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Woolworths gives asylum seeker recruits powerful leg up into the retail industry

September 02, 2016

Almost 20 new asylum seekers have found new jobs with Woolworths and more than 60 gained valuable work experience, after the Australian supermarket chain connected with a life-changing program from the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

One of Woolworths’ newest employees recruited under the Given the Chance for Asylum Seekers program, Taj, was just 16 when he arrived in Australia by boat, after fleeing persecution as a minority Hazara in Afghansitan.

Given the Chance has been a great stepping stone for my career in Australia. It has given me the confidence and experience to get a job. It is amazing,” Taj said.

Store Manager David Brown was so impressed during the young worker’s two-week placement at Woolworths Victoria Harbour in February, he offered him a job before his placement ended.

“After his third shift, one of the senior produce guys said to me, “You give me a couple of him and I won’t need anyone else in the department. He picks things up. You just have to explain something once, he checks whether he’s done it right and he asks for something else to do.’,” David said.

“He goes the extra mile with customers, and with everything he does, and he’s always cheerful,” he said.

This drive to succeed stands out as a common trait among many of the recruits who’ve secured work experience with Woolworths through the program, which has helped transition more than 300 asylum seekers into meaningful employment since its inception three years ago.

Taj is now balancing part-time doing stock control in the produce section of the Melbourne Docklands store with a full-time traineeship and Certificate III in Business Administration – supported fully by supervisor David, who recognises Taj’s drive to succeed as the fuel behind his exceptional work ethic.

“He wants to achieve something in life. He is always going to have a job here, so he’s always going to be able to drop back here once he’s finished his studies, and he has great potential to move into store management,” David said.

Brotherhood Employment Engagement Manager Brian Finnigan said program participants were on bridging visas with work rights, and 30 per cent were tertiary qualified.

“The motivation of our clients is off the scale – they really want to work,” Mr Finnigan said.

Mr Finnigan praised employers such as Woolworths for providing such positive feedback about those recruited through the program.

“We do our homework on their broad career interests and skill sets, so we ensure there is a good fit between the client and the employer,” he said.

For more, visit www.bsl.org.au/gtcfas or ring Brian Finnigan on 03 9288 9948


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