One of the biggest stumbling blocks to beginning a new life for people who have come to a new country as a refugee or person seeking asylum is the ability to gain work or have their previous work history and qualifications acknowledged in their new home. Wendy McCormick noticed this problem in her local area and decided to do something about it.
Here is Wendy’s story about implementing a work experience program for people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds in her workplace, the Silver Chef Group.
“Silver Chef Group is a Bcorp and actively strives to help people live their dreams; these people include our customers, suppliers, staff and our community. Our business Silver Chef Group approved a program where we would offer a 12 week paid work experience program to disadvantaged groups within our community. The program was born out of our employee suggestion program, in which I made the suggestion that we should use our business and roles we have to better the local community.
For our launch we focused on the refugee community in Brisbane. This group of people struggle greatly to get a job – one of the main reasons is the lack of Australian work experience. We took a role in the business, on this occasion a cleaning role in our warehousing facility in Wacol, and opened it up to be available for a 12 week work experience placement.
This program is now a reoccurring initiative and part of our business’ wider annual objectives.
As a whole everyone was supportive. Initially, there was some fear and uncertainty mainly based off not knowing or understanding what a refugee is and how they would integrate into our business. We worked through MDA (Multicultural Development Australia) and they helped us to place a suitable candidate with some Australian experience and a fair command of English. We also provided all the relevant parties with ‘Working with Refugees’ training to help them understand the challenges these people have faced in their journey to Australia and some of the culture clashes that can happen.
Having successfully implemented a Refugee Work Experience Program at my work this is the feedback I have received from the Manager who is hosting our very first refugee:
“This experience has definitely changed my point of view on refugees. it has made me realise how important it is to educate others and help where we can.
I can now see why you are so passionate about this and you have my full support moving forward. if anyone gives you any grief on the subject of refugees just send them my way and I’ll set them straight.
I do have to also thank you for not only making a change in [the work experience candidate’s] life but also mine. You should be very proud of yourself and you have lead the way, now I will stand beside you.”
If you are thinking of doing something to support refugees and asylum seekers, you don’t need to make a massive impact or take on an enormous project. Just take the time to impact one person at a time. Although it can appear small and insignificant, it makes a difference to that person’s life and that of their family.
Thank you so much to Wendy McCormick from the Silver Chef Group for sharing your story about the Work Welcome Program that is sharing skills, making connections and supporting refugees and asylum seekers in such a successful way!
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