Sat, Apr 15, 2017 - Page 9 News List

‘People just want a chance’: An Australian network connects refugees with jobs

Nirary Dacho cofounded Refugee Talent after fleeing war-torn Syria and now matches skilled refugees with prospective employers in Australia

By Ben Doherty  /  The Guardian

Illustration: Lance Liu

By about the 100th job application he had sent off, Nirary Dacho had lost count — and all his confidence.

“It was very hard on me,” the 29-year-old Assyrian said. “Initially I was very confident, but after 10, 20 applications with no response, I began to think: ‘No one will employ me.’”

Dacho had arrived in Australia in June 2015 as a refugee from war-torn Syria, accepted for resettlement with his family as part of Australia’s humanitarian migration scheme.

Like so many others before and since, he had fled the conflict in Syria, which has driven more than 5 million people from the country, which this month descended again into the horrors of illegal chemical warfare.

One of the lucky ones who got out, Australia gave Dacho a chance to rebuild his life. He would begin by restarting his career.

Dacho was initially confident work would find him. He believed he had everything a prospective employer could want. He was qualified, with a master’s degree in Web science, he had strong English and a proven track record in his industry — eight years working in IT with multinational companies and teaching programming at a university in his homeland. He had even found work in Lebanon, to which he had initially fled.

“I thought it would be easy, I thought I would be a strong candidate, but I found it very difficult and it was very hard for me,” Dacho said.

What Dacho realized he lacked was not the skills, but the network, the linkages and connections, often informal and sometimes almost unrealized, that form part of the job-seeking process.

So Dacho decided to build the network.

After an appearance on the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Lateline — for a segment about the challenges faced by refugees finding work — Dacho was immediately overwhelmed with 10 job offers and he realized there was a wealth of goodwill toward refugees within the Australian business community; employers anxious to hire new humanitarian arrivals, but who had difficulty in finding them.

At a networking event for refugees with IT skills, Dacho met Anna Robson, a former Save the Children worker on Nauru who says her time on the offshore detention island showed her the psychological damage of people’s “talent being wasted” when refugees were keen, even anxious, to work, but were unable to find a meaningful outlet for their skills.

Together, and with the benefaction of Vantage Asia Holdings chairman Jason Yat-Sen Li (李逸仙), Robson and Dacho created Refugee Talent, a Web platform that matches refugees seeking work with employers seeking qualified employees and keen to hire a refugee.

“People just want a chance to work, to use their skills and this is a way we match them to business who are looking for people like them: who are innovative, entrepreneurial and motivated,” Robson said.

The site has found an immediate audience: More than 500 candidates and 150 potential employers are registered. Refugee Talent has helped place men and women from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan and Nepal into work.

Employers are able to search candidates’ CVs by industry, qualification and location. Refugees looking for work are able to search available jobs in their field, state and city.

Refugee Talent also runs “speed-dating events” for prospective employers and employees, workshops to help prepare refugees for entry into the workplace — everything from help writing a resume to practice job interviews — and provides post-placement support for those hired for 18 months.

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