THE “LOCAL EXPERIENCE” DILEMNA

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By Nasr Mansour

(A revisit to an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald with the title “Why Migrants are asked for Local Experience in Australia”).

The author of “Land That Job in Australia”, Jim Bright, was recently asked in the Sydney Morning Herald why migrants are rejected for lack of local experience in Australia. His answer to that was “Migrants rejected for lacking local experience – they can fight back”.

Thanks Jim for the advice, but for an old warrior like me who is about to retire within a few years, I feel I am totally worn from long battles regarding the same. The big question is: “Why in the first place do they have to fight?”

For a person like me, a qualified civil engineer who was asked to submit long essays-like reports to the Institution of Engineers Australia – regardless of his certified qualifications – just to convince them that he was really an engineer and did not forge all his certificates and all of  that just for immigration purposes without any warranties ever to have a job of any kind in Australia. Is not that battling from first sight?

I am not sure if many  readers might be  interested to know a lot about my story, and that is absolutely understandable. For some, it may sound boring, for others it may seem irrelevant to them, but for clarity purposes, I find myself tempted to expand on that. It is something you can consider as struggling with life, for a civil engineer who graduated in 1981 with the public sector back in Egypt, considered for long time the work-horse of construction and building industries in Egypt (and generally in other middle east countries around it)  it was degrading at that time and the chance to be employed and relocate to rich oil countries in the gulf area was getting far less available and harder to find. The idea of migrating to countries like America, Canada, Europe or Australia looked appealing.

As circumstances kept getting tougher, immigration was considered the more logical solution to life’s problems. But that is only the start to the hard and long journey. After arriving Australia, and for many years now, applying for hundreds of positions in building and construction fields, I was never successful in grabbing that long waited job within my career as a civil engineer, only hitting the wall when, in the few interviews, the still-a-dilemma question remained: Do you have local experience?

(The original article continues) “This ‘local experience’ issue is one that cuts no mustard with Ailis Logan, who runs a Melbourne-based firm, Tribus Lingua, specialising in assisting skilled migrants. She says ‘even Bill Gates would get rejected for lack of local experience’. The thing is, would Bill Gates get rejected? Of course he would not, so what is really going on? What does it mean when someone says ‘lacking local experience’? Or, more pertinently, what kind of candidate would lack ‘local experience’? The answer is, of course, new migrants. In other words, when a recruiter or employer gives a lack of local experience as a reason for rejecting you, they are really saying you are being rejected because you are a foreigner. If the barrier is language, with a lot of persistence, a lot of immersion in the local language and community, and appropriate support, significant improvements can be made for motivated people”.

Again, the problem is not always with the language barrier, it is deeper. Sadly, most (formal) efforts are concentrating on routine documents and papers, more than the important stuff – the real jobs. Of course, not all employers and recruiters practice such discrimination, however we can not deny that the problem still exists. There is more cause for optimism in that there are specialist services that are dedicated to supporting and assisting people in this situation. The problem is, the concerned group – namely the new skilled migrants – might know nothing about it and even organisations that are paid by the government who are supposed to support skilled migrants in their journey to find jobs related to their experiences do not know either. Or worse – they do not care.

It appears there are many in the same situation, which is sad. Ironically there are people and services out there to assist with job-hunting for skilled migrants but they are for some reason not promoted to become visible by concerned group.

Have a similar story or a different opinion? Have your thoughts heard and read here on The Westsider Newspaper.

Do not give up, seek out support and, in time, you will find roles that are appropriate to your experience.

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