Breaking down barriers: how a Syrian refugee turned his good luck into jobs for others

Source: The Guardian

Breaking down barriers: how a Syrian refugee turned his good luck into jobs for others

Refugee Talent Speed Dating Event Sydney

Just 14 months ago Nirary Dacho was a penniless refugee, landing at Sydney airport with a dream of being able to continue his career as an IT analyst in a country where he would be safe from Isis.

Today the 29-year old Assyrian sits in a comfortable office as the cofounder of Refugee Talent, a fast-growing digital platform that exists to get refugees into work.

This has been a rapid turnaround in fortune – especially considering 48% of those on humanitarian visas remain unemployed 18 months after arriving.

Dacho has been able to break free from the traps that frustrate other refugees, thanks to a combination of lucky breaks and his ability to make good connections.

When Dacho arrived from Syria, via Lebanon, on a humanitarian visa with his parents, brother and sister, he could speak English, had a master’s degree in web science and more than eight years of working in IT and teaching programming at university in Syria.

Even so, he found it impossible to break into the employment market, despite updating his skills to Australian qualifications.

“My qualification was from overseas and I had no work experience in Australia and these are two of the main barriers for employment for refugees,” he says.

Dacho applied for more than 100 jobs in his first eight months before getting his first lucky break – which involved starring in a television news segment.

When the ABC’s Lateline program was preparing a story on unemployed refugees, the assistance organisation, Settlement Services International, nominated Dacho as a client to be profiled.

After it was screened, 10 employers lined up to offer him work and help. With a three-month contract as a software engineer with the technology company Dolby Australia, he was getting local experience that seems a prerequisite for most employers.

It was an exciting development, however Dacho was nowhere near elated. “It was such a bad feeling,” he says, explaining that he was thinking of the thousands of other refugees still waiting for their lucky break.

“They are also qualified and have long years of experience and they are sitting there, doing nothing. I was happy because I finally got a job but, the other side of it, [I] felt so bad.”

Dacho’s second stroke of good fortune came 12 months ago when he attended a networking event for refugees with IT skills – Techfugees Hackathon Australia – and met Anna Robson, who became his cofounder and the chief executive of Refugee Talent.

Robson had spent 10 months working at the Nauru detention centre as an adult recreation officer and the two of them bonded over their desire to help refugees get work experience. Robson decided to join forces with Dacho to build an online platform to connect refugees to employers. The site launched in February.

The third time fortune smiled upon them was in March this year when Robson, moonlighting as an Uber driver, started chatting about her venture with an investor she was taking to the airport.

That passenger was Jason Yat-Sen Li, the chairman of Vantage Asia Holdings, a diversified investment group with offices in Beijing and Sydney and interests in real estate, mining, financial services and technology. Li is also a former Labor candidate for the seat of Bennelong.

“I asked her what she did when she wasn’t driving an Uber,” says Li, who was moved by what she had to say about her work with Save the Children on Nauru.

“The thing that caught me the most, apart from the awful things she saw there, was her observation that the vast majority of the people who were locked up there were highly skilled. They were doctors and engineers and software developers.”

Li became an investor in Refugee Talent, offering Dacho and Robson free space in his Sydney Surry Hills office, business start-up advice and introduction to his business connections.

“The story and the serendipity of it appealed,” Li says. “It is a really nice thing in the innovation space where one can do something that reflects one’s values and hopefully do well out of it as well. We do think it has the potential to be a viable business.

“They sit with us in our office so, whenever they have questions or problems, they come to us. I chair their board and have helped them to put together a small board of directors. I have helped them raise a little money to get them started and they use some of our in-house resources, like an in-house designer.”

Refugee Talent now has 50 employers on board, has 160 clients and has placed 15 in jobs in its first eight months. The company has expanded to Melbourne and is looking at other states.

Dacho says the duo never expected things to happen so fast, thinking it would take two to three years to get to the point where they are now at 11 months, with both being employed full-time by the business.

“I am so lucky because I have these three moments in Australia,” he says, referring to his lucky breaks.

His advice to other refugees would be to take the initiative, rather than depending on case workers and assistance organisations. They should also get Australian qualifications as soon as possible and try to get any job (to get local experience), using refugee-assistance channels or applying direct to employers.

And drawing upon his experience, they should also make the effort to meet as many people as they can to build up a network.

New type of speed dating matches refugees with jobs

Source: SBS

It’s not a search for a new partner, but a refined hunt for a job opportunity using a novel approach.

Mimicking speed dating, at this previously untried event, a group of 40 refugees are given five minute blocks of time to woo and hopefully impress would be employers and job market professionals.

