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New strategy targets employment for migrants

1 December 2003 Media Statement

New strategy targets employment for migrants

A $21 million strategy to assist migrants and refugees in to paid employment and help close the ‘skills gap’ faced by Auckland businesses was launched this evening by Social Development and Employment Steve Maharey.

The strategy focuses on helping members of Auckland’s growing migrant and refugee population move into work, and have better access to government information and services. Initiatives include expanding a work experience pilot with the Auckland Chamber of Commerce for professional migrants, and providing ESOL and basic skills training to migrants and refugees with language and literacy barriers. Work and Income is appointing specialist case managers to work with migrant and refugee clients, and placing specialist case managers in community-based migrant and refugee centres. Job search seminars tailored specifically to migrants are also being provided.

Steve Maharey said the strategy will help address two related problems in Auckland’s labour market: barriers to employment for migrants and refugees, and a lack of skilled workers for businesses.

“Migrants and refugees have many skills and talents with plenty to offer employers, but often face language, culture, qualifications and skill barriers. This strategy will help them overcome these barriers and achieve economic and social independence. It will also provide more of the skilled, work-ready workers that Auckland employers need,” Steve Maharey said.

As part of the strategy launch, the Steve Maharey formally opened Work and Income’s Multilingual Contact Centre, a service enabling clients to speak to a Work and Income staff member in their own language. The Contact Centre represented a significant achievement in the government’s relationship with the migrant and refugee community.

“The Contact Centre will help break down language barriers, enabling clients to get information and help from a person who speaks their language. We’ve provided dedicated 0800 lines, for speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic and Hindi. We expect to add five more languages by early next year, and we’re expanding our online services so clients can download self-paced ESOL packages.

“In addition, we’ve strengthened our services for clients speaking te reo Mâori, Samoan and Tongan by making services in these languages available through the Contact Centre,” Steve Maharey said.

ENDS

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