Kazi Connect breaking down barriers

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Helping others: Furaha Baguma facilitated in helping Kazi Connect participants gain employment.

Shepparton program Kazi Connect is working to combat barriers surrounding former refugees accessing employment.

Sixty-eight people took part in the four-month program run through St Paul’s African House and by Friday, June 24, 21 Kazi Connect participants had gained employment.

Employment facilitator Furaha Baguma delivered elements of the program weekly to the group of adults.

“People are really grateful ... for some for them, they’ve been looking for work for two years since they came here, but when they came to Kazi Connect it was all just very quick,” she said.

Ms Baguma said while the results were impressive, many participants still faced a “major problem” in obtaining and maintaining employment.

“There were some challenges for people with lower English skills,” she said.

“Three people were employed then asked to leave to improve their English.”

Over the four months of meeting twice a week, the program helped in creating and touching up resumes, building communication skills, navigating employment systems and connecting people with employers.

It comes in response to last year’s African House’s African Focus Community Survey which outlined paid employment as being a “significant issue” for people of African heritage in Greater Shepparton.

The program specifically focused on one of the largest barriers — language difficulties.

While refugees are offered free English courses in Australia, Kazi Connect participants expressed a disconnect in learning.

Ms Baguma said St Paul’s African House was hoping to facilitate classes, making the classes more accessible by having tutors who were fluent in both Swahili and English.

“It’s an issue of people having different ways of learning as an adult,” she said.

They found many participants had previously completed study in their home country, and while the skills aligned with available jobs, the specific qualifications didn’t.

“The country that the refugees have fled to, the UN and NGOs have come in and establishing training programs,” Kazi Connect employment facilitator Lorna Gillespie said.

“But they may have a four-year training program that’s a combination of, say automotive and electrical, whereas that doesn't transfer to the Australian apprenticeship of one either automotive or electrical four years’ apprenticeship.”

Ms Gillespie said participants were grateful to have a place they could seek assistance with employment matters in a way that was understandable.

“I think many have gained confidence and greater awareness of the process and procedure in applying for employment within the Australian context,” she said.

“There's been a steep learning curve I imagine, in understanding the Australian process because people come from a country where it's vastly different.

“They arrive in Australia, they go and work in agriculture or horticulture where there are minimal procedural requirements and now, this program has assisted them to develop a greater understanding of everyday employment processes.

“But that has been difficult, because all of those processes and procedures are in English and they are lengthy complex documents that need to be explained in an understandable way.”

Ms Gillespie said while the program was short lived, it gave participants a glimmer of hope.

The initiative was funded by the Scanlon Foundation with the support of the Greater Shepparton Foundation.