Giving young people the tools to find employment

Like many young people who seek refuge in Australia, Rahaf had to put her entire life on hold, including her medical degree. Rahaf was in her fifth and final year of study before she was forced to flee her home country of Syria and await a visa in Iraq.  

When Rahaf finally arrived in Australia, she was eager to get back to her studies but, unfortunately, would have had to restart her degree. At this point she decided to pursue a Degree in Biomedical Science at Deakin University instead. 

Rahaf, Employment Empowers participant

Through the help of AMES Australia, Rahaf and her siblings received the initial support that helped them settle and adapt to their new environment. When she relocated to Melbourne’s east, she kept an eye out for organisations in the area that could offer the education and employment support she needed to continue her studies.  

“I chose CMY and spoke with someone from the ENVISION program. They chatted to us via Zoom and referred me and my siblings to the Employment Empowers program,” Rahaf said.  

“CMY then offered me the opportunity to meet a (Employment Empowers) mentor, Peter, who is a Neurologist and had experience in the field.” 

Peter helped Rahaf refine her resume and offered tips on how to navigate the Australian employment and education system. 

Now in her final year of studies, Rahaf had been uncertain about the various avenues of post graduate study she could pursue and approached Peter for advice.  

“We went through each option and he told me what he knew about each one, and connected me with people in the industry (through Zoom meetings); like an occupational therapist and a professor in optometry,” Rahaf said.  

When asked about the meetings with Rahaf, Peter said, “when I organised a session to meet with a professor, Rahaf was leading the session with really good questions that I had not even thought of. I was meant to be facilitating the session but there was nothing for me to do, so it was amazing to see an individual with little experience, able to engage in such professional way. I learnt a lot and thought to myself, I’m going to ask these questions next time.”  

Through these new connections in the medical industry, Rahaf has been offered a placement opportunity at an asylum seeker clinic. Peter hopes this opportunity will allow Rahaf to gain experience in a top institute and provide her with the research element she is seeking.  

“A few personal highlights for me were seeing Rahaf push through the barriers like learning a new language and navigating the education system, and how much I have learnt about the many facets of what a young woman from Syria faces and the unique set of problems,” Peter said.  

As migrants themselves, Peter and his wife were well-aware of both the structural and systematic barriers young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds face in finding employment. When Peter and his wife realised they were in a period of their careers where they had time on their side, they explored their passion for helping young people and joined the Employment Empowers program as volunteer mentors.  

For anyone looking to become a volunteer mentor, Peter advises:  

“Empower the young person by listening to them and providing positive encouragement. Often people want to change the young person before them, but young people have a lot in them that is amazing. It’s about tailoring what you offer to their needs and journeying with them.” 

Although the year-long mentorship has now ended, Rahaf says Peter has offered to help with any queries she might have in the future. And for his “dedication and kindness”, Rahaf says she is very grateful.  

“CMY helped me in two aspects; finding casual work at IKEA and at the MPavilion through the Scarf training, and the Employment Empowers mentorship. So, I thank CMY and Peter. He really helped me a lot and helped me find what I want to do,” Rahaf said.  

Programs like Employment Empowers help connect young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds and empower them, so that they have meaningful opportunities to participate fully in society.  

For more information about the Employment Empowers program or to get involved, click here.