21-year-old Elizabeth graduated from high school in 2014 and struggled to lock down a field of study or career she wanted to pursue.
She joined the Pathways program late last year to get a sense of direction and reach out to for help.
The program establishes employment and education pathways for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Pathways to Opportunity works in the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne. Pathways to Work focuses on the South Eastern side of Melbourne.
“Leaving school, I found it hard to figure out what I wanted to do. I found out about the program through my brother Josh,” she shares.
As a Pasifika young woman, Elizabeth felt that she lacked the confidence to seek out suitable opportunities and the necessary skills to be successful at them.
“I’m a shy person and I felt like people from my culture get lost and misguided and they don’t know how to look for opportunities or express themselves.”
“Through this program, I’ve realised that there are a lot more people like me and I’m not alone,” she says, “And that there’re people that care. They will spend time looking for traineeships or job opportunities for you.”
Currently, Elizabeth is doing a traineeship with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in Sunshine and hopes the skills she's learning will help her in future.
“I feel like I know what I want a bit more now. I’m getting to do tasks in areas I had no idea about and it builds my social skills as well,” she says.
“I know now what it’s like to be in a professional scenario and in a workplace situation. It has given me a new perspective on things.”
Elizabeth’s Pathways mentor Coco Qian has also gained a lot of confidence from watching the young woman's transformation.
“I was really empowered by the change in Elizabeth. When she first started the program, she felt like it was stupid,” says Coco.
“When here friends and brothers first saw her walk in to the program, she said that they thought it was a waste of time. But in six months, look at how much she’s grown!”
“She’s doing her work experience at a law firm. And now her friends all want to know how she got that job!”
But Coco takes no credit for Elizabeth’s success. Coco insists that she doesn’t “help” her mentee, she “supports her because Elizabeth is doing it all herself.”
“I support her with her resume, cover letter and we do mock interviews together,” she explains.
“Sometimes, she sends through some jobs she is interested in and I give her my feedback and suggestions. For example, I suggested that she get a Working With Children check since she wants to work with animals and young people.”
Coco and Elizabeth share a mutual respect and a special relationship that goes beyond that of a mentor and mentee.
“My mentor and I have conversations also,” shares Elizabeth, “I’ve learned to be mature from her perspective and she’s learned to think like a young person as well.”
While Coco feels that they “get along very well. Sometimes we meet up at the library in the city and talk about random things like values and beliefs.”
Both agree that Pathways is a great place for young people to build their personal and professional networks.
“I’ve become close friends with other young people in the program,” shares Elizabeth.
“The workshops are not just about building skills, it’s also a community engagement tool. They bring people from different communities and backgrounds together,” says Coco.
“I’ve seen young people feel really confident talking to each other because they feel like they’re from the same community. They can develop relationships straight away.”
“It’s a good opportunity to develop work-related skills and peer connections. They also learn about fair work and entitlements they have.”
To become a mentor or to refer a young person to the Pathways programs, visit www.cmy.net.au/pathways