Skillmax helps Skilled Migrants prepare for the Australian workplace


Australian CV, CV advice, interview advice, skilled migrants, Skillmax,


Skillmax is a government-funded course to prepare overseas professionals for the Australian workplace.

Participants develop an awareness of the Australian workplace culture and trends, prepare a career portfolio including a resume and a cover letter, learn strategies to identify employment opportunities and prepare for job interviews. Courses are organized by TAFE NSW and run for a period of five weeks (currently online).

Read the interview with Skillmax participants below 

We chat with Hamid, Ali, Ibtihal and Maryam about their experience of moving to Australia and trying to find work in their professions.

About the participants

Ali Saboh- Civil Engineer

Ali is a Civil Engineer professional with over five years’ experience in the designing, cost estimation, drafting, supervision and management of road construction, onsite activities, geometric design, pavement, transport systems and infrastructure projects.

Ali Saboh

Maryam Safavi– Architectural Drafter

Maryam has a B.S in architectural engineering with five years of work experience in architectural and home design industry as a drafter in Australia and the Middle East and was involved in residential and commercial projects. She is an expert user of multiple technical software programs such as AutoCAD and Revit.

Maryam Safavi

Ibtihal Albahashneh– Graduate Architect

Ibtihal is a graduate architect with one-year experience from Jordan where she worked as a graduate architect and did some freelance projects. One of the projects she was involved in was the design of a commercial building. Ibtihal is proficient in Revit and AutoCAD, 3D MAX, ArchiCAD, Sketch Up and Photoshop.

Ibtihal Albahashneh

Hamid Ashtari – Geotechnical Engineer

Hamid has a BS in Mining Engineering and MSc in Rock Mechanics. Before moving to Australia, from 2010 to 2019, Hamid had a permanent geotechnical engineering position in a large-scale infrastructure engineering and construction company. Over that period, he took on increasing responsibilities as a geotechnical engineer and participated in projects for planning and designing geotechnical details including mining, excavation, foundation, solid waste, tunnelling, road and rail transportation. He is an expert in geotechnical site investigation, logging and sampling.

Hamid Ashtari

Question: What are the circumstances behind your move to Australia?

Hamid: A couple of years ago, my wife and I decided to immigrate to Australia to further our careers and lead a better life. We applied for a skilled migration program, and we obtained the permanent residency visa (subclass 189) in January 2019 and came to Australia in May 2019.

Ibtihal: I arrived in Sydney in July 2019 on a partner visa together with my husband.

Maryam: After five years work experience in the Middle East as a specialist who worked in the multinational company with a variety of projects, I understood there are better opportunities in different countries to improve a level of my personal life and future career. Since Australia has a high rank in the quality of life and living standards in the world, my husband and I decided to apply for a permanent residency through skilled visa to reach our future goals.

Ali: I realised that immigration to Australia will broaden my personal and professional horizons. Democracy, merit-based approach and kind-hearted people are perks of moving to Australia which can’t be measured by money. The highly competitive process of immigration to Australia and linguistic barriers seemed horrendous at first glance, but I implemented an effective strategy studying regulations, seeking advice from professionals and taking advantage of successful ex-pats’ experience and improving my English to successfully apply for my visa.

Question: What were your first impressions when you arrived in Australia? Was there anything that really surprised you when you moved here?

Hamid: The first and foremost impression was about people. They are friendly and want to make everything pleasant. It is wonderful that many different nationalities live here in a friendly and warm atmosphere. I try to participate in cultural and social events to familiarize myself with the culture and find new friends.

Ibtihal: My first impression was the city skyline in Sydney. The buildings and architecture are amazing! I have also fallen in love with the breath-taking beaches and have spent the first month visiting different coastlines.  I have been surprised by many different cultures in Sydney. I come from a traditional place where almost everyone belongs to the same culture.

Ali: When I first arrived in Australia, I found it to be a beautiful, modern and democratic country. I was surprised to experience how effectively the Australian management system worked, by avoiding unnecessary rigidness and focusing on the cooperation spirit.

Maryam: It was amazing. I really like the Australian scenery and environment, people and their culture. At first, I was a bit surprised by the Australian accent, but after 4 months I got used to it and trying to learn the idioms and the Australian culture.

Question: How are you finding the job-seeking process in Australia? Have you encountered any obstacles? Do you think there is enough support for Skilled Migrants when it comes to job searching?

Hamid: Migration to a new place always has its own obstacles. I have applied to various companies but my applications have been rejected because I do not have local experience. There are a lot of facilities for migrants to help with job searching, but most immigrants do not know the exact details of these facilities.

