From food vans to IT: New program creates fresh opportunities for refugees

Refugees have been given an opportunity to earn money while working towards career paths from serving up delicious eats at food vans to getting a foot in the door in the IT industry.

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Syrian refugee Nihal Al-Abdullah was a teacher before war brought her to Australia.

Now she works as a research assistant and renews her qualifications.

“I can do something, that’s what I need. I can do something and I can back to Australia,” Ms Al-Abdullah said.

Most humanitarian settlers from Syria and Iraq are highly skilled professionals with backgrounds in IT, engineering and academia.

IT consultant Bariq Zainal was cut adrift from his career as an IT consultant by violence in Iraq.

“The second week I met a pathway advisor (and) she advised me to take study, like a diploma in IT for short term,” he said.

Just six months later, he was hired at a technology firm in Sydney.

The career pathways program is being trialled over three years across six Australian capital cities.

“Sometimes they need some sort of intermediary type career that is some kind of stepping stone to get their dream job,” Settlement Services International’s Terry Wilson said.

Assistant Social Services Minister Zed Seselja told SBS World News the program is just one example of how refugees are being enabled in modern Australia.

“It’s about direct support for humanitarian entrants so they can have the best opportunities to use their skills and to find jobs that are applicable and that they’re qualified for,” he said.

Mr Zainal agreed.

“I am like an independent person now, I can depend on my own. So this is very good, very good for me.”