When language is only the first barrier

WHEN Faiza Khursheed moved to Ballarat in 2010 and studied a Master of Commerce at the then University of Ballarat, she hoped to be an accountant.

Ms Khursheed had worked in the accounts department at a school in Pakistan and decided to move with her family to Ballarat to obtain the advanced qualification and settle into life in Australia.

Upon completing the course she assumed she would be able to get a job locally, in the city she had grown to love.

However, it wasn't so easy.

"I was very confident because I got high distinctions, distinctions and credits in most of my classes," she said.

"My lecturer said I could get a job in Ballarat because Ballarat needs accountants."

What Ms Khursheed hadn't covered in university were some skills which many people don't think about and some migrants are missing when they start applying for jobs in Australia ... bridging the gap between skilled migrants and their employers.

She is one of 60 graduates of the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Careers Program which is aiming to bridge that gap.

The graduates cover topics such as planning and organisation, occupational, health and safety, self management and a variety of other workplace skills.

"They provided me with all the training, how to work in an Australian environment, what are the employers expectations and what are your responsibilities according to the new culture," Ms

Khursheed said.

For Ms Khursheed it was the task of writing a resume which had been a stumbling block.

"Previously I was writing it in a very wrong way and it wasn't up to an Australian standard," she said.

"It makes sense and that is why I wasn't getting the job."

The CALD program is jointly funded by the Department of Employment and the City ‎‏of Ballarat.

It focuses on streams aligned with needs in Ballarat's employment sector - including manufacturing, hospitality, health and aged care, commercial cleaning, business services and administration and professionals.

Ballarat mayor Joshua Morris said part of the reason behind creating the program was to get better social, cultural and economic support for migrants who have moved to Ballarat.

"A real positive is the program has created a real friendship group for participants and helped them become more self-sufficient," he said.

"I think it's also notable that the program received a Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence in 2013, and that we have a lot of interest from local businesses keen to be involved in our industry partnerships breakfasts later this month."

These industry breakfasts provide businesses with information about the benefits of getting involved with the program.

Another graduate of the program, Suleiman Alnaimi, was in a similar situation to Ms Khursheed.

Mr Alnaimi was a counselling psychologist in Jordan before moving to Australia with his wife, who recently completed her PhD in mathematics at Federation University.

"I haven't really tried to get a job here as a psychologist yet, because I aim to do a PhD here," he said

"The program (CALD) was very good, it was simple."

Mr Alnaimi said the program went through basic skills like handling the interview process when applying for a job.

The next part of the program is finding placement for the graduates, with Mr Alnaimi now working for Quest Ballarat in hope that by taking smaller steps he will eventually be able to complete a PhD.

Mr Alnaimi said he enjoyed working for the hotel, one of many businesses which have jumped on board the program to provide a job and further training for migrants.

Quest Ballarat property manager David Stevens said he was called by the organisers of the program to attend an information session about potentially taking part.

"At the time I was looking for a couple of people and couldn't find the right person," he said.

"They contacted me with a couple of people and it has worked out really well, they are positive and they really want to work."

Thirty of the 60 graduates are already in full-time work.

Mr Stevens said the two graduates who were working at Quest were "very eager" to work.

"We have one (Mr Alnaimi) who left his country, packed up his family, moved over here with nothing," he said.

"He wants to work and wants to prove himself, so giving him the opportunity he has now shone.

"In any person I look to employ, if they have the enthusiasm, skills can always be taught."

The CALD program is currently looking for more local businesses to partner with and provide jobs for the graduates.

"These people want to learn and they want a better life over here and this is an opportunity to get that," Mr Stevens said.

"I think the program has helped, because they did teach them about different workplaces and how to interact with our culture and that has put them in good stead."

Unlike Mr Alnaimi, Ms Khursheed is yet to gain full-time employment after completing the program, however, has been putting those skills into practise by volunteering in the city.

She currently mans the multicultural help desk at the Ballarat Library and also volunteers at the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council.

"The program taught me that having a degree is not enough. I need local work experience so the program encouraged me to do volunteer work," she said.

"It helped to improve my English and get to know the local people.

"I think if people see that I am volunteering they will see I am putting in the effort without a money incentive, still I am working so maybe the potential employer will like that."

Ms Khursheed said living in Ballarat is not just about the work, it is about the city as well.

"I love Ballarat, because I am from a big city in Pakistan like Melbourne, so I love the peace in this city," she said.

"Most of the people are very very helpful, they are willing to help.

"I have faith in the program, it is taking a small step, but I have faith that one day I will getting a job in a finance department.

"But I need to take the long way to do it."

Any businesses who want to be involved in the program should email Zoe Allen at zoeallan@ ballarat.vic.gov.au

Faiza Khursheed

Faiza Khursheed


Discuss "When language is only the first barrier"

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.