The main reasons I have not been able to get work in my profession have been lack of a driving licence, lack of proof of professionalism from an Australian organization, lack of familiarity with interview culture and job search. I had two interviews, but it turned out I was not a good fit due to not having the requirements as mentioned above.

Ibtihal: I found that job seeking in Australia is a unique experience for every person. Although I changed my resume to Australian standards, I did not receive any replies after applying for jobs. After two months of looking it was Christmas, so I decided to seek work in a casual position and got a job as a sales assistant. After Christmas, I applied for a graduate architect position and I was shortlisted after attending three rounds of interviews. The main obstacle has been the lack of local experience and knowledge of BCA guidelines. I decided to ask a nearby architect studio if they could offer me work experience and they did which was great.

Ali: After my arrival, I had to adjust my CV, LinkedIn profile and cover letter to meet Australian standards. I also had to improve my interviewing skills to be able to present my abilities clearly to employers.  Lack of local experience was considered to be the major doubt of employers to employ me. Also, at my arrival, the global economy and lifestyle were blasted heavily by COVID-19, holding positions and limiting communications.

Maryam: From my point of view the biggest obstacle is local experience that I don’t have. I think there is not enough support for skilled migrants entering Australia, because most employers prefer to choose among people who have Australian work experience. It takes migrants long time to find jobs or they have to apply for lower positions or also casual jobs. I think if the government made a rule that each company must choose some employees with no local experience, this would give migrants a chance to enter the Australian market.

Question: How did you find out about Skillmax?

Hamid: I did not know anything about Skillmax till one day a friend told me about his success story after this course. I began to research it and I found out that this course is available in one of the TAFE branches near my home. I quickly enrolled in this course, and the course was held online because of coronavirus.

Ibtihal: I found about the Skillmax course through my teacher at TAFE.

Ali: I was lucky to learn about TAFE’s Skillmax (which is free for newly arrived permanent residents) from my friends, and even more lucky to have Margaret Beck as my tutor, a devoted professional with a passion for helping other human beings regardless of their ethnicity, welcoming them to their new home, Australia.

Maryam: I found out about the course through my friend.

Question: What has been the highlight of participating in a Skillmax course?

Hamid: The course is mainly based on job searching skills and how to get ready for the interview. I learned how to prepare for interviews and how to write a resume and a cover letter. Moreover, I have learnt how to use LinkedIn for networking and for job searching. We also met some recruiters and some of the previous participants of Skillmax shared their experiences and successes. I have improved my English, take less time to write my resume and I have met great people.

Maryam: It was very useful and helped me to learn how to write an Australian resume and a cover letter. I have also learnt about Australian work culture, I made new friends and grew some connections to help me with my job search.

Ibtihal: Since participating I have learnt how to update my LinkedIn profile, grow my network and manage my resume the way a recruiter would look at it. I have learnt how to add specific keywords to my resume, how to to write a cover letter, and how to practice for phone and video interview. After participating in Skillmax I also had a phone interview and I got feedback on my resume and cover letter. The interviewer said my cover letter was very good and that my resume lacked local experience, but I still appreciated the opportunity to practice for a job interview.

Ali: I have learnt how to ignore hurdles and apply the skills obtained from the course. I have managed to get a few interviews after this course.

Question: What else are you doing to help with your job search?

Ali: I had to find a way to emerge my self in Australian professional context. I began approaching professional bodies such as Engineers Australia, Australian Road Research Board, industry-based research groups in UNSW and UTS, cold canvassing with companies and networking with professionals via LinkedIn, offering my services. Many efforts were welcomed and resulted in productive outcomes, upgrading my technical and interpersonal skills.

Maryam: I am going to take some more courses to improve my resume. I will also use LinkedIn for networking.

Hamid: Before the coronavirus isolation, I obtained my driving licence and the white card immediately.  I have also been trying to boost my English skills as well as my professional knowledge, for example, I have taken a one-year English course at TAFE, and recently I completed it. Meanwhile, I completed some related course about civil engineering and construction at TAFE, and I spent my time entirely during the isolation to improve my skills and prepare myself for the job market by using LinkedIn to network with experts, companies and recruiters.

Ibtihal: I am keeping myself busy by developing my technical skills through a Revit advance course. I am also applying for jobs and being proactive by following my applications with a phone call. I’m using LinkedIn to network.


Helping skilled migrants access employment opportunities

Skillmax assists skilled migrants with overseas qualifications to seek employment in their area of professional expertise. The programme is free to eligible participants and is designed to provide participants with a greater understanding of the current labour market, as well as the skills to develop strategies that make the most of employment opportunities in Australia. To view more information about Skillmax, click here.

If you are a Civil Engineer, a Construction Professional or a Surveyor who would like to be part of the infrastructure boom in Australia or New Zealand, register your CV here or search our jobs.

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