Inspired to Inspire

Teresa Zemek

They say that corporate knowledge is priceless, and in the case of Teresa Zemek, Inspire MeTM employment facilitator, that could not be more true.

Not only has she been with Multicultural Futures since 2006, and have seen the ebbs and flows of the organisation, but she has had the ability to map out what works and what doesn’t.

In a way, very few people could be more suited to her Inspire MeTM role than Teresa, because her compassion for people from a migrant or refugee background comes from her own life experience. In her own family who migrated from the UK where Dad went to work and Mum stayed home with the children in those days, and education wasn’t that important beyond high school for women.

What Teresa found was that women often get left behind when it comes to education. Throughout the migration process, women are most likely to miss out on free English classes, as they are often the primary carers for children, or they haven’t had education opportunities in their country of origin, and lack confidence to try to learn English. This means that these women could have been in Australia for many years, but still don’t have the English to help them get a job or connect with others in the broader community. This also means that they would have missed out on opportunities that are only available to migrants or refugees in the first 5 years after arrival.

Teresa started her career with Multicultural Futures as Career Advisor and also facilitated  the First and Second Click program funded by the Department of Education and Training. Settlement Support Employment was one of the high demand areas. Unfortunately, funding was cut, and Teresa transferred to the Settlement Grants program.

Thankfully funding by Soroptomist International in Fremantle allowed the then Fremantle Multicultural Centre to address a gap in the service to provide classes for women to improve their employability. Teresa was part of the team who developed this in-house package to help prepare them for work, teach resumé writing and interview skills.

These years of working out what works for clients, lead to the Inspire MeTM program. Inspire Me is a free job readiness course that takes a wholistic approach and takes other transferrable and life skills into account. Classes are really tailored to each cohort. Part of the success of Inspire MeTM is that it puts clients at ease and advocates lifelong learning. There is no duress that everyone has to be at the same place at a certain time. The focus is more that each participant knows what they are doing. Teresa and the team build a repore with those clients. It is often then when Teresa learns about what the clients need to be successful in their employment journey. This provides clients with the opportunity of additional support and one-to-one assistance.

In one case, a client did a certificate III in Aged Care after completing Inspire MeTM. Her job prospects were limited because she didn’t have a drivers’ licence and because of financial strife couldn’t afford lessons. Teresa was able to refer her to get driving lessons at a reduced rate. The client passed her drivers’ test, got a job and could start paying her rent. This meant that her family could stay in Australia and reduced a lot of stress for her family.

Not only do clients get the skills offered by Inspire Me, but they form great connections with their peers. The groups are always very social which means that valuable networks are established to help them settle into society and stay connected.

The Inspire MeTM eligibility criteria is for people who have arrived within the first five years after arriving in Australia. It is very unique and complementary to many other SETS programs, and provides clients with both short- and long-term career pathways. Over the last eighteen months it has predominantly been offered at libraries, with particularly great support by the City of Mandurah, City of Cockburn and the City of Canning. The AMEP Thornlie campus have become a valuable partner too where students who were interested in doing Inspire Me could do it during school holidays at the campus.

Like most of the world, Inspire MeTM have had to adapt with Covid-19, and will be producing the program online as of late June 2020. The great thing is that participants will now be able access and practice their skills from home. Participants will be able to take laptops, with the tutorials already uploaded, on loan and practice without needing the internet.

For more information about Inspire MeTM, call Teresa on 08 9494 3782 or 0409 417 466 and email teresa.z@multiculturalfutures.org.au

Teresa Zemek