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Usman Jaiyeola and David Barker have joined the Concern Australia team as our new Job Advocates, based at our south-eastern Metropolitan Melbourne site in Dandenong.

The Job Advocates are funded by the Victorian Government through Jobs Victoria to support people to find the right work and education options.

While the overall recovery from the economic impact of the pandemic is looking good, for those who were already finding life tough, things have become even tougher. Two of the biggest challenges vulnerable people face are housing and employment.

That’s why the Victorian Government has invested in a small army of Job Advocates who are being deployed across the state to help people find work.

Usman and David are part of this network of passionate people dedicated to supporting people in their hunt for the right job.

Usman knows firsthand the challenges that face a migrant looking for work.

Usman out the front of Concern Australia’s Dandenong location on Station Street, where he’ll be based

He grew up in the West African nation of Nigeria, where he completed his undergraduate degree in sociology. He migrated to Australia in 2016 to study a Masters of Commerce at Deakin University.

“When I finished my degree, I tried to find work as a business analyst,” Usman said. “I knocked on many doors. I can see now that my lack of understanding of how to present myself along with cultural hurdles were big barriers to getting that first job,” he said.

Usman persevered, eventually finding work with an online retail outlet. He did his Diploma in Community Services, and then secured a number of roles supporting others in the community. These included working as a project coordinator for African Australia Multicultural Youth Employment Services, Child Protection roles in a number of organisations, and most recently as a Multicultural Youth Worker at the Centre for Multicultural Youth.

For Usman, the Job Advocate role is an exciting opportunity to make a difference.

“I started so many important projects at the Centre for Multicultural Youth, so it was hard to leave there,” he said. “But the Job Advocate role is an opportunity to build my own career. It’s about what I’ve been doing already, supporting people to stay employed, be involved in the community and included in Australian society.

“I also want to send a message to Africans that you can be something worthwhile here in this country and community,” he said.

Usman and a local jobseeker sitting down to discuss opportunities

David’s pathway to the Job Advocate role has been different to Usman, but he’s just as passionate. He spent two decades in Human Resources roles in the manufacturing sector before moving to working in key roles for not-for-profits. These included Manager of the Salvation Army’s Bush Fire Recovery Program, Community Engagement Coordinator with BaptCare, Lead Partner People & Culture with Uniting Vic.Tas, and most recently Salvation Army Store Manager establishing a retail social enterprise.

“I spent 20 years as an employer and then the past 15 years in not-for-profits,” David said.  “My heart is to use the sum of all my experiences to deliver a good outcome to the person who is doing it tough who is right in front of me.

“I know all about what the employers want and need and expect from the workforce. I can understand the employer’s perspective of the jobseeker in front of me. I can see the gaps that the person has in their experience and skills, and help them to fill those gaps.

David out the front of his office based at Concern Australia in Dandenong, ready to help local jobseekers

“I’m delighted that I get the chance to bring my whole self to work. I love the ethos of Concern Australia, it just fits so well with me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to do this work in the south-east area and grateful that Concern Australia and the State Government have given me the opportunity.”

Find out more and connect with our Jobs Victoria Advocates here.

Together, Usman and David will connect with job seekers in the south-east and support them in their search for work.

“Picture me as a tradie with a bag full of tools,” Usman said. “When I’m talking to you, we’ll be exploring different options. Different things could pop up during the conversations that require different tools. I’ll look into my bag of tool and see what will work best. This could include connecting you with:

  • Learn Locals
  • Job Centres/JobActive network
  • Job Victoria Employment network
  • Education and training opportunities

“Our job is to make quick and effective referrals, to help guide people to the services that they need,” Usman said.

“We’re here to help job seekers navigate a very complicated system,” David added.

“This involves having an understanding of the different types of support that help people to address barriers to finding work. These include employment services, education and training, income support, and other support services. We make referrals, and provide advice about how to navigate those services.”

David said that people who were already vulnerable needed that extra support to find and keep a job.

“It certainly includes young people, which is Concern Australia’s focus,” he said. “There’s people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and people experiencing a range of different barriers such as mental health challenges, drug and alcohol use, family violence situations and more.”

David sitting down with a local jobseeker to help them work out their options

When it comes to working with some of the most vulnerable people in the community, David and Usman are in the right place to call on the expertise of their colleagues.

“We’ll collaborate with all of Concern Australia’s program teams, such as the Inside Out team and the Hand Brake Turn crew – it’s a very logical place for us to be sitting,” David said. “We’ve already tapped into their networks and we have contacted the agencies they use.”

We are so excited to have David and Usman on board at Concern Australia and are keen to support their work. We’ve currently just posted a position to support the work they’ll be doing so if you are interested in the Administrative Assistant role we’d love to hear from you. You can check out the position here.

David and Usman will also be networking with other Job Advocates in the south-east region to ensure there is a strategic approach to supporting people throughout the area.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity for us to work with Concern Australia and the Victorian Government to support people, to keep people employed and contributing to Australia and the Victorian community,” Usman said.

Find out more about the Jobs Victoria Advocates program and connect with David and Usman here.

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