Settlement Guide

Settlement Guide: migrant youth's jobsearch struggle

Source: Courtesy of MYAN

Starting work can be an exciting time. But finding a job is rather challenging, especially for young people from a culturally diverse background. What are the main difficulties they are facing and what kind of support is needed?

When reaching a certain age most young people develop the desire to make their own money. But not all get the chance to do so. A 2015 Brotherhood of St Laurence report shows that the national unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds is currently 12.2 per cent.  And it's mostly a particular group that is struggling.

"Young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds often have much more limited what we call social capital in the Australian context."


25 per cent of all young people in Australia are from a refugee or migrant background. Most have potential to be active participants in the labour market, but often face challenges. Nadine Liddy serves as the National Coordinator for the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network Australia (MYAN), which is the national peak body on multicultural youth issues. She says young people can lack basic knowledge on how to apply for jobs.

"Young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds often have much more limited what we call social capital in the Australian context. And that is often the information or the knowledge that those of us that who were born in a particular country take for granted. So that's particular knowledge around systems, around workplace culture, knowledge around how to get a job or exactly what you need to do, how you talk, how you dress, how you behave, how you write a CV. That knowledge isn't necessarily there or it's much more limited."

 

"Common barriers for some young foreign workers include low levels of English language proficiency."


MYAN Youth Ambassador and working student Sarah Yahya is Iraqi born but arrived in Australia in 2007. She says getting a job was hard..

"My own experience...I have also struggled in finding employment as a person from a refugee background. And I have a lot of friends who have experienced similar situations. Many of them who have been also paid unlawful wages. And that's when I realised the amount of complexity surrounding finding employment for young people."

Common barriers for some young foreign workers include low levels of English language proficiency. Others face racism and discrimination.

 

"Other major factors are limited work experience and lack of recognition of prior learning and qualifications."


"Racism and discrimination in the labour market...There are often stories about young people who choose a more Anglo sounding name on a CV and they are more likely to get a job interview. And some of that racism and discrimination is more structural and some of it is much more abduce."

Other major factors are limited work experience and lack of recognition of prior learning and qualifications. These issues result in young people from a culturally diverse background being mainly employed in informal and casual work relationships.

 

"What makes it even harder is the burden of working and studying at the same time."


"There's a whole lot of informal employment that goes on, because often that is the kind of work that some young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds can pick up more easily. Some of that is within their own communities. Some of the larger multinational fast food chains. There's a lot of young people that find work in regional and rural areas, agricultural based or fruit picking. Because there's often no experience needed, more limited English language etc etc."

What makes it even harder is the burden of working and studying at the same time. Many young people are not only enrolled in a demanding course, they are also expected or needing to find employment. This is something Sarah Yahya understands.

 

"Many companies aren't aware of the advantages of a diverse young workforce."


"For some people who came from refugee backgrounds education is very important, it's the way that we can make things happen. And unfortunately, in some cases we do have to work and we do have to study. So it becomes extra difficult to find the sort of employers who are able to compromise in a way and say 'hey, you know you can work at this time and you can study at this other time.'"

Under all these premises finding work can be immensely challenging. MYAN 's Nadine Liddy calls for the government to implement programs to encourage employers to hire culturally diverse youth. She says many companies aren't aware of the advantages of a diverse young workforce.

 

"There are real benefits in employing a culturally diverse population in the workplace."


"What is also really important is targeted programs for employers. Because there are real benefits in employing a culturally diverse population in the workplace. They benefit from understanding the particular needs of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, but also understanding their strengths. Often this group of young people have brought international knowledge, they are multilingual, they've got you know extensive cross-cultural knowledge etc etc."


And she advises young people to apply for volunteer work or internships as a way to enter the job market.

"If they can try and find volunteer opportunities or internships, we would certainly advocate for more and more opportunities like that. That kind of job training is one of the best ways for young people to learn what it looks like in Australia, what their rights and responsibilities are as employees. We would also be advocating with the Australian government for targeted employment programs for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, because of the specific barriers that they face."


For resume writing skills and how to apply for jobs visit The Victorian Government's website.

The NSW Government's Family and Community Services website includes youth jobs and career links.

The Federal and State Government's My Future is a job search portal providing advice on occupations, courses, industries and companies.