. These skills are vastly overshadowed, as employers tend to focus on barriers that hinder NESB women from gaining employment. These barriers include the absence of local work experience, the lack of local industry contacts and lack of knowledge. From the clients perspective lack of English proficiency for the workplace, childcare, confidence and self-esteem are significant barriers.

Direct Services to clients

The SMP Program is mainly based on direct services to clients who are looking for job with overseas skills, qualifications and experience. They contact the SMPO for assistance in doing the resumes, application letters, work experience, insurance coverage for work experience, employment, interview techniques and other related issues.
This year the direct services that were offered to clients the following:

Casework:
· Encouraged clients to research the labour market and gather information as to what skills are in demand in their specific fields;
· Facilitated recognition of overseas qualifications by liasing with Department of Education and Youth Affairs (DETYA), DET NSW, National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (NOOSR) and relevant qualification recognition organizations;
· Sent regular mail outs to clients;
· Access to clients and identification of their needs regarding mailing of updates to clients and provision of training and employment plans;
· Provided support and assistance to clients by conducting information sessions;
· Assisted clients with counselling, motivating and group support;
· Helped clients in applying for employment and work experience placements;
· Referred clients to Technical and Further Education (TAFE), private education providers and training institutes;
· Provided a range of services to clients such as preparation to address the selection criteria, resumes, application letters, and mock interviews;
· Informed clients of employment website and encouraged them to target employers with specific requirements;
· Researched, developed and maintained appropriate training resources for job search and workshops for groups and for casework purposes;
· Provided training and support to clients applying for work experience placements in groups and or individually as required;
· Provided counselling and case work on matters pertaining to industrial framework, Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S), Ethical Practice, Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) and discrimination.

Partnership activities with employers

The Specialist Migrant Placement Officer (SMPO) promoted the program to employers in the community, private, and government sectors for the employment and work experience of the clients.

The SMPO used the following strategies for the promotion of the program and for client’s placements:
· Attended relevant meetings and functions with employers and recruitment agencies to promote Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association for vacancies;
· Worked in partnership with human resource officers of Parramatta, Burwood, Blacktown, Marrickville Council for possible Work Experience Placements for clients;
· Collaborated with other SMPO workers, SkillMax, Adult Migrant English Service (AMES), DET, and ODEOPE to design and implement appropriate training strategies to prepare clients for Migrant Career Development Program (MCDP) vacancies;
· Contacted employers according to the company list established by the client;
· SMPO maintained close links with Business Associations, Accounting Agencies, Pharmaceutical Companies, IT Companies, TAFE and other key training providers in the Western Sydney area to ensure work experience placements for clients;
· Accessed website for companies in the Parramatta area. Targeting them for work experience opportunities, by mail and canvassing on the phone;
· Visit employers and give presentations on the SMP program with a view to creating work experience opportunities
· Attended the Parramatta Chamber of Commerce Employers Exposition. Informed clients regarding this and encouraged them to attend.

Community Development

To promote the SMP program to other organisations in private, public and community sectors the SMP took the following measures:
· Advertised SMP program on monthly basis in local newspapers;
· Attended Department for Women meetings of peak women’s organization;
· Promoted information sessions at Australian Centre for Languages (ACL) in Parramatta, promoting the SMP Program;
· Provided flyers and SMPO contact list to TAFE Coordinators;
· Promoted the program through other project officers during meetings;
· Visited Australian Lebanese Communities Council (Merrylands), Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Strathfield Soccer Club, Western Shire Resource Network) Australian Chinese Welfare Group (Granville) and Hewitt House in Guilford;
· Organized meeting with TAFE coordinators (South Sydney Institute) to address training needs of our clients;
· Attended relevant meetings and functions with employers and recruitment agencies to promote Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association for vacancies.

The SMP Program has been highly successful in meeting the needs of both skilled migrants and employers by promoting productive diversity, addressing Australian workforce market skills shortages and more importantly assisting the unemployed with appropriate pathways into education and training as well as employment.

Case Study (a success story)

Nicole arrived from China with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in education and 5 years of work experience in an international company as an office assistant. She came into contact SMPO after she had been trying to find an office administrator job for 6 months.

Nicole was keen to find an office position that is related to her overseas work experience and certificate. SMPO officer gave Nicole some sample resume and job seeking tips to assist her search for a suitable job.

