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15 Sep 2016


Mentoring helps young refugee overcome career obstacles

Diana is an experienced teacher providing mentoring to Bpi.

Bpi is currently working in a restaurant while he finishes high school, but his ultimate goal is to be a teacher – something he believes could be difficult to achieve.

The 22-year-old is hardworking, community minded and, on paper, the ideal candidate for a teaching role. But he’s also facing challenges that some of his peers aren’t.

Originally from Burma, Bpi is from the Karen minority and has only been living in Australia for two years, prior to which he lived in a refugee camp in Thailand. Even at that point, however, Bpi was working towards his goal, giving basic lessons in English and maths to other young Karen children in the camp.

“We have very low levels of English in my country, so to teach English is very hard,” he said. “I hope that one day I have good English and can go back to where I came from and teach children. I want to help other people as much as I can.”

“I also want to have a really good future here. I’m going to be compared to other people, so I need more support, for English especially.”

Enter SSI’s Youth@Work program – an innovative initiative that connects young workers of refugee or migrant background with mentors who can support them to reach their employment goals.

Bpi’s mentor, Diana, is an experienced teaching professional who is able to answer his questions, offer career advice and generally support him in his quest to become a teacher.

“Diana has very good experience because she’s taught international students for decades,” Bpi said. “She told me about teachers’ aides, which I hadn’t heard of. So I might try to be a teacher’s aide first and then get fully qualified to become a teacher.”

In addition to helping Bpi reach his long-term goals, Diana is also assisting with his more immediate needs, including homework support and helping him to improve his English language skills.

Under the Youth@Work program – which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Employment as part of the Empowering YOUth Initiatives – the duo will work together for up to six months to ensure Bpi has the tools to retain his current job and work towards his career goals.

“Being mentored means I’m getting help to overcome my employment challenges and to reach my future career goals. I think it’s invaluable to receive support from an experienced person,” he said.

Youth@Work is currently looking for more young people of refugee or migrant background who are interested in getting one-on-one support and advice to help them to reach their employment goals. Full details are at the link below:

SSI Youth@Work

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