15 October 2014

A program designed to assist refugees, asylum seekers and other marginalised jobseekers into work, and to support employers to grow and diversity their workplace, is being officially launched.

Run by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Given the Chance – workforce solutions that matternot only offers real employment opportunities, but is also an inspiring social responsibility initiative that fosters social benefit and connectedness in workplace communities. More than 200 participants have already found work in fields such as childcare, administration, securities, construction and aged care.

Ahmad Raza arrived in Australia by boat in late 1999, escaping from the war and sectarian violence against Hazara people in Afghanistan. "I was 25. I lost a family member to the violence and felt I was next," he said. "The boat trip was terrifying, but my life had been threatened."

After nine months at Woomera Detention Centre, Mr Raza was granted a protection visa and began the long journey to educate himself. He eventually completed a degree in social science, majoring in international development. But he could not find a job.

"I was referred to the Brotherhood's Given the Chance program and learned a great deal. I'd been looking for work for 12 months but getting nowhere, because I didn't know how to apply for work, what to say in an interview, what jobs I should apply for or even what a resume looked like."

But after completing Given the Chance's training, he found work at the ANZ Bank, working in a call centre. He then moved to a different role, working on personal loans and mortgages. Now a youth worker, Mr Raza said the training was eye-opening. "It not only helped me get references and in my professional career, but also understand the Australian workplace culture. You gain a real understanding, which is so important because it helps assimilation."

ANZ Bank is now the largest employer of Given the Chance graduates. Another partner, City of Yarra, says the benefits are not all one way.

Engineering operations manager Kim O'Connor says the program has helped fill council vacancies with people who "have a great work ethic". Trainees, including refugees from Somalia and Sudan, have been mentored by experienced council staff and have gained nationally accredited certificates.The Brotherhood's senior manager of Workforce Solutions, Jo Tabit, said Given the Chance candidates are "work ready, highly motivated and fully supported".

"For employers, this means access to a professional employment program offering services including labour hire, short and long term placements, and specialist skill recruitment that meets corporate responsibility program requirements."

MEDIA CONTACT: Communications Manager Deborah Morris, 0450 784 847 , .