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Innovations in Support

Services for Immigrants


and Employers
Comments and observations

Purpose:

To draw attention to the disparate nature
of the process of recognition of
immigrants skills and qualifications
To raise some questions regarding current
arrangements in the recognition processes
of migrant skills and qualifications
To suggest some innovative ways in which
some of the issues raised might be
approached
A four stage recognition process
There are at least four formal and de facto
recognition processes that immigrants face:
Pre-migration assessment of qualifications for
migration purposes;
Post-arrival assessment by relevant
professional/trade/other body;
Assessments by other organisations, e.g.
universities and institutions of further study;
Assessments by employers in deciding
whether to employ or not immigrant
applicants
Assessments of comparative levels
of academic, professional, trade
qualifications
Organisations, such as NOOSR and Trade
Recognition Australia have amassed a great
deal of information about the nature and
content of academic and trade training
systems and content in a large number of
countries and provide ready assessments of
qualifications, such as those concerning
assessments for migration purposes.
On arrival migrants are again reassessed, or
are referred to external authorised bodies for
assessment.
Assessment of credentials or
competency-based assessments?
Assessment based on credentials is important
but, in my view, on its own, is insufficient in
assessing the requisite range of skills for
practice.
It does not tell us in any detail about the skills
and competencies that the individual possesses
(or lacks) and their appropriateness/adequacy
for practice;
Nor does it tell us about any other additional
skills, experiences and attributes (e.g. LOTE)
that the person possesses that may be important
for practice in a culturally and linguistically
diverse society and in a global context.
The importance of context
Following on from the last point, context is
important and is a very real challenge for
assessors.
It is also a major challenge for migrants.
Lack of familiarity with a new society, with the
cultural context in which the particular
profession is practiced.
Disorientation, settlement pressures to secure an
income
Language and communication difficulties
exacerbated by unfamiliarity and the added
anxiety that this can produce, make the situation
migrants are faced with especially difficult.
Is assessment an enabling
process or does it have
(unintended) adverse effects?
Time has consequences. The longer it takes
to assess and recognise qualifications, the
greater the cost to the migrant.
And the costs are not only financial!!!
There is a double negative effect here:
knowledge and skills decay with non practice
and, by not practicing their occupation, it is
difficult for migrants to keep up with ongoing
developments in their field.
There are psychological and health costs as
well as social costs!
Supports for those
qualified/trained abroad: Quo
vadis?
The current provisions that would support migrants leave
much to be desired.
It is interesting to note that with the cutbacks in
funding/severe limiting of English language programs, the
few provisions that were designed to assist the overseas
trained (e.g. ESL for overseas doctors and health
professional, teachers, etc.) are simply not on offer or are
severely delimited.
Similarly, welfare programs (e.g. ethnic specific programs
and services), which provided supports to migrants, have
also been severely affected by government cutbacks and
the need to balance budgets
The introduction of the so-called user pays principle, has
further exacerbated the capacity of migrants to avail
themselves of what used to be free government and
community services.

The need for research into
supports that migrants require
and their availability
The last review that was carried out into migrant services
and programs in Australia was in 1988, the so-called
Fitzgerald Review or ROMAMPAS.
In light of the changes that have occurred in programs and
services, it would seem appropriate to carry out such a
review, especially with the overseas trained in mind.
In Australia, the modality of community programs has been
based on a welfarist (deficit) approach that regards
migrants as needy, rather than as capable people who, at a
particular stage of their settlement into a new society,
require the communitys support to become productive
members of the community.
A paradigm shift in thinking and approach is required!!!
A cooperative/partnership
approach between government,
industry and community
Australia has a strong civil society, including
a large network of ethnic community groups
and organisations.
Yet, it is surprising how often the link and
relationships between these potential
supports for the overseas trained and for
assessing authorities are not developed.
I would suggest that exploiting this potential
can contribute greatly to the efforts of both
recognition/assessing authorities and
government in supporting the overseas
trained. (Many migrants are employers too!)
Some comments regarding the
risk of discrimination/unequal
treatment of the overseas trained
In a major federal government study into Australian
arrangements for the recognition of skills and
qualifications in a cluster of professions and trades, in
the 1990s, Stephen Castles, observed that although
overt discrimination did not exist, nevertheless, the
demand for ever higher levels of English and the sine
qua non insistence on local work experience, while
discounting past experiences elsewhere, could be
regarded as a form of discrimination. His argument,
as I recall, was that discrimination is not just direct or
indirect (systemic), but includes the failure to provide
for a well established need (e.g. language services)
This view was also affirmed by the Victorian Task
Force into Migrant Skills and Qualifications, in 1990.
Information provision
The right to know and to be informed, is a
fundamental human right.
In the age of the internet this task is made
easy and less costly.
However, from our past experience, not
everyone can access the net and nor can it
be, for some (?), at least, a substitute for
direct face-to-face communication.
Advanced information provision and career
and other qualification recognition and
employment related information needs to be
available.
The need for advocacy
As Charles Taylor (a Canadian) has argued,
recognition is about acknowledgement and
demonstration of respect. Though unintended, non-
recognition is never an innocent exercise, it can
wound and injure.
Advocating on behalf of those who require our
support, regardless of the positions we occupy, so
that they may receive fair, timely and not too
onerously costly attention and support, is an
obligation that we all share.
As Taylor argues there are things we owe to
strangers.

Thank you.