“Pastor, can you please find me a job?” It’s a question asked frequently of the Rev Matt Dodd from Lakemba.
Ministering in an area with a large number of migrants seeking work, struggling to navigate the job market, Mr Dodd longed to help them in some way – this was the genesis of the Emerge Program.
For the past 12 months, several parishes in southwestern Sydney have partnered with Evangelism and New Churches to help migrants upskill and connect with potential employers.
Cultural gaps in Australian employment
“There are so many barriers for them,” says the Emerge Program’s liaison officer, Sue Park. “The three barriers we have identified are mobility – such as vehicle access and driver’s license. Most jobs need you to drive, especially in aged and community care. Second is qualifications and recognised work experience. Third is literacy and English skills.
“We help in practical ways by connecting our candidates to driving schools, helping them get working with children’s checks, and more.”
Miss Park understands just how difficult these barriers can be to overcome, having watched her mother’s journey. “I’ve seen how hard it is for my mum to feel part of Australia as a result of her not working. As she tried to navigate employment, she had no chance. She worked super hard, but the confidence in language, her age and lack of work experience [meant] she had no chance.”
The Emerge Program offers more than just employment skills. “What we’re trying to do is bridge the cultural gap between employment and recruitment in Australia,” Miss Park says. “In a lot of cultures, there’s an expectation that your community network finds you a job. Networking in Australia is important… but there is a lot more individual focus on how you are able to convince employers of your skills. There’s a big cultural gap there.”
Meaningful employment is good for everyone
Finding meaningful employment doesn’t simply provide a migrant with financial stability; it has a ripple effect that benefits the whole community. Stable employment means migrant families don’t need to relocate for work or to find more affordable housing. This in turn strengthens the health of local churches.
“You can change the course of somebody’s life by helping them find a job,” says Mr Dodd. “Outside of the spiritual realm, outside of healthcare; this is just about the biggest physical need people have. We just want to really love people in a deep way to help them break into the job market. It’s not about giving free jobs. There is dignity that comes from having work.”
“You can change the course of somebody’s life by helping them find a job"
More jobs wanted
The team at Emerge is developing relationships with employers, and is praying more organisations will come on board and give migrant workers employment.
“These are not charity jobs,” Mr Dodd says. “We want [to provide] real pathways and opportunities. Pray we would be able to establish connections with more and more Christian businesspeople.”
Adds Miss Park: “Pray that we can really do what we set out to do – that we can help those in our ministries and churches thrive spiritually and in their earthly living, and help them connect to meaningful employment.
“There’s so much going on for people I work with. There are so many challenges that come up for our candidates, particularly... as they resettle in Australia. Pray they would keep knowing God’s love and care for them in his provision and word.”