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Media Release: Program getting skilled migrants into work

14 February 20140 comments

An innovative new program is succeeding in getting newly arrived skilled migrants into jobs that fit their qualifications or experience, according to new research.

A review of the effectiveness of the Skilled Professional Migrants Program (SPMP) – which aims to bridge the cultural divide faced by some migrants relaunching their careers in Australia – found that a large number of professional migrants faced considerable challenges in finding work in their fields.

The review found that after completing SPMP, 89% of students had found work and, of this group, 64% were in professional jobs.

Before enrolling in the SPMP program, less than 35% of participants had worked in Australia. Those who had worked were mostly in low skilled or non-professional work.

The SPMP program, operated by AMES, introduces professional migrants to Australian workplace culture and job seeking techniques. Participants receive advice about professional interviews as well as insights into Australian workplace culture.

The research report titled ‘Securing futures: making the most of migrants’ skills’, found barriers to work included: unfamiliarity with recruitment practices; a lack of professional networks and difficulty growing them; little knowledge of Australian workplace culture; and, difficulties having qualifications recognised.

The research was based on interviews exploring the job seeking experiences of 239 people who had completed the SPMP program. It canvased participants from 40 countries – the majority from China, India, Sri Lanka, Iran and South America. The largest groups of professionals were engineers, IT specialists, accountants, scientists and business managers.

Iranian design engineer Pouria Ebram secured a job as a direct result of his participation in the AMES SPMP program.

He arrived in Australia in October 2012 and initially found it difficult to find appropriate work in his field of expertise because of his unfamiliarity with the Australian job search process, workplace culture and the job market.

“The SPMP course was very helpful in assisting me to gain an understanding of workplace culture in Australia and it also gave me practical skills,” Pouria said.

“All the skills I’d gained on SPMP were vital and then a two-day seminar helped bring my confidence back. Soon after, I was offered a job in my field. This has made a big difference to my life in Australia,” he said.

The SPMP is a four-week intensive program that assists those with professional qualifications to develop suitable job search skills. It includes the preparation of resumes and job applications, interview skills and networking.

Around 130,000 people arrived in Australia as skilled migrants in 2012-2013. Around 10% of these – or 13,000 people, mostly from non-English speaking backgrounds – have trouble finding work appropriate to their training, according to ABS figures.

And only 53% of migrants who come to Australia under the Skilled Migrant Program ultimately work in the same occupation they nominated as immigrants.

According to the 2006 Census, up to 40% of tertiary qualified migrants aged between 25 and 34 and 38% of those aged 35 to 54 were in low or medium skilled occupations.

“The SPMP is an intervention that can maximise the use of skills brought by migrants and contribute to Australia’s productivity,” the review said.

The report said productivity gains would be long term because most skilled migrants arriving in Australia were in the early stages of their careers. It said the employment of skilled migrants increased diversity in the workforce and built cultural competence needed to connect with overseas markets.

“An effective strategy to make the most of migrants’ skills would be to establish a national program for professionals who require targeted employment orientation to relaunch their careers in Australia,” the report said.

One of the study’s authors, social scientist Monica O’Dwyer, said the research showed small interventions could make a difference in helping newly arrived professionals into work in Australia.

“Attracting people with professional skills and qualifications is a significant objective of Australia’s immigration program. But in many cases these skills are going unused and we are missing out on potentially productive people who can bring new perspectives and unique problem solving skills,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

“We are seeing many of these professional migrants accepting jobs outside their skill sets or in roles well below their actual capacities,” she said.

“Our research shows these kinds of programs are effective in giving professional migrants and insight into and some experience of what it takes to get a job in Australia,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

About AMES

AMES is the leading provider of humanitarian settlement, education, training and employment services to refugees, asylum seekers and newly arrived migrants in Victoria.

A statutory authority of the Victorian Government, the organisation manages a range of federal and state government contracts including Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS), the Adult Migrant English program (AMEP) General Services and Distance Learning programs; and Job Services Australia (JSA).

For images, interviews and more information please contact AMES Media Advisor, Laurie Nowell at or 9938 46031 or 0498 196 500.