From Employment Platforms in Austria and Australia to Ethnic Meals in NYC

After meeting Abdul, a refugee from Pakistan late last year, Austrian lawyer Dominik Beron was impressed with his ambition to reform the educational system back home. It was his first real longer conversation with a refugee and he felt the urge to help out.

Frustrated by the lack of support from the Austrian government at helping refugees integrate and find employment, he was determined to fill in the void; he launched the social for profit enterprise Refugee Work in January of this year.

Independent of government funding, the startup is funded by the annual membership fees of corporates and employers who want access to the platform. “We want to make a statement that companies are paying to recruit refugees” says 24-year-old Beron.

With the beta version of the platform launched early June, 250 corporates have registered on the platform. The platform which features over 3,000 refugee profiles has successfully matched 50 refugees to date in different sectors including translation, facility management and software testing. The platform offers more than just matching refugees with corporates and has a range of services including assessing skills, training refugees on developing CVs and undergoing interviews, addressing post interview feedback and even sending refugees a checklist of what to take to an interview.

According to Beron, three factors are motivating corporates to pay the annual fee: a shortage of staff for jobs with low qualification requirements such as electricians, engineers etc. especially outside of the big cities, an increase in the diversity of the workforce and social responsibility.

Currently covering all of Austria, the startup has plans to expand its platform on a European scale and has found potential partners in other countries such as the Netherlands.

Securing jobs for refugees in Australia

Across the globe from Refugee Work is another startup based out of Australia that is also working on matching refugees with employment and internship opportunities. Founded by Syrian refugee Nirary Dacho and co-founder Anna Robson, both 29 years-old, Refugee Intern came together after a TechFugees hackathon held in Sydney in November 2015 and was officially luanch in July of this year.

With a Masters degree in Web Science, Dacho was a lecturer at a university in Syria before fleeing the civil strife to move to Australia with his family last summer. “I am lucky because I got to come to Australia with my family” says Dacho.

After spending a year at home struggling to find a job, he got the idea to establish a platform to support refugees in finding opportunities. “In Australia, they require local experience; without it, qualifications overseas don’t matter” adds Dacho.

So far, 80 refugees and 12 companies are on board. The founders are meeting with the federal government next month for a potential collaboration.

Like Refugee Work, the platform is a channel for refugees to connect to businesses and apply for employment positions. The founders are changing the name of the platform to Refugee Talent to better reflect the opportunities provided. In the month since they launched, they have placed seven refugees who had on average spent two years in Australia without finding a job. All of these placements are paid contracts lasting three to six months.

“The refugees arriving here have many years of experience; they are highly skilled with new ideas, new ways to do things” says Dacho.

Refugee Cooks in NYC

Further away from Australia, another startup is betting on the skills of refugees, this time in the field of cooking. It all started with Manal Rahi’s disappointment in the quality of hummus she found in supermarkets in New York City. Moving to NYC from Beirut in 2013 to study public administration, Rahi started making her own hommos at home; as she explored selling it, she started analysing the food industry.

As the refugee crisis worsened, Rahi, her brother Wissam and their friend Christian Chemaly, felt helpless. In November last year, the idea of EatOff Beat came together: hire refugees from across communities as cooks and sell ethnic meals in NYC through an online platform.

Partnering with the International Rescue Committee, they were able to identify talented home cooks passionate about food and sharing their culture. “That was the only requirement; they don’t need to have english skills or professional experience” says Kahi.

So far, EatOff Beat’s 11 refugees – from chefs from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Nepal to a kitchen manager to delivery operators – have brought close to 6,000 ethnic meals to New Yorkers. Their immediate plan is to expand their delivery reach within NYC first and then offer their ethnic meals to other cosmopolitan cities.

“People come for the mission because they are intrigued but they always come back for the food” says Rahi.

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