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Making dreams a reality: An initiative of the Sydney Greater West CALD Working Group

Asraa Al Saadi was a medical doctor in Romania before coming to Australia and struggling for years to find a role. She tried pathways such as Seek, Indeed, Jora and LinkedIn without any success.

Asraa attended the 2023 Blacktown Employment Accelerator in October 2023 and believes “a miracle happened to me that day.”

Thanks to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) Local Jobs Program, in conjunction with the incredible collaboration of the Sydney Greater West (SGW) Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) and Migrant Employment Working Group, Asraa was connected to a dozen employers actively seeking candidates across Western Sydney at the Employment Accelerator event.

The event aims to achieve economic outcomes for job seekers from CALD, refugee, and migrant backgrounds in Greater Western Sydney. It provided job seekers with a forum to learn about employment opportunities in the region, as well as raise awareness of the issues and opportunities for this unique and talented pool of people in gaining meaningful employment.

Nearly 250 job seekers like Asraa and a dozen employers attended the event. These employers came from an array of organisations including the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, NSW Health Pathology, Sydney Local Health District, Sydney Metro, Transdev and the Australian Retail Association. A range of service providers also attended to assist with understanding and finding solutions to the many barriers people have when pursuing further education and employment pathways.

Jamie Petschy, Employment Facilitator from DEWR Local Jobs program as part of Workforce Australia, saw the Blacktown Employment Accelerator as an opportunity to understand the needs of the labour force in Western Sydney, and in turn develop pathways for upskilling.

The Local Jobs Program’s plan for Western Sydney notes several priorities which are supported by both the Employment Collective 2770 Working group and the SGW CALD and Migrant Employment Working Group who focus on improving transport connections, increasing childcare opportunities, enhancing digital equity and literacy and delivering place-based initiatives.

Petschy noted, “Ultimately, all of this is done by making organic connections that highlight employment vacancy opportunities, prioritising collaboration on local projects and providing training to help fill in any gaps. We definitely play a critical role in addressing the skills shortage currently taking place in Western Sydney.”

Jessica Lee, Deputy Director Strategic HR & Projects at NSW Health Pathology, was able to use the Blacktown Employment Accelerator as an opportunity to raise awareness of NSW Health Pathology as a potential employer within CALD communities.

“Normally, we advertise either internally to NSW Health or externally via iworkfornsw and other job boards. We always prioritise the right cultural fit and the necessary skillset to perform the role. By attending the Blacktown Employment Accelerator, we were able to tap into a talent pool that may have previously been overlooked.”

Jessica and the NSW Health Pathology team had the privilege of helping several candidates, including Asraa, through the recruitment process. The NSW Health Pathology team has continued to provide 1:1 support throughout the job application and interview process.

As for Asraa, it wasn’t just the conversations at the event or access to networking opportunities that inspired her – it was the support she received from Jessica and Rhoda Kiptanui, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, throughout the application process that made a difference in landing her dream job.

“This assistance provided me with some much needed mental and emotional clarity and allowed me to perform in my interview,” Asraa said.

“All I can say is that a miracle happened to me that day when I attended the Employment Accelerator event and met my new employer. I have always dreamed of working at Westmead Hospital because of my love for the medical field and the proximity to my home – but the fact that it came true is unbelievable. I am more confident thanks to their help and am working towards my goals of making my kids proud of me – my dreams have really become a reality,” she concluded.

Asraa is now working as a technical assistant/ pathology collector (phlebotomist) at NSWHP Westmead, which is based at one of the busiest hospitals in the state. She is currently finishing her pathology collector training and is working in the outpatients department, but she’ll soon join the rotating collections roster at NSWHP’s Auburn, Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospital collection centres.

Collectors like Asraa are the friendly face of pathology, providing compassionate and reassuring support during the sometimes anxiety-inducing sample collection process.

Overall, the Blacktown Employment Accelerator was a strategic approach to accelerating employment and recruitment outcomes in the greater Blacktown region. In total 15 employers, over 20 service providers and 247 job seekers attended the event with an overwhelming 110 interviews held. By developing networks, confidence and experience for job seekers, potential employers were able to conduct their own precursor to formal applications, fill roles with capable and upskilled individuals and make a real positive impact.

Upcoming events:

  • 10:30am 14 March 2024 – Salvation Army at Level 1/426 Church St, Parramatta NSW 2150, with SGW CaLD and Migrant Employment Working group and Salvation Army Employment Plus
  • 10am 26 March 2024 or 1pm 26 March 2024 – Bowman Hall, 35 Campbell St, Blacktown NSW 2148 with SGW CaLD and Migrant Employment Working group and Blacktown City Council