One of the strategies suggested to Nicole was to have local work experience. Through an existing SMPO employers contact list, Nicole commenced her work experience within one week with a community-based organization as an administrative assistant. SMPO received very positive comments from the employer about her performance. The employer said that she is quick to learn any new tasks and “always performed her duties accurately and in a timely manner”. The SMPO endeavoured to helped her in applying for for a paid job. Eventually the SMPO referred Nicole to a clerical position in a real estate company. Nicole was successful at the interview and is now employed full time.

Policy and Advocacy

The Speakout SMPO also played a key the role in policy and advocacy on behalf of migrant and refugee women in NSW. Unfortunately, the NSW government will no longer provide funding for the Skilled Migrant Placement Program. In this regard the skilled migrant placement program of Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association of NSW has been closed on the 30th of June 2004.

Achievement throughout the year includes:
· Attended Women’s Human Rights court, which was held in the University of New South Wales. The Women Human Rights court is a place where women have the opportunity to share and witness stories, experiences, hopes and fears through

personal testimony, song, poetry, artwork and ceremony. Tracy Wu, SMPO supported the Speakout client who shared her story of injustice and grief about job search in Australia, but also showed her strength and courage in her tenacity;
· Participated in International Women’s Day demonstration and distributed and promoted the SMPP program;
· A workshop activity was organised for clients to develop their “Self esteem and Build Confidence”. Activities included role-play of interviews, how to go for interviews, tips on interviews and writing of resume;
· Participated in the SMPO forum on a monthly basis. Collaborated with other SMPO officers and special speakers from Skill Max, AMES, DET to discuss and implement appropriate training strategies in improving networks and keeping up with industry information.

In June 2004, the DET SMP Program has been de-funded by the NSW State Government. These is a very lamentable situation for hundreds of people who came to Australia with the dream of developing their full capacities and give the best to Australia. Thus, for new immigrant these dreams are now gone or even in some cases truncated, due to lack of support in their settlement in Australia. It our hope that the State government would reconsider to provide funding a similar program in the near future. Now, newly arrived migrants are in more vulnerable situation that prevent them to be active part of Australian society.

Many thanks to the Speakout team and warmest appreciation to the members of Speakout members for their support, to our colleagues and Management Committee for their guidance, and to the SMPO clients for trusting us, their hard work and optimism.

SMPO Outcome Report Jan 2003 to Dec 2003 (tables)


REPORTING ON QUALITATIVE OUTCOMES JANUARY 1ST TO DECEMBER 31ST 2003.

By Preeya Prasad

1. Report on client satisfaction with services (based on client surveys)

Client surveys were designed by SMPO and assistant. These were sent out twice a year by post and email. Below are some of the responses.
Employment Preparation- building resumes, job applications, interview skills, information sessions, assessment of qualifications, etc.

What assistance did you receive from your SMPO?

“I have received assistance in canvassing for work experience. SMPO successfully negotiated a placement at the State Library and helped me to improve my resume. Without this assistance I wouldn’t get this chance.”
(J.Longauer)

“SMPO has been helping me with my applications, cover letters, and interview techniques. They also helped me with canvassing for Work Experience placements.”
(A.Ramirez)

Some Responses regarding Employment:

“Dear Preeya, I am happy to tell you I have found a job. Thanks Preeya for all your support that you extended to me these past few months that I have known you.”
(A.Nagaraj)

“ I am going for work experience and also applying for jobs side by side. I have found after adding my work experience in my resume I got my interviews and finally paid work. Thanks for all your assistance.”
(P.Ahuja)

All clients who answered the survey said they would recommend the Skilled Migrant Placement Program to other Migrants.

2. Report on Employer List

SMPO has canvassed for new employers regularly, 5 per month. These have been imputed onto the online database. The SMPO assistant has also compiled a manual list of all employers who are willing to take on clients on a regular bases. The areas of occupations are Accounting/Finance, Admin and Childcare. There are currently over 80 employers on our database.There was a massive mail out done this year which was partially successful but more cold canvassing and networking proved highly successful.

3. Report on Participation in Local Community Network

a. SMPO was the guest speaker on Migrants and Employment at Hewitt House in Guilford. Promoting the program and disseminating information and handing out brochures. This session was part of the information exchanged in the learning circle which meet every month;
b. Held an information session at ACL in Parramatta for students about to complete English course and look for employment. Distributed pamphlets and SMPO list to students and teachers should they require assistance with accessing work experience and employment;

c. Attended Parramatta Chamber of Commerce Employers Expo and invited all clients to attend. Around 50 employers had showcased their businesses. Good Opportunity to network and exchange information;
d. Attended the Employment Expo and shared a stall with SMPO in Parramatta for half a day, I invited all my clients to attend the workshops and the expo.

