Last updated: November 2, 2020

Employment Plus Job Coach, Robert Thi Hlum, started working with Employment Plus in September last year. Robert, who is of Chin ethnicity, immigrated to Australia in 2008 from Burma and was working as an interpreter when he first came in contact with the Ringwood Employment Plus team.

“The team impressed me with how they delivered their services to all people including refugees. I thought if I could work with them I could do more to help the refugees in my community who face significant barriers to employment,” explained Robert.

With English being one of five languages he speaks, Robert was able to help other migrants with all forms of life administration – from Medicare applications to obtaining a licence. In fact, a significant number of job seekers in the North Eastern suburbs of Melbourne also come from Burma – many leaving their farms with little-to-no English and limited transferrable work skills.

Robert said he is passionate about working for Employment Plus and lives The Salvation Army's Mission and Vision by "assisting in building healthy communities through transforming lives and helping people gain employment.”

Employment Plus Ringwood Site Manager, Naomi Farrell, saw that Robert (who had started part-time in September last year), had both the necessary community connections and language abilities to help bridge the gap in finding work for other Burmese migrants. His own hard work saw him become permanent in March this year and in July he filled 15 positions with local cleaning company Tradeflex!

Robert had seen that local cleaning company, Tradeflex, was looking for more workers to assist with new COVID-related cleaning tasks at local schools. He had just taken a group of local Chin migrants through a health and safety course and knew with the right opportunity to work together – and his ongoing support – they could provide an ideal locally-based workforce solution.

“I’ve been there first-hand. I know how hard it is when your language is limited and what’s great about this project has been the ability for the group to work directly alongside each other and support each other,” says Robert.

“There’s camaraderie and a collective approach that means things aren’t lost in translation. The leaders within the group can support those still working on their English to fulfil all tasks and to meet all expectations. They are incredibly grateful for the work and are happy in their roles.”

Robert's role is far more than just a regular Job Coach. He is able to help his clients and community from the beginning of the employment process to the end.

“As we are dealing with people from a refugee background, everything is new to them and they face a number of barriers to employment,” explained Robert.

“My job is about assisting people from the beginning to the end. Taking people to interviews and helping them with pre-employment checks. We also help the employers with the inductions too.”

Tradeflex National Operations Manager, Marilyn Giunta, says Tradeflex is proud to be able to work with Robert and play a role in helping new Australians establish their lives on local soil.

“We always welcome opportunities to work with migrants and Robert’s assistance has enabled us to ensure all our new staff understand their roles; that they have the necessary clearances, skills and we can work across our cultural differences."

Robert is proud to work for Employment Plus and assist in breaking down the barriers to employment for migrants within his community, and his colleagues are even more proud to have Robert on their team.

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