February has arrived in the blink of an eye, which means roads are packed again, children are back at school and everything seems to have quickly adjusted to the usual routine. At SSI, this means we’re already in full swing to continue supporting a wide range of vulnerable communities and face the new challenges 2017 is already presenting.
SSI acting CEO Peter Zographakis.
Over the last few weeks, international politics have hit the headlines with an unpleasant reminder of how important it is to continue working towards a more understanding world where populist measures based on hate and discrimination have no place.
We learned of the travel ban imposed by the US, which halted all refugee admissions and temporarily banned citizens from countries of Muslim majority like Iran, Iraq or Syria from entering the country.
Measures like this can be truly discouraging in a moment in history when support for refugees is needed more than ever as thousands of innocent people fleeing conflict and persecution need a safe place to call home.
At SSI we have been working with people of refugee and asylum seeker background for over 15 years and know very well that successful settlement starts with being welcomed and supported in the right way.
Of course, one of the key elements for a successful settlement is finding employment to lead an independent and fulfilling life. And sometimes this happens earlier than one might think. I’m thinking of people like Rahaf Alrifai , a recently-arrived Syrian mother of three who just five months after landing in Australia with her family on a humanitarian visa, started working as a data entry assistant at SSI Employment.
SSI Employment is a fast-growing program within our organisation that makes possible outcomes like Ms Alrifai’s and many others, through high-quality and innovative employment services for job seekers from any background. This achievement has been independently endorsed with SSI/CoAct’s JobActive recently recognised for the third trimester in a row with a five-star rating by the Department of Employment. Star ratings are used to assess a provider’s efficiency and effectiveness in placing job seekers into sustainable work.
Congratulations to the Employment team!
One of SSI’s Employment initiatives that has proved to be more successful and innovative are its social enterprises, which includes The Staples Bag, Humble Creatives and a hospitality program where participants can obtain first-hand experience in a professional kitchen. Each enterprise represents a different sector and requires a distinct set of skills, offering job seekers various options to gain work experience and improve their prospects of finding a job. So far, 300 people who have undertaken work experience with one of the SSI social enterprises have secured a job.
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of supporters and customers going to The Staples Bag Campsie store lately after being featured in the media for the great work it does in the community. If you haven’t come across them yet, don’t miss the stories aired on SBS World News, SBS Radio and SBS Radio Arabic.
Humble Creatives also made a splash on social media this month thanks to its new promotional video, which you can watch below.
The employment services for SSI clients or anyone in the community looking for a job don’t finish here. We are proud to announce that SSI Employment has recently started a new program, EmployAbility, which offers people with disability interested in obtaining relevant work experience the opportunity to access the job market. To prepare for EmployAbility, this month SSI Employment staff members have received disability awareness training by the Jeder Institute. EmployAbility also counts with the support of Ability Links NSW (ALNSW), which SSI has been delivering since 2014 with great results. Together, ALNSW and EmployAbility have already assisted 10 candidates to either find volunteering work, education or gain paid employment in January.
We’ve got more good news to deliver this month on the employment front. I’m thrilled to be able to share with you that we will soon start delivering another employment program to assist newly-arrived refugees who have professional or trade skills, or qualifications, once they can demonstrate English proficiency. Settlement Services Career Pathways will support participants to develop and pursue a career pathway plan to guide them in finding and securing meaningful employment opportunities that suit their pre-arrival work history, qualifications and skills. We’ll share more details about this program on the SSI News blog soon.
Meanwhile, I’m also pleased to report that the third cohort of SSI clients will be joining Allianz Australia as cadets in the next few weeks. This unique partnership between Allianz and SSI so far has seven cadets employed full-time with the insurance company, which has committed to offering permanent career placements for up to 20 cadets who came to Australia as refugees.
All the above shows that at SSI we believe employment is a fundamental step for any member of the community towards a life of independence and choice and this is why we are working hard to expand the diversity of employment programs and initiatives to cater for a range of people.
This is reflected in this month’s newsletter, where you’ll meet Virginia, a single mother who is now getting ready to get back to work through the ParentsNext program, as well as Sandy and Jorge from the Ignite Resource Team, which helps people of refugee background set up their own business. I hope you enjoy these good news stories.