ETC supports refugee with language barrier to gain employment

John with Bianca and Ric from Bar Que Sera.


IMAGINE living through decades of civil war and sectarian violence and having to flee your home country to find a safe place to live.

Unfortunately, this is the case for many Burmese refugees including 46-year-old John Thang.

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John was resettled with his wife, son, and daughter in Coffs Harbour, and after signing up with Centrelink he was linked with Employment Services Provider ETC for support.

Initially John did not speak any English, so there was a massive language barrier for him to overcome.

His ETC Jobs Advisor Kylie Hampshire organised a phone translator for their appointments, which helped her to understand John’s skills, work experience, and employment goals.

“John worked on his family’s farm from a young age, which is quite common in Burma – they harvested rice, corn and beans,” said Kylie.

Sadly, John’s mother and siblings are still in Burma, and he has not had contact with them since the military took over in February 2021.

John was keen and motivated to work, so after completing some English classes, Kylie felt he was ready to start going forward for jobs.

Kylie introduced John to ETC Business Account Manager Kelly Patterson – whose role is to match ETC customers seeking work with local employers looking for workers.

“John had the motivation to work.

“So, I knew I had to pair him up with an employer who supported someone who spoke English as a second language,” said Kelly.

She spoke with Bianca and Ric from Bar Que Sera in Sawtell, who immediately wanted to arrange an interview for John.

“Initially I explained the extent of John’s English levels, because it’s important to always be open and honest with our employers,” said Kelly.

When living in the city, Ric had worked with other non-English speaking employees – so he was open to working with someone who had a language barrier.

ETC organised a phone interpreter to help John complete his interview – Kylie and Kelly also attended for support.

After learning a bit more about him, Bianca and Ric were keen to give John a go and organised a trial as a Kitchen Hand.

After completing the trial, John was offered employment!

Again, an interpreter was organised by ETC to help him with his onboarding and all the necessary paperwork to officially start work.

“A lot of our migrant customers have strong work ethic – and that’s what employers want!

“They want someone who will turn up and do the job,” said Kelly.

Working through his language barrier, John learnt how to complete his tasks from watching demonstrations – and his employers are also looking at getting a book of tasks written up for John in his own language to help him progress.

Originally starting off in a casual position, John is now preparing to move into full time employment with Bar Que Sera.

“We absolutely love having John on board, he is such a good worker and a total sweetheart,” said Bianca and Ric.

ETC are very proud of John and all that he has achieved since arriving in Australia.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that ETC and my employer have given me,” said John.

Are you an employer looking for staff?

If you would like to speak to someone further about hiring an employee, contact ETC’s Business Relationship Team on 1800 007 400 or drop in to the local office at 80 Grafton Street, Coffs Harbour.

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