IKEA Australia is sharing the life-changing stories from its Skills for Employment program to shine a light on the mutually enriching outcomes for refugees and society – showing how when given the opportunity, refugees can reach their full potential in their new home and make a valuable contribution to their local community and the economy.
The Skills for employment program is an eight-week paid placement, run in partnership with award-winning social enterprise Community Corporate, and is committed to supporting 180 refugees and asylum seekers in the program by the end of 2022. Globally, IKEA has an ambition to support 2500 refugees in the program.
A strong belief that refugees bring value to business and society
Alice Young, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Leader, IKEA Australia, said, “Refugees are highly motivated to work and bring a wide range of skills and qualifications, and yet they face many barriers when trying to join the Australian workforce including difficulties with their qualifications being recognised, a lack of local networks and local language capability.”
“Supporting refugees to gain employment is a social obligation but also a big opportunity, creating a diverse work environment with better understanding of our diverse customers.
It’s also a chance to increase employee engagement in the purpose of a company, building pride, trust, and an inclusive culture,” Young said.
A life-changing experience
Before arriving in Australia in 2018, 21-year-old Zeynab was living in Iran. As an Afghan, she faced discrimination and lacked rights to the same education, healthcare and employment opportunities as Iranian citizens.
In March 2021, Zeynab participated in the IKEA Australia Skills for Employment program. Today she works as a Logistics Co-worker at IKEA Adelaide and is undertaking a TAFE pathway program to study at university in the future – an opportunity she could never have in Iran.
Zeynab is one of 39 refugees so far to take part in the program in Australia, with 595 in total across IKEA stores in 20 countries.
Zeynab said, “For two years I applied for job after job with no success, I felt hopeless. I wanted to work so badly but no one would give me the opportunity to show what I could do. The Skills for Employment program has given me back the confidence in myself, to achieve the big dreams I have, and be hopeful, which I am so grateful for.”
Changing the narrative
Carmen Garcia, CEO, Community Corporate said, “After one year of arriving in Australia, 77 per cent of refugees remain without a job. While that drops rapidly over time, 38 per cent are still unemployed after three years. The Skills for Employment program is a great example of how both refugees and business can benefit when we tear down the barriers that keep refugees from entering the workforce, which is also a critical connection to their new community.”
“Everyone deserves a home, wherever you come from, and IKEA is committed to providing refugees with the opportunities to help them build their lives at home in Australia. Businesses play an important role in supporting their integration. We need to start challenging perceptions about refugees and change the narrative, seeing people for who they are – not stereotypes,” Young said.
Modelling from Deloitte Access Economics suggests an increase in Australia’s humanitarian intake would result in a net economic output of $37.7 billion over the next 50 years and our economy would sustain an average of 35,000 additional jobs.
“With international borders closed and businesses facing talent shortages across the country, we should be stepping up support for refugees living in Australia who have so much to offer. We’ll have richer, more inclusive and diverse workplaces if we do and a better bottom line,” Young said.