Ashoup Atar is the CEO of Kowanj, a recruitment agency and training organisation that works with people from migrant backgrounds to help them find meaningful employment.
“The most rewarding part of my job is watching the journeys of migrant and refugee students and jobseekers, seeing how successful, hopeful, confident and independent they become through our extensive work with them,” Ash says.
Read on to learn how Kowanj and Builders Academy Australia are working together to break down barriers and get people into meaningful careers in the building and construction industry.
Who is Ash Atar
Ash understands the training and employment needs of people in the migrant community better than most, as an educator and someone who’s gone through the migrant experience herself.
Ash grew up in South Sudan and Egypt before coming to Australia as a refugee with her family.
She got her passion for teaching from her father, a professor and author who has even designed a learning material for teaching students Swahili, that’s used all around the country.
Inspired by her dad to pursue a career in education, Ash obtained a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
From the beginning, Ash saw a gap in education and employment, and recognised the importance of having programs that meet the particular needs of people from diverse and disadvantaged communities.
“The migrant communities are disadvantaged and under-represented within the employment sector due to the cultural gaps experienced by employers.”
Without employers who have a cultural understanding, many people from migrant backgrounds struggle to find employment and end up dependent on support.
That’s why, since 2010, Kowanj has been working with communities to help people overcome these challenges and move into meaningful careers.
Why do we need Kowanj
People from refugee and migrant backgrounds face barriers and challenges to employment that are unique to people from within those communities.
“The lack of cultural diversity within workplaces makes it challenging for people from migrant refugee backgrounds to easily find work,” Ash says.
Many of the challenges that they face can be overcome, Ash says, by engaging training organisations and employers with those communities.
Often, she says, training organisations and employers don’t realise that the needs of migrants and refugees differ from those of other communities. A lack of cultural understanding often results in people feeling disengaged from their training or their work, and leads to lost opportunities.
“There has not been enough cultural awareness programs or training made available in most industries,” Ash says, which creates a barrier for diversity.
One of the major problems, Ash says, is a lack of flexibility.
On the plus side, a lack of flexibility is an easy problem to fix when the motivation is there. Organisations that take the time to understand these communities benefit from increased exposure and untapped potential.
As an example, Ash says that many women from African countries are overlooked for positions doing outdoor, physical work, even though many of them have extensive experience in these areas from their home countries.
This means that these women miss out on the jobs that could lead to valuable and long-term careers, and businesses are missing out on potential employees who will add a lot of value to their businesses.
Ash has a lot of first-hand experience with these issues, often having to make hundreds of calls to employers to secure opportunities for just a few of her clients.
There are massive advantages when organisations come to the table and work with organisations like Kowanj to introduce more migrants into the workforce.
As the people from these communities are eager for work, they can be trusted to work hard with a keen interest in developing skills when given an opportunity.
Ash says that inclusion is a way for employers to “obtain better cultural awareness,” creating “job opportunities for families from disadvantaged communities.”
What’s more, those who are given opportunities share their positive experiences with family and friends, creating more brand awareness and trust within the community.
These benefits aren’t just theory either. Kowanj has recently partnered with BAA and Simonds Homes to help get more people into great careers, and they’re already seeing the results.
Ash is very excited about the partnership with BAA and it’s parent company Simonds Homes.
“BAA, understands community, inclusion and is passionate about working with disengaged and disadvantaged students,” which, Ash says is a big part of the reason Kowanj has partnered with BAA.
“We, as a community led organisation, highly recommend BAA as a first-choice training provider.”
The building and construction industry provides great opportunities for people from migrant backgrounds. There is an abundance of work in the industry.
As Ash says, there will always be work in building and construction.
Students who train with BAA get the advantage of learning from trainers who have run their own businesses, and know the building and construction industry first hand.
The BAA trainers understand what it’s like to work on site. As such, these trainers understand that training is hard when students are also working full-time. This means that they are used to delivering the kind of flexible learning that Ash says is important.
“BAA provides a culturally appropriate environment suitable for its cohort as well as fully qualified and culturally competent trainers and assessors who contribute to the success of students successfully completing the course.”
Industry trainers give students the practical skills they need to find work.
When students graduate from BAA, they then have the advantage of being connected to the industry, which can make it easier to find employment and start an exciting career in building and construction.
Ash says that anyone thinking of training with BAA should definitely sign up.
“In my opinion BAA is an organisation that listens, provides and delivers, going the extra mile to support a student’s journey.”