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Youth Employment Forum

Youth Employment Forum – A Multicultural Development Agency initiative to enable young people of refugee background to meet, learn from and build connections with employers.


In November 2012, Multicultural Development Agency (MDA) in Brisbane developed and ran a Youth Employment Forum. The forum created an opportunity for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to learn more from employers about what young people need to get a job, to meet employers face-to-face and develop their networking skills, and to voice many of the challenges they face in finding work.

The forum also gave employers (and in particular HR managers and CEOs) an opportunity to meet young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, to understand more about the skills and talents of these young people, and to share their knowledge and expertise with them for the benefit of the whole community.


140 participants took part in the forum, including 75 young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, a wide range of employer representatives, service providers and two members of State Parliament.


The Youth Employment Forum was initiated by MDA in response to needs identified by young refugee and migrant leaders in April 2012. Through its work with youth leaders at MDA and Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT), MDA was aware that many young people felt disconnected from opportunities to influence employment outcomes for themselves and other young people. The young people involved felt they were not receiving the government support they needed to help them find work and address some of the employment barriers they faced. There was a strong sense that if they had the opportunity to find out for themselves what was needed then they could take steps to try and address the barriers they faced.

At the same time, many employers are actively seeking a reliable and hard-working labour force both for full-time and part-time work. Many of the employers already engaged with MDA have seen the benefits of a culturally diverse workforce and are committed to giving new migrants a fair go. The challenge is to engage other employers and to expose them to both the opportunities and challenges of employing a diverse workforce in a positive and constructive way.


The forum involved a Q&A panel with host facilitator and six employer panelists. This was a fun and interactive way to engage stakeholders about the key issues and provide young people with a supported way to control the focus of the issues to be discussed to meet their needs. Workers at MDA and QPASTT assisted young people to prioritise and finalise the questions so that they could be given to employers 10 days in advance of the forum.

Employers involved in the forum were a mix of known and new employers to MDA, with the majority of companies on the panel being employers of young people (e.g. McDonalds, Woolworths, Australian Country Choice, All Purpose Transport). The remaining panelists were employers of interest to young people for their longer term career prospects (e.g. Greenslopes Private Hospital and Queensland Police Service). Employers were asked to come and share their expertise and experience to benefit young refugee and migrant job seekers. It was made explicit that there was no expectation for employers to offer young people work.

A post-panel networking event with employers gave an opportunity for a greater number of young people to discuss opportunities with employers directly.

The Forum was funded through sponsorship from participating companies and services as well as the local Member of Parliament, Ian Kaye, who also secured the venue.

As a result of the forum, a ‘Tips for young job seekers’ fact sheet was developed.


  • Participation: Significant attendance by young people (75+) and 100% attendance by employers.
  • Job outcomes: After five days, two job outcomes and more than 15 job interviews scheduled; Woolworths aims to place one third of the young people it engaged.
  • Employer engagement: One employer sought a subsequent recruitment workshop with MDA; Woolworths continues its MDA collaboration under Fresh Starts across targeted Queensland regions.
  • Employment experience: All Purpose Transport contacted each young person it engaged with, scheduled interviews for suitable candidates and was still employing two young people 10 months after the forum.
  • Youth engagement: Positive feedback from the young people involved, with some reporting that the forum had given them great confidence and satisfaction in their abilities; young people seeking support from MDA; young people set the agenda and were involved in developing the forum from start to finish.
  • Collaboration: The forum provided a platform for partnership and collaboration between a range of stakeholders, including the local chamber of commerce, local MP, service providers and young people.

Building on success: As a result of the success of the first Youth Employment Forum in Brisbane, an event was run in Toowoomba in July 2013 with 30 young people joining employer representatives from Woolworths, Hutchinsons Builders, Toowoomba Regional Council and MEGT (Traineeships and Apprenticeships).

The young people also had the opportunity to visit the Toowoomba Chronicle Careers Expo to find out about career pathways and tertiary study. The event was organised by a sub-group of Toowoomba’s Local Area Coordination network (with MDA and TAFE-TELLS as key players). It is hoped to build on the relationships and goodwill generated through this event to hold a large-scale Youth Employment Forum in Toowoomba in the future.

MDA will also be hosting a further Youth Employment Forum on 24 October 2013 in Chermside, supporting the growing numbers of young refugees and migrants settling on Brisbane’s northside to meet and network with local employers.


The forum engaged lots of young people but a subsequent challenge was the lack of referral opportunities to culturally appropriate and youth appropriate employment support services. In future, involving Job Services Australia (JSA) providers and more schools to make sure there are clear referral pathways would be helpful.

Making relationships work and ensuring there are effective partnerships with young people and collaborating services.

Deciding who to involve: It was important to listen to what the young people wanted and focus on that, ensuring the people involved had the same goals.

Advice for others

Keep it local so that young people can get there and get support afterwards. Involve local services, employers and other stakeholders; it is good for relationship-building.

More information

Email: mailbox@mdabne.org.au

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