1. Participated in the SMPO forum on a monthly basis. Discussed strategies on improving networks and keeping up with industry information. Highlighting the issues predominant to Immigrant and Refugee including the barriers they face while trying to access employment. This year saw a variety of guest speakers coming and speaking to SMPOs on certain areas of expertise.

· Amir Salem, Multicultural Advisory Officer, Randwick TAFE, spoke about changes in TAFE structure and services and how these changes would affect our clients;
· Costas Siavelis, Employer, Cyber Efficiency, spoke about the latest developments in the IT industry and Web designing. Also emphasised what sort of candidates he was looking for in terms of work experience placements;
· Victoria Jovanovski, ODEOPE, spoke about cultural diversity in the Public Sector and how our clients can contribute towards this issue;
· Hilda Kooper, OTEN, gave the latest on LLNP Programs and eligibility criteria and how the program would benefit our clients;
· Michael Smith, DET, gave information regarding recognition procedures for overseas trained teachers.

This information was disseminated to our clients where relevant.

2. Participation in the Migrant Employment Taskforce NSW Bi-monthly forum: The peak advocacy body for employment and educational issues for refugees and migrants from non-English Speaking Backgrounds. (A submission was made in response to the increase in TAFE fees and service cuts to the Multicultural Unit of the Department of Education And Training. SMPO (s) imputed on how the increase in TAFE fees and elimination of free course would affect our clients especially women.

4. Report on Promotional and Marketing Activities

a) SMPO assistant is advertising the program in the local paper, bimonthly. This is free of charge.

b) Sent out massive mail to all employers on the database including all new additions (employers) that we canvassed.

c) Joined Parramatta Chamber of Commerce and attended their functions for networking and promotional purposes

d) Promoted the program on Auburn Community Radio to prospective clients. Highlighted the type of assistance that Skilled Migrants could get through this program.

e) Brochures and pamphlets were distributed at information sessions and stalls e.g., Stop D.V day, Multicultural day at Swinson Cottage, Employment Expo at Parramatta, any other interagency meetings or events that Speakout staff participated in.

f) Contacted all TAFES, Learning Institutes and Evening Colleges in Sydney and sent information regarding SMP Program.

SUMMARY

The report outlines the incidences of services in accordance with the 2003 report against qualitative outcomes.
1. Report on client feedback showing client satisfaction with the services. These were sent out twice last year
2. The report also gives details on the employer list used by Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association.
3. There is also a section on Marketing and Promotion of the SMP program, which occurred over the funding year.
4. Lastly included is the report on participation in the Local Community Network.

CONCLUSION

Year 2003 started with some uncertainties about this program. Firstly at the start of the year insurance coverage for work experience placements had yet to be secured and the ongoing problems with the database was very frustrating.

These problems were remedied soon enough and the program launched into what can be described as a dynamic and a very fast paced year for SMPO and clients.

This year the SMPO mainly focussed on preparing clients for Work Experience and employment. The growing pressure from the funding body to achieve outcomes sometimes put a considerable strain and stress on the SMPO and assistant. Nevertheless negotiations with the funding body during the middle of the year resulted in a more strategic way of administering the program and achieving outcomes.

The SMPO mainly concentrated on providing intensive assistance in terms of job preparation, career counselling, and strategic goal setting as these were the needs of the clients that needed addressing. Significant time was spent canvassing for employers for work experience placements and training clients on canvassing as well.

The importance of the Skilled Migrant Placement Program cannot be emphasised enough. The program provides a wealth of information, support, training and intensive assistance to an extremely disadvantaged group. For women facing additional barriers often sacrificing their training and employments needs to those of their partners often find the SMPO program a lifeline to achieving their goals. In a community setting the clients feel more comfortable in expressing their fears and concerns regarding employment in Australia. They freely expressed certain experiences they have had while trying to access employment. Most of them are negative. A great amount of time still is spent building up women’s confidence and getting them job ready. English being a second language further deteriorates their confidence in approaching employers for placements.

The SMP Program is extremely valuable and vital to our clients but the way success are measured in terms of outcomes is highly misleading and does not reflect the work carried out by SMPOs across the board. It does not take into account the difficulties in achieving these outcomes quantitatively.