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Saturday, 20 December 2014 09:56 am

Migrants to lose valuable help for transition into Kiwi life

SKILLED migrants from all over the globe may be disadvantaged when seeking jobs in New Zealand, due to potential funding cuts to Victoria University’s Skilled Migrant Programme.

The SMP helps capable people, usually with a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree, who come to work in New Zealand, but fail to secure jobs because they find it hard communicate with New Zealand employers, due to language barriers.

However, the programme is now under threat as the Ministry of Social Development plans to withdraw its funding in order to focus on its Work and Income New Zealand clients.

SMP programme director Angela Joe says this will not help skilled migrants.

“Many of our clients currently are not WINZ clients because they haven’t been here for long enough,” she says.

“Essentially what happens is you come in and you have a two year period where you can’t claim any benefits.”

The MSD says it needs to focus on its own clients, who may not have the same level of qualification as typical SMP participants.

“Typically participants in the programme are highly skilled migrants, and have not been in receipt of a benefit,” says regional commissioner Louise Waaka of Work and Income, Wellington Region.

“From 2013 Work and Income will no longer be allocating funding for this programme, as we focus on [our own] client groups that require the most support and intervention.”

Dr Joe says the aim of the Skilled Migrant programme is to help migrants into work before they have been here for two years, so they do not need to become beneficiaries of the New Zealand government.

“174 people [helped by SMP] into work means that they’re not drawing on the government subsidy,” Dr Joe says.

The idea for SMP came when the 2001 census discovered there were a number of skilled migrants coming into New Zealand, but they were not getting employment.

“It’s part of the settlement strategy to assist migrants into employment to help them settle into New Zealand,” says Dr Joe.

The programme has run for seven years, with funding from the Ministry of Social Development and until 2010, also from the Tertiary Education Commission.

The course takes place over 12 weeks, six of which are in a classroom, and six of which are spent on placement in the workforce, with the MSD funding the workplace component.

Of the 174 participants to date, the programme has helped 75-80% of these migrants into jobs, Dr Joe says.

Hélène Tixier (above right), who completed the programme last semester, says the course helped her to gain a contract with the New Zealand Red Cross, as a communications consultant.

“I now feel much more prepared to make the most of my new life here,” she said in a speech to the Rotary Club. “I want to make a positive contribution to New Zealand.”

Miss Tixier says the work placement component of the course helped her to get the job with the Red Cross.

“I was very fortunate during my internship as I had the opportunity to work for the New Zealand Red Cross in the earthquake recovery team. I worked for a web project to launch a new website dedicated to young people,” she said.

The programme is partnered with the Rotary Club of Wellington, which is trying to seek funding from elsewhere, but if they are not successful, it will not be able to go ahead next year.

Ms Waaka says that there are currently around 1,300 migrants across the country participating in 19 different services which assist WINZ migrant clients to move into employment, and WINZ will be continuing funding for these programmes.

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