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  Issue No 110 Official Organ of LaborNet 07 September 2001  




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Experience Required

Veronica Apap looks at the many difficulties migrants face in having their skills recognised in Australia.




When scanning through the employment section of the newspaper, two words commonly appear, 'experience required'. Many gripe that they can't get experience without getting a job first. It's a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.

Many job seekers do have the experience and qualifications to do the job that is offered. Unfortunately that isn't always enough.

Ahmed Mowafaq has plenty of experience as a mechanical engineer. He gained qualifications in engineering in Iraq and worked there as an engineer for many years.

He migrated to Australia two years ago and completed a refresher course at TAFE. He is still not considered a qualified mechanical engineer and can't find employment in his field.

Despite applying for around 40 jobs, he's only had one interview. "When they see my certificate is not from Australia or the USA or England, they think it is not as good," says Mowafaq.

Mowafaq is one of many people who migrate to Australia and are not getting their overseas qualifications and skills recognised here.

For these people those two important words carry an additional meaning, 'local experience required.' They have learnt that they must read between the lines in these job advertisments.

"The biggest barrier that migrants face is that they don't have experience in Australia," says Merryn Jones, a Specialist Migration Placement Officer at the May Murray Neighborhood Centre.

In some cases, migrants qualifications are recognised however their skills are not. "This is common in the IT industry," says Jones. "Their problem is that their overseas experience isn't recognised here, when their qualifications are comparable to Australian standards."

This means that many migrants have to find unpaid work experience on their own. This is made more difficult when combined with the two year waiting period faced by migrants to get government benefits.

"Most of my clients are professionals, and their skills lose their currency within six months," says Jones. She estimates that about 80% of her clients have difficulty getting their skills or qualifications recognised despite coming into Australia based on the Skilled Workers Stream.

To make ends meet, Mowafaq has had to take work as a security guard on weekdays and as a machine operator on the weekends.

In the mean time, he is trying to complete three reports that will allow him to have his qualifications recognised. "Each one takes about a month to complete, I'm working on the third now," he says.

Completing qualifications assessments is made even more difficult in other industries. Sarath Mandalawatta works as a Quality Improvement Co-ordinator at an aged care facility. This job does not require his skills as a doctor that he gained in Sri Lanka. "I'm just doing staff education and co-ordinating referrals," he says.

"To get my registration on the Medical Council, I have to sit an exam. It costs up to $5000 to take this exam," Mandalawatta says. He does not have the money to sit that exam yet but intends to sometime in the future.

Statistics supplied by the Department of Immigrations and Multicultural Affairs show that last year 44,740 skilled migrants entered Australia. "There is no qualification recognition problem," says Nick Hind, a spokesperson for the department. He says recognition of skills only becomes a problem if people come to Australia based on family ties.

He said any changes that are to be made in the recognition of qualifications are to be decided by the individual industry not the government.

"Some heads of industries have recognised that changes need to be made," says Jones. However she does not know of any changes that are to be made in the near future. "I think they need to develop industry traineeships which are of a higher level than the current appreticeships. These positions would give migrants the necessary training and they would be paid while they get this experience," she says.

Mandalawatta also believes there are better ways to get migrants qualifications recognised. "The government should introduce a familiarisation course to gain experience in medical standards in Australia," he says. "You have to take a theory exam and a practical exam. But without practical experience in Australia, how can you take the practical exam?"

While Mandalawatta and Mowafaq both agree that they are very upset at not being able to work in the profession they are qualified for, Jones expresses her frustration. "It's frustrating because nurses and teachers are in such shortage here and yet they too have to face a long process to get recognition," she says.

There are hundreds of other stories like these. Steven Zhang from China has been in Australia for two years. He used to work as a computer engineer for one of China's biggest banks. He can't find any employment in Australia.

Abdul Quershi from Pakistan has been in Australia for six months. He was an Electrical engineer but now he is a process worker in a factory because he can't find work in his own field.

Jones says there is an influx of people coming to Australia from India and China. "These people have good and current skills but their qualifications only count for about 10% when they go for a job," she says.


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 110 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Cast Adrift
Ethnic Communities Council chair Salvatore Scevola gives his take on the Tampa saga and the underlying attitudes driving the debate.
*  Workplace: Coming to Australia
Jagath Banderra recounts his own experience as a new arrival in Australia entering the workforce.
*  Human Rights: Long Road to Nowhere
Iraqi refugees travel the same tortuous road as Afghans. The refugees on the Tampa have almost certainly endured a similar ordeal.
*  Immigration: Experience Required
Veronica Apap looks at the many difficulties migrants face in having their skills recognised in Australia.
*  International: Why Economic Rationalism Isn't
The CFMEUs Phil Davey surveys the wreckage after 10 years of Brazil's Government doing what the free marketeers want.
*  History: Johnny's Naruan Wet Dream
Rowan Cahill looks at how Australia's preferred refugee dumping ground's history is indelibly linked with our own.
*  Unions: Getting the Message Out
Caroline Alcorso argues the integration of immigrant workers into the trade union movement has been a central issue in Australia’s post-war labor history.
*  Work/Time/Life: Driven To The Edge
In the ACTU’S groundbreaking Fifty Families report there is one particularly sobering story. Frank tells how the modern workplace is driving some people to the fatal edge.
*  Review: Whose Party?
NSW Labor’s century of successes began in 1910, as did the “middle classing” of Labor policy.
*  Satire: Ethnic Wog Gangs Rape Everyone
People who are white in colour are being raped by people who are not white, an exclusive Chaser investigation found last week.

»  Unions Rescue Afghan Worker
»  Revealed: Migrants Face Hidden Unions Barriers
»  FOI Seeks Royal Commission Papers
»  Long Hours Corrode Family Life Says Study
»  Medibank Workers 'Feel Bitter Now'
»  Chronic Stress in Child Care
»  It's a Steal! Workers Underpaid Since 1991
»  WorkCover: Bell Rings for Round Two
»  Transfield Fire Sale Threatens Entitlements
»  Foot-And-Mouth Heroes Face The Boot
»  Superannuation Warning to Labor
»  Bully Casino Locks Out Workers
»  Bra Wars: US Giant Quit Burma
»  Sydney's Salsa for Saharawis
»  Labor Council Revamps Online
»  Get Ready to Wobble
»  Activists' Notebook

»  The Soapbox
»  The Locker Room
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  Tampa Feedback
»  Battling the Bullies
»  Searching for John McNeill, Labor MP
»  Tom Seeks Family Leave
»  Spell Check
»  Injured and Ripped Off

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