Refugees getting the job done in a tough labour market
Chantal Mousad had a successful career as a high-flying banker before escaping the Syrian war more than a decade ago.
After fleeing to neighbouring Iraq, she eventually resettled in Australia, where she slogged it out in menial jobs before climbing back up the corporate ladder.
"It was very difficult to find a job when I arrived," Ms Mousad told AAP.
"Employers told me they don't care so much about what kind of qualification you have, they care more about the experience in an Australian work environment."
Her two years' experience working as a chief risk officer at a reputable regional bank in Iraq were not enough - she was told she needed local experience.
"I was applying for basic positions in the finance and banking sector. I wouldn't even get any phone calls," she said.
Ms Mousad had a master's degree in finance but to make ends meet she worked for years as a cleaner, removalist and shop assistant to support herself and her daughter.
Research conducted by the University of Sydney and the Crescent Foundation indicates her experience is far from unique, with employers hesitant to take a chance on refugees.
Employers don't have the time or resources to employ or train refugees, even though they might have the skills companies seek - particularly in a tight labour market.
"Refugees want to work and employers say they are willing to hire them, but our research found a substantial gap between employer intentions and actions," lead author Betina Szkudlarek said.
She said refugees differed from others in the job market.
"One of the massive misunderstandings around refugees is that they are not like any other group of migrants coming to you who might have gone through an extensive process of thinking, strategising and have connections locally, which might open some doors," Dr Szkudlarek said.
A significant portion of the firms interviewed for the study said media and government portrayals of refugees fuelled prejudice and misconceptions.
"Employers should start slowly to realise that refugees are people that went through way much more than any of us can ever imagine," Dr Szkudlarek said.
Less than half of the companies that participated in the report said English language difficulties hindered them from recruiting refugees, while a few expected new hires to hit the ground running without training.
Dr Szkudlarek recommended employers partner with support organisations to match skilled refugees with appropriate jobs.
"Hiring refugees is good for business as much as it is good for disadvantaged job-seekers who are eager to rebuild their lives in Australia," she said.
The Albanese government committed more than $9 million in the budget towards improving employment outcomes for refugees and migrants.
CareerSeekers, a social enterprise supporting refugees and asylum seekers, was the missing piece in Ms Mousad getting her career on track.
The group managed to secure her a 12-week internship with the Commonwealth Bank.
That placement translated into her moving up the ladder at the bank, before taking a job at Westpac as a senior manager.
Ms Mousad is proud of her achievements, but she says they would not have been possible without an employer giving her a go.
"As refugees we don't have access to many tools that can help us and let us be successful," she said.
"Without a chance being given to me, I couldn't secure all these jobs."