African Australian Inclusion Program – A Jesuit Social Services program to provide employment and work experience opportunities for African Australians.
The African Australian Inclusion Program (AAIP) is part of Jesuit Social Services’ (JSS) Workplace Inclusion Program and is aimed at professional tertiary-qualified African Australians. AAIP provides six months paid corporate work experience to participants. The aims of the AAIP are to provide both employment and work experience opportunities for African Australians as well as development and culture-building outcomes for company staff. The AAIP began in 2009 as a partnership between JSS and the National Australia Bank (NAB) and now has programs operating in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Hobart.
107 people from a range of African communities have participated in the program to date. The program targets tertiary-qualified job seekers from African backgrounds.
Research suggests that refugee and humanitarian entrants face a range of employment barriers, including: lack of Australian work experience, lack of recognition of overseas qualifications and experience, lack of familiarity with Australian workplace cultural expectations and norms, language barriers and racism and discrimination.
Many refugee and humanitarian entrants are highly skilled professionals who have extensive overseas work experience but face significant challenges entering the Australian labour force. Others have gained tertiary qualifications in Australia but still face employment barriers.
Providing opportunities for work experience placements that support both the prospective employee and the prospective employer can facilitate shared understanding and overcome some of the barriers to employment.
The focus of the African Australian Inclusion Program is developmental. The program aims to meet its overall objective by providing participants with an intensive program of learning and experiences within the workplace so that participants are more likely and more ready to access employment opportunities in the broader Australian labour market. (This focus does not preclude the option of ongoing employment with the company, but ongoing employment is not the intent of the work experience program.)
The program is funded through a service fee paid by companies involved.
AAIP has been co-developed within NAB and has now started to expand to include new companies.
The AAIP model provides development opportunities for company staff such as mentor and coaching roles as well as staff awareness training that creates a supportive environment for participants.
The AAIP application process is considered a development opportunity for all applicants in terms of building job search skills and gaining a stronger understanding of what Australian employers are looking for. Some participants have had their first ever interview or first interview in Australia through the AAIP. Participants can learn from the experience and apply what they have learnt for future applications and interviews. On the flip side, company staff have an opportunity to understand some of the barriers new Australians face in seeking work in their chosen profession.
This has resulted in a shift in thinking and a broader mindset when reviewing criteria for a role.
Successful applicants undergo pre-placement training to help them understand the culture of Australian workplaces as well as the specific culture of the company they are placed with. This leads to participants being highly supported especially through the initial couple of months of the work experience. Successful participants are keen to prove themselves during their work experience and give their very best work performance.
During the placement, participants are provided opportunities to develop networking skills and attend other development opportunities (e.g. resume building).
86% of participants have gone on to gain ongoing employment with the work experience company or other organisations.
AAIP has grown since its initial inception with many people contributing (participants, company staff and community members) to the program which continues to evolve and adapt from constant reviews and process improvements.
- Managing a range of expectations from applicants, participants, staff and community members.
- Communicating the program to as many African communities and individuals as possible in different cities around Australia as the program expands.
- Creating clear communication to help people navigate the application process and encourage resilience to keep trying if they are unsuccessful in gaining a placement in a highly competitive program.
- Assisting people through a very rigorous probity process that can take over six weeks to complete. This can cause anxiety which we try and support people through.
- Creating a supportive relationship with key company staff and participants who are assisted if any concerns arise.
- Ensuring participants understand that company policy and rules are not optional and have serious consequences if breached.
Advice for others
- Consult with employer organisations, people from the program target demographic and community members who can help develop a relevant program and who can help you get things done quickly.
- Listen to different ideas but keep your eye on the bigger picture. Be flexible and open to constructive feedback which will allow you to evolve and improve your program.
- Do not lose sight of who you are helping.
- Accept the challenges, overcome the barriers and keep moving forward.