CareerPathways: Fulfilling Dreams for Migrant Women
Olga and Aziza stood in the close knit, supportive group of about a dozen women. They congratulated each other as each received a statement of attainment for their CareerPathways course in aged and disability care from Macquarie Community College. This NSW Government-funded part qualification holds the key to a career they are all excited about. Smart, resourceful Sudanese women, Olga and Aziza came to the course from different experiences after fleeing their homeland more than fifteen years ago.
Aziza came as a refugee to Australia from Sudan in 2003 with her husband, daughter and son. She was a journalist back home, first language Arabic. Although she had learned a little English in school, it was very formal, much like Australian high school students might learn Japanese.
“When I came here, I could understand very little Australian English. But I decided that if I am here for two years and still cannot understand or speak English, then I will go back.” She was motivated by refugees she met who had become stuck and isolated after taking too much time to recover from their traumatic experiences before venturing out into Australian society.
“I came to have a better life and give my kids a better life. I did not want my little kids having to translate for me, fill in forms for me, read my letters to me. So from that time, I’ve been studying and trying to improve myself. Now my kids are in high school and I can even help them with their homework. Wherever they need me, I will be there.”
Even so, Aziza experienced several false starts on her way to finding regular work. After completing 510 hours of Adult Migrant English, she completed another English and numeracy course at TAFE and studied a Certificate and two Diploma courses part time, including the Certificate III in Aged Care. However, with her children still very young, logistics made working in the industry impossible. “I did my work experience in the city. I had to wake up at 5 am and leave my children. Even although they offered me a job, I couldn’t take it because my husband was travelling all of the time looking for a job also.”
The CareerPathways Program has given Aziza entry into the Disability sector, a field she wants to learn more about. She is now beginning her Certificate III in Individual Support, with a dual specialisation in Disability and Aged Care.
Sudan-born, Italian-Ethiopian Olga also experienced a false start after completing an Aged Care course in 2002. “I couldn’t work shifts because I had my first child,” she says.
However, she put her dreams of working in the care industry on the backburner and found work that suited her situation more. This included working with the Migrant Resource Centre helping new refugees settle into Australia, security guarding, and starting her own business as part time driving instructor.
Then everything changed. Last year, one of her daughter’s friends from her Year 4 class passed away. It was a devastating tragedy for the whole school community but it made Olga reassess what she wanted to do with her life.
“It took this tragedy to make me realise that there was something else inside me that I needed to do,” she says.
Now she has commenced the full certificate with Aziza and wants to work in a Disability group home or with children with disabilities in hospital.
Moving on together
According to Stephanie Screen, Project Officer from the NSW Department of Industry, the Macquarie Community College CareerPathways Program has been the most successful course yet, with the highest number and percentage of students graduating with their part qualification.
However, the women are not finished. Aziza, Olga and their cohort from the CareerPathways Program have decided to complete the full qualification together. They will fast track their Certificate III in Individual Support by using credits from their part qualification and come out with dual specialisations in aged care and disability care.
The icing on the cake is that they get to do it with their original trainer Jodi Crozier, who has 27 years of experience working in the disability sector and goes out of her way to make the course accessible. If they decide to do a Certificate IV in Disability, this is also taught by Jodi.
Their bond as a group is not unusual for students from Macquarie Community College, although this cohort is particularly close. Jodi says that she “hit the jackpot” with the women who are keen to learn and support each other while they meet the challenges head on.
“Today is the sort of day that makes my job fabulous,” said Theresa Collignon, CEO Macquarie Community College at the CareerPathways graduation ceremony. “It has been an honour and a pleasure to be involved with the program. At Macquarie Community College, we pride ourselves on making our students feel welcome, respected and supported. The students are amazing, they have been like sponges, soaking up all the learning.”
The CareerPathways Program is run by the Department of Family and Community Services in partnership with the Department of Industry and Training, for which Macquarie Community College is a training partner. CareerPathways helps social housing clients develop skills including literacy, numeracy and communication. It also helps participants with more practical aspects of gaining employment such as dressing for interviews, child care and travel.
Clients may receive subsidised training and help finding a job if they are:
· Living in public housing (owned and managed by the NSW Government)
· Living in community housing (owned and/or managed by community housing providers)
· Living in Aboriginal housing (owned and/or managed by the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) or Aboriginal Community Housing Providers)
· Homeless or receiving transitional or crisis accommodation or receiving supported accommodation through a specialist homelessness service
· Receiving private rental assistance funded by Family and Community Services (for example: private rental subsidy, rental bond loans, tenancy guarantees)
· On the NSW Housing waiting list