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​​The professional qualifications of migrants and refugees arriving in Australia are often buried by the obstacles that come with settling in a new country. EWB’s NSW Chapter and Metro Assist are creating opportunities to address these challenges.

English as a foreign language, and differing industry regulations create a daunting barrier to finding employment in Australia. In 2018, EWB’s NSW Chapter partnered with Metro Assist, a community organisation that provides a range of services to support migrants and refugees settling in NSW. Their services include migrant settlement, family support, early intervention, and emergency relief. The NSW Chapter is working with Metro Assist’s SkillME Program to support migrants and refugees with engineering and IT backgrounds to find employment in Australia. This support involves industry mentoring, information packages and workshops. Participants come from many different countries including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria, Colombia and China.

Supporting international talent

Jonathan Posniak is an EWB volunteer and coordinator of the SkillME partnership with Metro Assist. For his day job, Jonathan is a mechanical engineer for Nous Group in Sydney. Jonathan began volunteering at EWB to use his professional skills to improve the lives of others. Jonathan coordinates EWB NSW’s partnership with SkillME via a mentorship program that assists participants navigate their job search in Australia. Alongside mentorship, participants receive industry information pamphlets and tips from HR representatives of engineering firms.

“The mentorship program provides participants with moral support and encouragement during the application process. It can be very challenging for a person to apply for these jobs and get lots of rejections,” says Jonathan. “This can have a big impact on self-worth, so the mentors are there to be a sounding board and help them through the process.”

The mentorship program

The EWB NSW Chapter sources mentors from engineering and IT firms, who individually support a participant for three months. The mentors chat weekly with participants to educate and provide feedback on their application process. Furthermore, mentors gain experience working in a pro-bono environment and see the impact that their work can have at a community level.  The program runs four cycles each year, with 14 mentors and 24 mentees partaking in the program since 2018. There have been some unforeseen benefits of the program that Jonathan didn’t envision when it started.

“Within the mentoring program we developed a mentoring manual to provide mentors information for best practice,” explains Jonathan. “The volunteers of these projects were primarily migrants and refugees, which developed their knowledge of the field and gave them local experience to put on their CV.”

Moustafa’s story

Moustafa Al Esali has now landed his dream job

Moustafa Al Esali grew up in Syria. Where many Australian high school graduates move onto university studies nearby home, Moustafa’s school graduation coincided with the beginning of the Syrian war.

“I wanted a safe place to live, rather than waking up to the war in Syria,” says Moustafa. “Electricity was out for 20 hours of the day, and we couldn’t use a generator in fear they would bomb our house.”

Always maintaining his appetite to study, even when restricted to candlelight, Moustafa fled to Malaysia in 2012. Moustafa studied the Bachelor of Civil Engineering at the University of Malaysia Perlis. Completing the degree in 2017, he moved to Australia on a recognised graduate visa in 2018.

“I knew of Australia’s excellent quality of life index, healthy economy and beautiful warm weather.”

Moustafa fell in love with Sydney instantly, making friends quickly whilst learning more about Australia and his new local neighbourhood. However, he faced difficulties in his job search as a fresh engineering graduate.

“It was hard to find an engineering job because my visa conditions did not include permanent residency,” explains Moustafa. “I did not have local experience or understanding of the market, which is a big thing when it comes to finding a job in Australia.”

In his persistent job search, Moustafa found the SkillME website. Soon after, Moustafa began the three-month EWB mentorship program under the guidance of an engineer, Yingying.

“Yingying’s guidance developed my understanding of the Australian market and the job application process,” explains Moustafa. “I learnt how to write a resume and cover letter based on Australian standards.”

The support boosted Moustafa’s confidence in job interviews and responding to frequently asked questions.

“Yingying was very helpful and understanding. I hope she is reading this to say thank you again!”

Upon completion of the program, Moustafa participated in TAFE Digital’s SkillMax program. The program gave Moustafa the chance to meet people from different cultures and share their employment experiences. Participants also practiced mock job interviews and phone call etiquette, and spoke with recruiters. Moustafa’s participation in SkillME and SkillMax assisted him in securing an internship at Sydney-based contracting company, Fortis Group PTY LTD. As Moustafa finds his feet in the Australian engineering industry, his long-term vision highlights an inspiring drive to improve the lives of others. 

“My dream job is working for one of the biggest international civil engineering companies in the world,” says Moustafa. “I would like to contribute to the most iconic projects to shape a better world around us.”

Alongside career aspirations, Moustafa equally wishes to use his knowledge to support the repair of Syria.

“One of the main reasons I studied civil engineering was my complete fascination with ancient Roman monuments that stand to this day.”

Currently, Moustafa is settled in Australia, yet he will always have a yearning to travel back and support his home country. “Hopefully one day I can be part of the rebuild of my beautiful country Syria. However, for now, I plan to stay and work in Australia as this country has given me a great opportunity, new life and lots of hope.

Update from Moustafa:

“On the 11th of October, 2021 my job search journey came to an end and I landed my dream job at SMEC Australia. I felt very welcomed from the very first interview. My team is very helpful, they always answer my questions with the same enthusiasm whether it is my first or tenth question of the day. It is a great workplace with lots of interesting projects going on around the country. A big thanks to my managers Andrew Pettig & Rob Lee and my team leader David Sananikone for their outstanding help and endless support. It has been a great ride so far and I am so excited to see what the future holds to me within SMEC!”

EWB and SkillME maintain a strong partnership that will continue to support and promote the professional skills of migrants living in Australia. The mentorship program will continue to unveil new engineering talent and provide a fulfilling experience for mentors in the program. To become a mentor, keep an eye out through Engineers Without Borders NSW Chapter for updates on mentorship openings that occur several times a year.