The following article has been sourced from ABC News.

The influx of Australians joining unemployment queues during the coronavirus pandemic has deepened the crisis faced by overseas migrants already struggling to find work in their chosen professions. Iraqi migrant Rabar Banaa moved to Perth in 2018 with his wife and children in search of new opportunities and a better future. Since moving to Perth, the 41-year-old has taken up rideshare driving to earn a living and pay his bills, while he looks for a job in his field. With 15 years of experience as a mechanical engineer under his belt — as well as a masters degree in environmental engineering from Queensland’s Griffith University — he didn’t think it would take long to find a stable position.

“My hope was to get a better job and develop my skills, to have an Australian experience. That was my hope when I came to Perth,” Mr Banaa said. But after almost two years and more than 100 job applications, he’s still had no luck. On average, maybe two or three jobs a week since I have been here, but I didn’t get an opportunity to the next step for the interview,” Mr Banaa said.

“It’s frustrating when you don’t get a reply from the job you have applied [for] … it’s a little bit annoying because you don’t know what’s the reason?

“Sometimes it makes you want to give up, but in my mind, I’m always thinking ‘I’m not giving up until I get the job’,” he said.

Breaking down ‘simple barriers’

It’s a common struggle migrants face across the country and for many, it can seem like a never-ending cycle of disappointment. But it’s not all bad news for jobseekers with overseas experience. The Kaleidoscope Mentoring Program matches skilled migrants with a mentor in their chosen field to help them navigate the job-hunting process during a three-month cycle. It is funded by the federal and state governments and is run by the City of Stirling and City of Canning, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre.

City of Stirling Mayor Mark Irwin said it was about getting underemployed or unemployed migrants into their field of expertise, to better utilise their skills.

“The idea of the program is not for the mentor to find the mentee a job, but to provide that real ‘on the job’ training,” Mr Irwin said.

“At the end of the mentoring process, the mentees do a job readiness program as well, and a lot of that is about the cultural differences in understanding workplace culture, building networks in Perth or Western Australia in their industry, which they might not normally have access to. So a lot of the time, it can be simple barriers in migrants not understanding how our interview process works”.

“The key to this program is to find someone employment in a field that they’ve got the expertise in.

“So rather than a doctor coming from Iraq working as an Uber driver, they’ll actually find real employment in the medical field.”

First interview leads to job

Mother-of-three Gauri Thanasingam immigrated to Perth from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in December 2018.

“It was mainly for my children’s education … and I think what we wanted was a more well-rounded education for our kids — and options as well — and Australia provides that for them,” Ms Thanasingam said.

Ms Thanasingam has more than 12 years’ experience in marketing and running her own business, along with about eight years in the IT industry.

She recalls her main hurdles to finding employment were grasping the Australian culture and understanding local expectations.

When she stumbled upon the Kaleidoscope program, however, she finally had a mentor to walk her through the process.

“I thought it would be a bit tricky and challenging because one is the difference in the culture, two is my age, three, I had quite a high position before coming here … so I didn’t think it was going to be easy to get a job.

“Everything I learned from that process actually helped me get my first job via my first application and first interview, so it’s actually been quite smooth for me personally.

“I was connected to people in the industry, and that’s something you can’t do on your own … in a place where you have no connections and no idea what the expectations are, it can be quite daunting.

“So going through this program, it not only set me in the right direction, but gave me the confidence, actually.”

Demand to rise amid coronavirus

Experts believe an increasing number of qualified migrants will need similar support as they compete for jobs in the crowded COVID-19 economy.

Edmund Rice Centre chief executive Natasha Kusmuk said Australian workforces should leverage the skills and potential brought by professional migrants with years of experience and education.

“When migrants come to Australia, the first priority for them and their family is to find employment,” Ms Kusmuk said.

“Obviously if they’ve got qualifications from their home country — whether they’re very skilled in those areas, like medical or sciences, potentially lawyers, accountants — it certainly means a lot for them to go back to what they know and what they’re skilled at and passionate about.

“There is a lot of benefit to employing migrants in those areas they are skilled at, and certainly it fills the holes of skills that we don’t have here in Australia. “One of the other benefits migrants do add to our economy is, of course, that diversity that makes us competitive on a world stage.”

Ms Kusmuk said she wanted to see governments support and place more funding into similar services.

“If we taught ourselves anything during [the coronavirus pandemic, it is that] we should change the way we work, the way we think in terms of running business and delivering services, and I think programs like Kaleidoscope certainly do that for us,” she said.

“I think state and federal governments need to look at the issues that are on a local level.

“I think to fix problems, we need to use local solutions and I think migrants do add a lot of value to us and our community and our service platforms.”

A value many experts believe the Australian economy is missing out on.

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