Skillmax – preparing overseas skilled professionals for the Australian job market

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Are you a skilled migrant finding it difficult to secure employment in your chosen profession in Australia?

Do you need help with your resume or preparation for interviews?

Skillmax can help you!

Read our interview with Margaret Beck who has been a Skillmax teacher for the past ten years. Learn about the course, its duration and delivery, eligibility criteria and more!

Question: Let’s start with the most important question: What is Skillmax?

Skillmax is a 75-hour course for overseas skilled professionals to learn how to access the Australian job market. It is a fully subsidised (free) course, provided by the NSW government and is currently delivered by TAFE NSW.

Usually, it is delivered over three days per week but that can vary. It covers how to write a resume in the Australian format, writing a cover letter and how to answer the most common interview questions. We also touch on aspects of social and workplace culture.

There is an additional five hours for an all-day workshop. Recently this workshop has been about how to use LinkedIn. The course participants form their first local network, as they are all facing basically the same issues.

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Skillmax Class of October 2019

Question: Who can attend a Skillmax course and how can one register to participate?

Migrants who have an overseas tertiary qualification and who want to obtain a job in their professional area are eligible. In addition, you need to have a level of English proficiency, measured by the internationally recognised IELTS of 6.5 or an equivalent level, as measured by other tests such as P.T.E.

I’ve found that 6.5 is a good indicator of whether you can obtain a professional job in Australia. Of course, if you want to work in areas such as Sales and Marketing or at an upper management level, then you will need a higher level of English.

As well, you need to have full working rights. This usually means that you have a Permanent Resident visa but some other visas also are covered. You need to check your visa type if you are not sure.

Most employers want someone with full working rights for a professional level job. You can register for Skillmax by emailing: skillmax@tafensw.edu.au.

You can find more information about the course here.

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Interview preparations

Question: Do Skillmax participants receive a certificate of completion?

Students receive a Statement of Attainment in Skillmax but of course, the major benefit is learning all about how to get a job.

Question: How and why did you become a Skillmax teacher and how long have you been teaching the course?

I became a teacher on Skillmax about ten years ago, after having experience across many areas of teaching in Adult Education. I was asked to deliver the program and quickly became interested in assisting these highly skilled professionals to secure appropriate employment.

It is incredibly rewarding to see people get jobs which are going to set them on their career path in Australia for life.

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Margaret Beck delivering the course online

Over ten years, what have you observed has been the career trajectory of past students?

It’s been very pleasing to see that many students have done very well in moving up in their careers or in finding very stable employment.

Sometimes (but not always!), to get that first job in the Australian market, it’s necessary to take a step back from the level of your last position. It’s usually just for the short term and many can move fairly quickly up the ladder.

Question: From your experience, would you say that for Skilled Migrants the level of English fluency is a critical issue in finding a job?

Well, that depends on the job you want. For professionals who want to build their career, yes, you need to have good proficiency in talking about your work area with stakeholders at all levels.

If you want to advance in your career, developing your English skills is important in aspects such as writing technical reports.

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Completion of the Skillmax course

Question: In your opinion, do platforms like LinkedIn help Skilled Migrants with their job search?

If you go back about five years, LinkedIn was an extra tool you could use to find a job. That’s changed and it’s now essential to understand how to use LinkedIn to support your job search and to build networks.

Recruiters and potential employers will certainly check out your LinkedIn profile so I’d encourage everyone to upskill in how to use it successfully. As part of the Skillmax course, we now regularly hold a five-hour workshop on how to set up your profile and establish networks.

Question: In your opinion, is there enough government support for Skilled Migrants to help them find work in their profession once they have arrived in Australia?

It is very worthwhile that the NSW government has, so far, provided funds in its annual budget for programs such as Skillmax. Community programs related to providing support usually must tender for funding to continue their work. This money is not guaranteed on a recurring basis, which creates uncertainty for organisations around planning how to promote and support programs for Skilled Migrants. Greater certainty would mean improved services.

As well, the government could be promoting the value of skilled migration to companies to try to make them more accepting of overseas experience as valid in the Australian market.

Question: What positives do you think skilled migrants bring to Australia?

