In New South Wales (NSW), a partnership between government and community and corporate sectors is working to help integrate 7,000 refugees through training, work opportunities and scholarships. The government has brought together many major Australian businesses to offer an array of opportunities for both temporary and permanent employment. Where necessary, the government will also provide free education and qualifications recognition to smooth the way to employment. For student refugees, NSW universities have created a range of educational scholarships.
Results & Impact
The program aims to get 7,000 refugees into employment. NSW takes in 4,300 refugees every year, but recently agreed to take an additional 6,000 Syrian refugees as well. As it stands, after 18 months in Australia only 17% of humanitarian migrants are in paid work. Getting migrants into the workforce quickly is essential for keeping the cost down and turning them into net contributors to the country’s economy.
New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet, Department of Industry, Business Council of Australia, Settlement Services International, 14 private companies, including Allianz and AMP Foundation, 10 universities, including the University of Western Sydney
The government brought together many major Australian companies and then led the way by offering 100 positions for refugees in the public sector. Many private companies have committed to creating a range of casual and permanent positions for refugees, in addition to mentoring and work experience schemes. Refugees will first have their capabilities assessed, then they will be matched with an appropriate employer. The government will provide free vocational, language, literacy and numeracy training to those who need it. Moreover, NSW universities have set aside money for educational scholarships for student refugees, and the public are being encouraged to engage and help in their own way through the “I Can Help” initiative.
New South Wales, Australia
Cost & Value
In excess of $20 million over four years
Running since May 2017
Many recent refugees bring skills and qualifications that are not immediately recognised in Australia. Gaining English language skills that match professional skills is also a challenge. It remains to be seen whether some of the training and temporary positions offered by companies turn into long-term employment.
New Zealand plans to launch a similar program soon.
The New South Wales (NSW) government has brought together more than a dozen of Australia’s major private companies to help find work for up to 7,000 new refugees.
The program was launched in response to a recent influx of refugees from the Middle East. Every year NSW typically settles 4,300 refugees, but it recently volunteered to take in a further 6,000. Getting refugees into employment is essential for integration, so the government came up with the Refuge Employment Support Programme (RESP), a $20 million four-year scheme.
RESP will help find work for 7,000 refugees, including 1,000 asylum seekers, in Western Sydney and the Illawarra. Both government and corporate sectors have committed to the program, with the public sector leading the way by providing 100 casual or permanent positions to refugees across several departments. As of June 2017, 45 of these positions have been filled.
These positions are not necessarily leading to a career in the public sector; they could serve as stepping stones to the private sector, allowing refugees to improve their English and get that essential first bit of work experience in Australia. The government hoped it would be easier to encourage big private sector employers to join the program if they could see the pubic sector taking the lead—and that prediction was borne out.
Numerous private companies have responded to the call to provide opportunities for refugee employment. To give a few examples, the National Roads and Motorists’ Association is providing driver education programs and work experience to those with motor mechanic skills. Charity ClubsNSW is making up to 30 long-term job opportunities at registered clubs in the Greater Western Sydney Area in a pilot program. Australia Post is giving work experience opportunities, and Henry Davis York has launched community programs to help create jobs.
Although some 50% of refugees will be of prime working age (that is, 18-55 years old), they will possess very diverse skills and experience. To deal with this, NSW will set up a one-stop shop to work out refugees’ work experience, level of English and skills, and to develop individual employment and education plans to connect refugees with the support they need to obtain sustainable employment.
Refugees can access free vocational training. This training will cover certificates I – IV which are the basic qualifications that prepare candidates for employment and further education, including courses on language, literacy and numeracy.
Non-English language materials about training in NSW are also being developed, specifically targeted towards Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
For refugees who wish to continue their studies at university, ten NSW universities have offered a variety of scholarships and training schemes. Six of them are offering educational scholarships for refugee students. Three others are providing English language courses and support programs, and one is devoting staff to supervising refugee doctors at the UNE Medical Centre until they can gain full Australian registration.
Finally, the public are being encouraged to engage with refugees by volunteering to help in their own way through the “I Can Help” initiative. This can range from helping people pass their driving test, to mentoring small business start-ups or simply setting up in their new home: meeting them at the airport, or teaching them the ways of the bus timetable.
Altogether, these initiatives aim to find work for everyone who needs it and to help refugees start new lives as citizens in Australia. And from the country’s perspective, this investment can help refugees become valuable contributors to local communities and the economy at large.