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01 Aug 2016


Former refugees building careers and friendship through apprenticeship scheme

Nawar Hanna and Nader Sameer on the job with Austral Bricks.

Mr Sameer and Mr Hanna were at different stages of their careers before their lives were touched by the unrest in Iraq which forced them to flee their home country.

At just 19 years of age, Mr Hanna had recently finished school, while Mr Sameer, 39, had been working in the construction industry for decades as an electrician and bricklayer before arriving in Australia with his wife and two children.

The pair had not crossed paths before arriving in Australia, and yet their friendship blossomed within weeks of starting bricklaying apprenticeships with the support of Austral Bricks and the Australian Brick & Blocklaying Training Foundation (ABBTF).

“We probably wouldn’t have met or become friends in Iraq, but here in Australia things are different,” Mr Sameer said. “We have become good friends.”

Several newly arrived refugees are currently completing paid apprenticeships and a number of new arrivals have secured full-time work as part of a joint venture between SSI, Austral Bricks and the ABBTF.

The venture, which will help new arrivals establish a career and fill a chronic skills shortage in the bricklaying industry, will also position refugees to establish their own construction businesses within just four years.

It’s a prospect that appeals to new arrivals such as Mr Sameer and Mr Hanna, who are looking to develop skills to take their careers to the next level.

“I have always enjoyed building things and I’d really like to get my building licence and open my own business,” Mr Sameer said. “Maybe we will go into business together.”

SSI Manager Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) Yamamah Agha said employment and training pathways were a crucial part of the re-settlement journey for refugees, who are often highly skilled and keen to work in Australia.

“Gaining stable, meaningful work is often the first priority for new arrivals, but language barriers and limited local work experience means this doesn’t necessarily lead to employment,” Ms Agha said.

“Refugees bring a wealth of experience and skills to Australia, and connecting new arrivals with job opportunities allows them to realise their potential and become socially and financially independent in Australia.

“This has a dramatic impact on refugees’ quality of life and allows them to look to the future rather than being overwhelmed by the unfortunate circumstances that brought them to Australia.”

SSI’s HSS program provides new arrivals with employment support including workshops on resume writing and presentation skills to help clients better understand expectations and cultural practices in the workplace.

SSI also partners with a number of private and public organisations to connect new arrivals with meaningful employment opportunities in Australia. 

“We know that employment holds the key to refugees’ future success in life, and we go to every effort to help connect refugees with employment and training opportunities that will give them the best start to life here in Australia,” Ms Agha said.

SSI Humanitarian Settlement Services

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