In Summary

A community engagement program introduced only a year ago for migrants and refugees has already inspired 10 students to further their education and undertake their pre-apprenticeship.

Based at Swinburne University of Technology’s Croydon campus, the program is led by Bwe Thay, a refugee advocate who spent half a decade living in a refugee camp in Burma and is now building inspiring career pathways for migrant students studying English at Swinburne.

“We offer new migrants coming into Australia a way into Vocational Education. The program gives them a taste of the trades where they learn basic carpentry, plumbing and bricklaying skills,” Mr Thay said.

“It’s a very empowering process for our students. The program gives the students the opportunity for hands-on learning beyond their Migrant English classes and opens their eyes to opportunities that they might have not considered.”

With over 40 years’ experience in the building industry, their teacher, John Basford, said that he was impressed with the enthusiasm demonstrated by his students and their willingness to learn.

“Their attitude is inspiring because all the students work harmoniously across their different cultural backgrounds and skill levels”.

Mr Thay said the program has been a success due to the commitment and partnership of the Department of Trades and Engineering Technology and the Department of Health, Science, Education & Social Services at Swinburne.

The students are currently constructing a “Welcome Tree” from plywood, which will be presented to the City of Manningham Council to celebrate the opening of a Refugee Welcome Zone.

One of the students, Kanha Kong, came from Cambodia with a dream of becoming a nurse. The program has built her confidence, she’s developed close relationships with other migrant students and she is learning practical skills.

“I’m having a lot of fun in this class, learning how to use different tools and meeting new friends. When I finish my English studies at Swinburne, I am going to look at how I can become a nurse,” Ms Kong said.

Mr Thay, who enrolled in the Adult Migrant English program at Swinburne after only two weeks of his arrival from Burma, said that he is proud to be working at Swinburne with migrant students.

“Swinburne is committed to reaching out to the local migrant communities. This program is just the beginning and I’m really excited about what the future holds,” Mr Thay said.

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