Settlement Guide

Settlement Guide: how to convert your qualification

Source: AAP

Australia is welcoming more skilled migrants - arrivals with tertiary qualifications have almost doubled since 2001. But a recent Australian Bureau of Statistics report shows only 40 per cent manage to continue working in their professional field. When a lack of local experience and qualifications becomes a hurdle to getting a job – what assistance is on offer?

Recent research from Curtin’s School of Management says skilled migrants often perform jobs that are below their skill level.Report author Dr. Amy Tianhas studied the link between underutilising skills and job satisfaction levels. She says when migrants can’t work in an equal role to their homeland they can feel they left out in the cold.

Skilled migrants often perform jobs that are below their skill level.

“Skilled migrants sometimes can have very a high level sense of job security level, but very low skill utilisation level, they don’t feel happy. They feel kind of trapped in the type of professions where their skills are underutilised, because they feel they are not doing what they ought to do. They don’t contribute to the level that they wish to.”

They feel trapped in the type of professions where their skills are underutilised.

AMES Australia Counselling & Career Development Coordinator Margaret Davis says differences in working cultures - like job applications - can be an obstacle.

“They are very keen and expecting to find work and are quite shocked that it’s not the case. It’s usually not having the cultural awareness for the approach for job search. Resumes quite often are very lengthy, maybe not formatted correctly or have inappropriate information.”

A skills assessment can help highlight what experience an applicant has and make it more comprehensible to Australian employers.

A skills assessment can help highlight what experience an applicant has and make it more comprehensible to Australian employers.

There are three general streams of assessing overseas qualifications and work experience in Australia.

These are Skills Assessment, Overseas Qualification Recognition and Recognition of Prior Learning. Let’s have a look at them one by one. Used for migration purposes, the points-based Skills Assessment is familiar to most skilled migrants.

Dozens of assessing authorities look into a scope of industries.

Vetassess is the leading government business enterprise that provides these services across hundreds of occupations. Vetassess’ Manager of Skills Recognition General Occupations Dr Mamta Chauhan explains how the assessment works.

“These occupations will cover managers, professionals, technicians, sales workers, community personal service workers or administrative and clerical workers. It’s a combination of qualifications and employment. It doesn’t stop applicants who have actually arrived in Australia and probably using that skills assessment letter as part of their profile when going for a job interviews. Our skills assessments are primarily issued only to support the migration skills assessment.” 

Migrants who have lived and worked in Australia are often eligible for a free Overseas Qualification Assessment. Focusing on academic achievements, it recognises qualifications based on Australian qualification framework.

AMES Australia’s Margaret Davis suggests checking the requirements for a specific profession.

“Unless it’s a regulated profession, such a medical profession, or one that requires professional membership and they come into that regulated professions, they don’t actually have to have an assessment or be member of the association.” 

Qualification Assessments suits migrants who have completed a few years of professional work in Australia and decide to upskill based on their previously gained degree.

“Even once they have gained employment in a field. For Example, many people who are overseas qualified accountants, may work as an assistant accountant or accounts payable, or within an accounting role but then later on do their CPA, CA program, to then being able to practice as an accountant.”

Another process related to skills assessment is Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Mainly used for future studies, RPL assesses formal education plus life and work experience.

Once matched with a chosen study area, those experiences can serve as credits to gain a local qualification and significantly reduce studying time. Skilled migrant Svetlana Pashenkova found the RPL process very useful. It recognised her 10 years of career in business analysis plus qualifications as a linguist and teacher of Russian and English.

RPL tools are run by education institutions or private providers.

“Because my diploma is totally different from my career path, I worked as an IT assistant and business analyst and my diploma is of linguist of foreign language, I had to go through RPL procedure with Australian Computer Society. I wrote an RPL statement letter, it’s about 30 pages long, describing all my working experience in IT, supplying, giving references and email letter to support [it] and maybe less than in a month a got a reply.”

The Queensland Government’s self-assessment tool helps to check qualifications prior to RPL.

Qualifications assessments are run through government Overseas Qualifications units.

To find a suitable authority consult The Department of Training and Education in your state or territory. A new resource The Good Careers Guide is a comprehensive website featuring job descriptions, training pathways and employment opportunities.