I have found they are all extremely keen to become part of our Australian society by contributing through work, raising their families and being engaged in the community.

At the same time, there are the economic benefits which of course are often debated, such as, they have contributed significantly to our economic growth, filled skill shortages in identified areas and rebalanced the ageing distribution of our population.

Question: Do you think it is becoming easier for Skilled Migrants to overcome the ‘lack of local experience’ obstacle?

On the first day of any course, I can guarantee that many people will say:

“I can’t get a job because I don’t have local experience.”

It is a barrier in certain occupations whereas in others it doesn’t seem to be a real problem. For example, IT professionals with good experience in skills that are in demand can usually obtain suitable positions.

I’m hoping that with so much infrastructure and construction planning proposed over the next few years, that the suitably qualified skilled migrants brought in under the classified shortages list, will find there is an increased willingness by companies to employ them and make good use of their experience.

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Skillmax Interview practice

Question: Is there anything you would say to Skilled Migrants before they arrive in Australia to help them with their job search?

Research the Australian job market to get a good idea of who is employing and where. Be aware that you are not going to arrive here one day and get a job the next, even if you have some brilliant work experience backing you.

Plan for a few months of serious job searching to understand how things work in Australia. Sometimes but not usually, some professionals will obtain employment within a few weeks of arriving but that is the exception rather than the rule. It’s a process that requires resilience. Be prepared mentally for the challenge.

When you succeed though, from comments of past Skillmax students, it will be worthwhile.

Question: What advice would you give to those Skilled Migrants who are already here and struggling to find work?

We are facing an unprecedented situation with the impact of the Coronavirus on all aspects of our lives and work. So, it’s very difficult not just for Skilled Migrants but for all those whose jobs have been lost or put on hold.

The advice for everyone is the same. Spend this time making yourself job ready for when things start to pick up. Upskill in areas that will add to your employability. The availability of free online courses is almost unlimited.

Be very assertive in your job search. Use as many tools as possible: LinkedIn, cold canvassing, networking as well as the usual places like Seek. With the increase in government spending that’s planned to create more jobs, learn how to apply for government jobs on your state government websites such as iworkfornsw or with local councils.

Volunteer; take on casual jobs to fill the gap or short contract roles; keep fit and healthy; surround yourself with positive people and avoid those whose negativity can make you feel it’s all too hard.

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Skillmax participants

Question: Are there any other organizations which help Skilled Migrants that you would recommend?

I know of SkillME, a part of Sydney-based Metro Assist.

CareerSeekers assists refugees and asylum seekers into professional employment.

Regional Opportunities Australia supports migrants who might be interested in working in regional areas.

The City East Mentor Program finds mentors for skilled migrants to further assist them in finding a job and integrating into the workplace.

Skillmax in a nutshell

About Skillmax:

  • a fast track course to prepare qualified professionals to
    enter the Australian workforce;
  • funded by the NSW Government;
  • free for eligible participants;
  • delivered in part-time classes for 75 hours;
  • develop a greater awareness of workplace culture and trends in the Australian labour market;
  • develop a career portfolio including your resume and cover letter;
  • learn strategies to identify employment opportunities;
  • prepare for job interviews;
  • market yourself effectively;

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How to find a job in Australia – Migrant Stories

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How to overcome lack of local experience

We give you a few tips and suggestions on how you can increase your chances of landing you very first engineering job if you are a migrant engineer in Australia.

Read what past students of Skillmax had to say about the course

“The Skillmax course was really helpful for me and, I for sure recommend it to all my friends who are going to seek a job in the Australian job market.”

“I strongly recommend Skillmax course for all new immigrants seeking jobs in Australia. It gives a very clear understanding of the current job market and currents trends as in how interviews are being conducted and with what kind of questions. It gives you a chance to interact with expert recruiters from outside TAFE. Also, it gives a great opportunity for networking, to make friends and connections for someone who is new in the country.”

“The course was valuable. Every job seeker, who migrated to Australia, should do the course to be more competent in the job market.”

“This course is perfect for professionals from overseas because it gives to newcomers important tools to face the job seeking process.”

“This one-month course helped me a lot in the process of my job search. One month and a half after this course, I received two offers, which means as a newbie to this new country, I have an excellent beginning.”