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Recession is not only barrier for migrants looking for jobs

Mar 2nd, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Features, Front Page Layout

The combination of migration and recession is making it harder for new Kiwis to find work, reports NICOLE BENNIK:

SOMETIMES when potential employers see Leah Seno’s face she can sense there is prejudice.

Migrant Leah Seno takes notes during a Settlement Support seminar.

Like migrant friends, she has spent months looking for full time employment and struggles to get past the interview stage.

Leah has qualifications and years of experience behind her in human relations and remains optimistic that she will find employment, despite the recession’s effects on the job climate.

Transitioning from a student visa to a work visa has also proved an obstacle in her job hunt.

Migrants are allowed to work part-time on a student visa, but Leah feels most employers are put off by her current situation.

“Most employers would prefer someone with a proper work permit or somebody with New Zealand residency or citizenship. So that really eliminates me automatically from the pool of applicants”.

She hopes when she gets her work visa in a few months her job search will get easier.

Government-funded Settlement Support has been running workshops to offer advice to migrants like Leah, who feel they are being disadvantaged because of their lack of kiwi experience.

The popularity of workforce seminars for migrants has soared because the recession, says Settlement Support co-ordinator Vesna West.

“We get a lot of enquires about our employment seminars because of the recession. There are not so many jobs available to people.

“They are so popular we had to repeat them.”

The workshops teach how to write a New Zealand-style cover letter and CV, Kiwi work values and cultural awareness, how the tax system works and strategies for finding a job.

Minister of Immigration Jonathan Coleman revealed at a recent Pathways conference that one in four New Zealanders was born overseas.

“Immigration is vital to New Zealand,” he says. “If we stopped immigration now, the New Zealand economy would be 10 per cent slower in 10 years.”

If they can find work, migrants are finding the New Zealand workplace differs to what they are used to at home.

The career services website outlines some New Zealand practices in the workplace that may differ to foreign countries.

Co-workers and supervisors address each other, women work alongside men, and dress codes can be less formal.

There is a minimum wage of $13 in New Zealand and all workers are entitled to a set amount of paid leave, rights that do not apply internationally.

Because of the recession, there is a strong competition in the job market and some employers have been favouring New Zealand residents over migrants.

Some migrants feel their overseas employment history is being dismissed as Kiwi employers are favouring people with experience in the New Zealand workplace and have little understanding about overseas companies.

JOB BRAINSTORMING: Career consultant Jane Orsman brainstorms ideas during a job search seminar.

“They are finding there are barriers towards recognition toward the work that they have been doing previously and their referees,” says career consultant Jane Orsman.

“They are at a lower rung of a ladder in terms of their opportunities.

“We’ve got young New Zealanders returning from overseas, who have been made redundant in the countries they have been working in and there’s less positions in certain areas.”

A large proportion of jobs are found through social networking, and Ms Orsman encourages new migrants to join sports groups, social activities and volunteer groups to build a list of contacts for possible job opportunities.

“If you are new, you’re starting from scratch,” she says.

“You need to start building that up, and that requires a lot of confidence. People are thinking they will come [and] find work and it doesn’t take long before their confidence is knocked. So going out there to meet new people is a brave step.

“What we (Career services) are saying to everybody out there with the tight market, is to use your networks, use your contacts.”

Pauline Harper, co-manager of Volunteer Wellington, agrees that volunteering is a good way to develop skills and contacts to get into the workforce.

“It’s the best,” she says. “It is a brilliant way to meet people and specify what kind of role you want. It is real work, but more flexible.”

Volunteer Wellington works with more than 400 organisations in the community with roles to suit people from all backgrounds.

Pauline describes volunteer work as a first step into the work force and says the main reason migrants get involved is to feel  they belong.

Last year, the organisation helped people from 80 different ethnic backgrounds get involved and in doing so provided references and experience for those seeking fulltime employment in New Zealand.

There have been many success stories from Volunteer Wellington, where migrants have used the organisation to help get a job.

Mrs Harper recalls a young Chinese migrant who had no work experience until she began volunteering. Her job hunt lasted a couple of years, but she now works in a government role.

Most people who volunteer not only gain skills, experience and contacts, but their confidence increases, as well, she says.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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