Organiser Nirary Dacho, himself a Syrian refugee, says it has been a great success and is bound to lead to more job speed dating days.

“Here’s is the talent, in refugee community, in asylum seeker community – so it’s worth to have a look at this talent and consider them as highly skilled people you know,” he tells SBS.

Simone Allen from Mondo Search, an executive recruitment company, says the initiative is an excellent way to connect employers with potential candidates.

“Incredibly worthwhile. In fact I’ve recently posted a blog about it and connected with all our clients to say look at this mechanism for reaching out to incredible talent, just hidden talent you wouldn’t be aware of,” she says.

Organiser Nirary Dacho had the idea of a two hour session of rotating opportunities.

“I applied like 100 applications to different companies to get any job and I ended up with nothing because I don’t have local experience,” he says.

The IT expert, who was an academic in Syria, was given a chance by his first Australian employer Dolby to start the program called “Refugee Talent”.

Tapping into employers and recruitment agencies representing sixty businesses was an initial group of 40 refugees including Syrian brothers, Rami and Rawad.

“I have a degree from Damascus University in economics, banking and insurance. I’m trying to do the best to work in my section,” Rawad Kaiber says.

The philosophy of Refugee Talent is simple “Gain Local Experience”, “Use your skills”, and “Improve your long term prospects”, says Nirary.

“Here’s is the talent.. in refugee community in asylum seeker community so it’s worth to have a look at this talent and consider them as highly skilled people you know.”

Syrian refugee wins chance to show off his recruitment startup to the world

Source: startupsmart

Refugee Talent co-founder and CTO Nirary-Dacho

A Syrian refugee who is building a platform to tackle one of the biggest challenges refugees face when starting new lives in Australia has won a chance to show it off on the world stage.

Refugee Talent, formerly named Refugee Intern, was chosen from nearly 40 ventures to compete at The Difference Incubator’s (TDi’s) upcoming pitch contest.

The winner will score $15,000 in cash, a seat in The Difference Incubator’s $150,000 investment readiness program, and a trip to the Social Enterprise World Forum, which will be held in New Zealand next year.

On November 22, four impact-driven founders including Refugee Talent co-founder and CTO Nirary Dacho will celebrate their graduation of TDi’s Two Feet program by going head to head in a Dragon’s Den-style startup battle.

Dacho started working on his venture at the Techfugees hackathon in Sydney last year where he met his co-founder Anna Robson.

He had just fled the Syrian war, coming to Australia with his family ready for a new life.

“I was a lecturer in university for IT and telecommunications,” he tells StartupSmart.

“After the Syrian war started, we escaped from Syria to Lebanon where I spent one year working for an IT company, then we applied for a humanitarian visa and after one year, we got accepted.

“We arrived in Australia last year on the 18th of June [and] the next day, I started applying for jobs.”

Despite having nearly a decade’s worth of IT experience and being highly qualified, more than 100 of Dacho’s job applications were knocked back with the same response.

“You don’t have local experience,” he says.

It’s a plight shared by many refugees and immigrants starting new lives in Australia, and one that Dacho hopes to solve with Refugee Talent.

“I couldn’t imagine it would be so hard,” he says.

Following a televised interview on Dateline, where Dacho exposed the incredible difficulties he and others like him have in securing employment, he received 10 job offers from around the country.

“Businesses want to help refugees but they don’t know where to go, so we started to build this platform for that,” he says.

Refugee Talent provides a one-stop shop for Australian businesses to find and recruit highly skilled and experienced refugees.

It helps “unlock refugee potential” by matching users with volunteering positions, apprenticeships, internships and paid jobs that reflect a candidate’s expertise and experience.

Dacho and his team are now working to expand the platform across Australia.

It currently operates in Sydney and Melbourne with 60 businesses and 100 refugees signed up.

“The big vision is we will be the number one solution for refugees to find employment,” he says.

“We are now doing the right mission, we are in the right position.”

Meet the other contestants for TDi’s pitch contest:

  • Champion Life, founded by Kym Hunter and Olympian Brennon Dowrick OAM, is an online platform designed to motivate young teens to pick up sport and physical activity as a lifelong habit;
  • Circular Food, founded by Steve Morriss, aims to close the loop of organic waste by educating professional farmers and gardeners on using vermiculture or worm farms for commercial products; and
  • SettleIn, founded by Alice Brennan, is an online platform to empower refugees when working with caseworkers by enabling them to take charge of the new life they build in Australia. SettleIn won Australia’s first Techfugees Hackathon event.