Skilled migrants must be helped to find work

Skilled migrants' qualifications are still not being recognised. Photo: Rodolfo Quiros/Pexels

“We gave you a visa to live in Australia; it is your choice whether to work in your profession, or to work as a labourer, or to sit at home.”

This is how the immigration officer replied after I told him that I am a skilled migrant.

“I followed your system’s requirements and carried out all the recommended procedures and still I cannot find a job in my field of expertise,” I said.

There is a big gap between the headlines and the reality facing skilled migrants trying to find employment in their profession.

For the last 10 years I have not been able to find work in engineering, for which I have overseas qualifications. Yet there has always been a demand for engineers.

Previous Australian governments have sought to bring in more new skilled migrants, especially engineers. Now, the Labor government has even launched a new program to fill the shortage in skilled workers, especially in engineering.

I have tried for years to find an engineering job. Maybe they don’t like my skin colour?

I cannot accept a labouring job when I have higher skill levels.

This tragedy started when I decided I wanted to move from home, to be a part of a modern society. In pursuit of this idea, I graduated from an engineering university, which taught American technology, so I could match the demands of international markets.

That was to be my green card, allowing me to apply for a skilled migrant visa. I had other supporting documents related to my work experience and my English language level.

It seemed to be easy.

I asked my friend Fasil why he returned home after he had lived overseas for five years. He said: “I’d rather live as a reasonably well-off engineer in a poor country than live as a poor labourer in a rich country.”

My friend’s decision did not stop me: my family helped with funds and I booked my ticket and flew to Australia.

I found new friends, from a variety of diverse backgrounds, and started looking for work.

Government officers settled me into a job-finder program. I stuck with it for three months, but didn’t get a single interview. It was useless.

I then went to a private recruitment agency, but they gave me the same answer: “We have included your resume in our bulk system. If one of our clients need your skills, we will let you know.”

I offered to pay them to search for a job for me. “There isn’t any such system here,” they said.

I tried a “pathway program” — working for free to get local experience. I did some interviews, but they wanted engineers with a management background. I went back to study an advanced diploma in business administration followed by a master of engineering management.

Still, I am working in labouring jobs, unrelated to my profession.

There are hundreds of professional people, just like me, working as taxi drivers, security guards, supermarket cashiers, cleaners, construction workers or kitchen hands.

All are skilled migrants; many hold masters degrees from Australian universities.

According to the Australian Taxation Office, these people are “working”. Moreover we work more than others because we send money to our relatives back home.

Australia’s system is unfair: it has excluded many of us from the professional job market and I don’t want to see more skilled migrants ending up the same.

Australia cannot bring in more skilled migrants from overseas and abandon them to search for a job by themselves. It is the government’s duty to find jobs for all new skilled migrants. Otherwise, the rich ones will go back home and the poor ones will be confined to labouring jobs.