IMAGINE arriving in a foreign country, sometimes not by choice, and having to adapt to new conditions.

At the same time, dealing with the language barrier, encountering a different culture and trying to become an employed member of the community, while at the same time providing for yourself, and sometimes your family as well!

When all you know is change, it must be scary.

For AMES employment mentor Alison Fraser, she aims to make the process a little bit easier through assisting people from Culturally And Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds into employment that best suits not only their needs, but them also.

“How this looks for each person can be very different,” Ms Fraser explains.

“Some clients have good existing skill sets including strong English language skills, they may need assistance to update a resume or write a strong cover letter or selection criteria response.

“Other clients may have quite low level English speaking and writing.

“They might have a minimal skill set or come to Australia with existing skills but those are not recognised here or they don’t have access to documents to prove those skills.”

Ms Fraser takes the time to learn the individual’s employment goals and needs and completes a skills assessment to get an idea of what they can do.

With that, she creates a pathway to employment that has their goal in mind.

“Sometimes this will start with attending English classes to improve spoken and written language,” Ms Fraser said.

“It could mean assisting in TAFE enrolment or attending a Learn Local course.

“Employment mentors also teach people Australian workplace culture, how to dress and what to say for an interview, how they can showcase their abilities and skills.”

Outside of employment for individuals, in her role which she describes as a “holistic support role”, Ms Fraser can also make referrals to other providers, such as family violence, health or housing, if such issues are impacting a person.

Ms Fraser said AMES offers an essential service to CALD and refugee communities.

“As we grow we learn about working and what that means,” Ms Fraser said.

“To most of us it’s about becoming an adult and supporting ourselves and our families.

“‘How’ we work is learned through our upbringing – it’s an underlying cultural thing.

“We learn that we can ask dad and mum if they know anyone hiring, we know our local communities and where the jobs can be found.

“We know that resumes are needed and what to wear to a job interview.

“CALD and refugee communities don’t always have this knowledge, employment processes can be very different in their home countries.

“I know that my first casual high school job came from asking my dad if he knew of any jobs going.

“AMES employment mentor support offers to teach people how to connect with others who might have work opportunities and educate around things like traineeships and apprenticeships.

“Importantly we also use phone interpreters whenever it is required so that people effectively understand what they are being told and can share their ideas clearly.”

Ms Fraser said intermittent work or underemployment is a regular occurrence for people from a CALD background, and this is more often found when individuals arrive as refugees.

She explained the impact that can have on a person’s self-esteem, stress levels and their ability to provide for their family is enormous.

She said without financial stability it can make it difficult to support children into out of school activities, it can be isolating for the individual or limit their social networks and it can increase anxiety or potentially lead to depressive thoughts.

“Employment is a critical factor in the settlement of all newly arrived into Australia,” Ms Fraser said.

Ms Fraser has always believed in equality.

She said she has always been an advocate of this and she thrives in environments where not only can she do this, but is able to aide people in learning skills which lead toward their independence.

“It’s really rewarding to see employers take a step outside their comfort zone and create an opportunity,” she added.

“It is so rewarding to see clients learning and acting on what they have learned, building the confidence they need to land the right job and succeed.”

There are challenges presented in identifying supportive workplaces, but with a willingness to adopt and change on the job communication and learning, this can be overcome.

“At the same time it can be a challenge to support new employees into the Australian workplace and assist them to navigate workplace culture and norms,” Ms Fraser said.

“It is part of my role to try and support both the employer and the potential new employee through these challenges.”

The benefits she said, for employees willing to take on such individuals, are enormous.

“I think that anyone who leaves their country of birth, whether by choice or because of fear of persecution shows that they have resilience, strength and problem solving abilities,” she explained.

“It also shows them to be highly adaptable.

“To me these are skills I would love to have in an employee.

“Jobs can be taught but those skills are innate.

“Businesses that open their minds to different ways of teaching new employees will learn so much from employing a person of a CALD or refugee background, the benefits will outweigh the challenges and will also prove to be very enriching.”

For further information contact Alison Fraser on 0434 317 507.

By ZOEY ANDREWS