People who have fled war and persecution and found refuge in New Zealand often want to return to their new homeland because of the help they receive.
They may want to change direction from their previous jobs for this, says Claire Speed, New Zealand Red Cross Roads Employment Manager in Dunedin.
“Some people want to change direction and give back to the community because of all the people who have helped them.”
Former refugees can do this by finding work in health care, community development or social services.
When Claire worked in Auckland, she noticed that many young former refugees were excited about the training and opportunities available in their new country.
They often want to find work to help others, including those with migrant and refugee backgrounds.
“Sometimes the experiences that people have had themselves can change their motivation.”
Refugees escaped war, persecution or oppression. Those starting a new life in New Zealand come from countries including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Colombia, Bhutan, Burma, Eritrea, South Sudan and Afghanistan.
Claire is inspired by how, despite significant challenges, they remain hopeful, positive and eager to take care of their families.
The people we work with are incredibly resilient,” he says.
“They are amazing, capable and strong.”
Path to employment
The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) funds the Pathways to Employment program, which supports people of refugee origin on the path to employment in New Zealand.
It operates 13 locations from Auckland to Invercargill.
Most participants receive jobseeker or sole parent support. Some have only lived here for six months and want to start full-time studies or paid work.
Others may first need a year or two to learn English and settle their families, including settling children into school.
“The aim is to support people towards self-sufficiency and help them understand their options, short-term or long-term,” explains Claire.
This may mean retraining in a new area or gaining qualifications to support the skills they already have.
For example, a teacher, doctor, nurse or midwife may have years of experience, but professional bodies in New Zealand may not recognize their qualifications.
A novice may be a lawyer, but will not be able to practice here because of the different legal system.
Builders may not be familiar with our building materials, techniques and legislation. Many Syrians are stonemasons, with different skills and styles than those used here, he says.
Although they are highly skilled, they may need support to gain a New Zealand qualification or initially work as an apprentice.
Claire shows how language can be another barrier.
“If we went to war tomorrow and I had to flee to another country that speaks a different language … I wouldn’t be able to do the same job.”
Some arrivals speak minimal English, while others possess English skills.
Across Aotearoa, Pathways to Employment partners with employers who are open to hiring job seekers. program always Looking for more employers.
Pathways teams help former refugees with resume and interview preparation and how to understand New Zealand recruitment processes and workplace expectations.
Cross-cultural staff bridge cultural and language barriers and translate induction courses or specialized training.
Claire notes that people from refugee backgrounds often have a strong work ethic and add value to teams.
These latter Kiwis now work in a range of fields including: IT, engineering, hospitality, healthcare, retail, social work, administration, hairdressing and other professions, or as bilingual teaching assistants.
Nationwide, from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, Pathways to Employment assisted 552 new clients.
Of these, 142 are now employed for more than 15 hours per week, so are no longer MSD beneficiaries.
A further 87 worked 91 days or more in their new job, 67 worked 182 days or more, 29 started full-time studies and 144 took further training.
Before they became refugees, Claire says, many people worked for many years, built their own homes and started businesses.
Employment in New Zealand is really important to their sense of identity, settlement and connection.
“It’s such a big part of people’s identity that you do it for a living,” he says.
“It can make a big difference in being at home, feeling safe to belong and contributing to society.”
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For additional information:
about Ways of employment
about Refugees in New Zealand
Nedal Ebrahimi story
A new Kiwi finds his way back
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