Job-skills workshop helps new migrants to get a foothold

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Practical feedback on finding relevant work raises optimism in jobseekers, writes Usha Ramanujam Arvind
GB4Q1479 Mentor & Participants1-low res
The past two decades have seen an exponential growth in the number of skilled Indian migrants calling Australia home. Well-equipped with academic qualifications, professional skills and quite often, a fair amount of experience, they arrive on these shores with great expectations, hoping to trailblaze in their respective career pathways.? But optimism soon turns to frustration when the dream job they hope to land, never seems to materialise.
Be resilient, the first break is the hardest to get and then it’s smooth sailing is the refrain well-entrenched counterparts offer. Economic need and family pressures often force many to take up jobs well outside their area of expertise a humbling experience, no doubt.
In a bid to make this cross-continental transition a relatively smoother one, Sydney Telugu Association (STA) recently organised a career planning, job search and mentoring workshop to help new migrants find their feet in Australia. The program, held at Parramatta Town Hall, was funded by a special grant from NSW Cultural Relations Commission (CRC).
The day-long workshop, possibly the first of its kind for the ambitious scale and content, brought together HR specialists, industry professionals and jobseekers in the fields of IT, business, accounting and engineering, offering them an ideal launch pad.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the program was the wide network of experienced Indian-Australian mentors made available to participants. Besides offering a realistic overview of current trends and expectations in the job market, these mentors will also continue to provide meaningful insights and direction, as migrants explore the employment scenario.
The workshop was coordinated and presided by Sydney University academic Dr Ravi Seethamraju in conjunction Sridevi Somanchi and other senior members of the Telugu Association.
“Settling into a new social environment is extremely challenging,”? Seethamraju told Indian Link. “We have all faced difficulties in finding the break after migrating. Despite the best assistance provided by the government, there is still a significant gap. Our aim with this workshop is to provide as much practical support as possible.”
“Based on the number of registrations as well as the response and feedback we have had so far, I believe the initiative is already a huge success,”? Dr Seethamraju stated.
Inaugurating the proceedings, CRC chairman Stepan Kerkyasherian pondered nostalgically over his own early migrant experiences.
Also speaking on the occasion was academic, businessman and Federal MP for Parramatta Geoff Lee. “Identify yourself as a marketable product and see how best to promote your brand,? he advised jobseekers.
Besides strategic presentations and breakout sessions by career development specialist Dr Diana Day and senior members from CPA Australia and Australian Computer Society (ACS), during the course of the workshop participants were given core job search skills, including resume preparation and interview management. Practical grooming and presentation tips, oral and written communication skills, insights into Australian job culture and milieu also figured prominently on the agenda. Panel discussions, Q&A sessions addressing specific issues, resume checks and mock interviews allowed participants to engage with prospective employers in real-time settings.
Of 140 migrants registered for the workshop, 60% were from IT background. Accounting/business and engineering professionals made up 20% and 10% respectively, with the rest from fashion, aged care and medical industries. The participants were provided with a comprehensive resource kit to introduce them to market expectations.
Clearly identifying ones goals, building a network of contacts and tapping into these contacts to access jobs before they are advertised, joining professional associations, getting accreditation, undertaking volunteer/internship roles to gain local experience, updating skills to suit current Australian requirements and applying these skills to related industries of job environments, these were some of the broad-ranging tips offered at the workshop.
Despite having a strong academic profile, many Indian candidates often fail to focus on little things like punctuality, eye contact and communicating slowly and clearly, Dr Seethamraju lamented. “Pay a lot of attention to detail, read up on local issues, research the industry trends and try to create a positive vibe,”? he advised.
Fielding questions on the IT industry, Phil Lovell of ACS explained that despite current off-shoring trends, acute skill shortages still exist. With the industry still growing at 11%, the new niche areas, according to him, are data analysis, helpdesk, testing, SAP, IT security, business analysis and project management. “The market is quite cut-throat and my advice is to have multiple strategies to increase the pipeline of opportunity,”? he stated.
Spurred by the success, STA is not only planning follow-up sessions and events, but will also apply for similar grants for the coming years.
“We are also contemplating to introduce some co-payment by the participants to defray some of the costs given the limited funding available for such events,” Seethamraju indicated.

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