For Samson Gebrehiwot, coming to Australia as a refugee from Sudan was the opportunity for a good life ahead.
But for the 20-year-old young man with almost no English language skills or understanding of the Australian education and training system, the future was clouded in uncertainty.
Now, as a student in the Young Adult Migrant Education Course (YAMEC) at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE's (NMIT) Collingwood campus, Samson is participating in a mentoring program developed by Mission Australia, Victoria.
The program called Mission:Exchange, is for young people aged 15-25 years who are, or at risk of being, disconnected from education, training and employment. It matches young people with mentors from the corporate business sector to help the participants develop a career plan and provide support. By sharing their experience, knowledge and skills, the mentors, successful professionals, can help the young person carve out a direction for the future, by enabling them to set clear goals and pathways to employment and/or further education.
The program, from June to December, involves a meeting with the young person and mentor one afternoon per month, a three day camp and a two week work placement with the mentor in the workplace.
As well as having an employment and educational focus, the program also aims to boost personal development of the young people by enhancing their confidence, self esteem and motivation.
Samson is one of six YAMEC students from NMIT in the program and YAMEC teacher Chris Francke said it was a fantastic opportunity for the students to engage with a business professional who would assist them to achieve their ambitions.
'The students, mostly refugees and recently arrived migrants, can face many barriers to employment and further education as well as experiencing difficulties with the socialisation process,' Chris said.
'Some of our students have experienced racism and find it difficult to cope with their anger and frustration in response. This program can address these issues and help them carve out a clear pathway for a good future.'
YAMEC is a program for refugee and migrant young people aged between 16-26 years. Its courses are developed by linking the language and literacy needs of the students with the development of broader educational and living skills and has a holistic approach to the settlement needs of young people.
Samson has just returned from the three-day camp at Anglesea YMCA Recreation Camp with his mentor, Lee Robinson, as well as the other 11 students from around Melbourne participating in the program
Lee is currently employed as Optus' Victorian Field Operations Delivery Manager and said he became a mentor to give something back to the community, assist someone who would benefit directly from advice and assistance and to see someone reach their potential.
'I can help Samson navigate his path to success and enable him to become a successful contributor to our community,' Lee added.
Samson said he felt very happy here in Australia and 'I know anything I want is here for me, but I needed help and now I have it at YAMEC and with my mentor.
'I want to become a mechanic and I needed to meet new people and have help to get work for the future. I want to know where I can study and how to get a job.'
He said while he was at times embarrassed to socialise outside his home because he struggled with English, talking to the mentor had improved his confidence and he felt comfortable talking with him.
'He is a good person and is telling me about directions I must take for my future. At the camp, I talked to the other young people on the program and it was good to share our experiences and to know I'm not the only one in my situation.'
Samson added his time at the camp was 'magic,' where he felt like he was with friends and that he had known them for a long time.
He said he felt very lucky and surprised to have the opportunity to be part of the Mission: Exchange program through YAMEC and was very proud to be part of it.
This is paradise for me here now and I feel better about me and where I can go in the future.'
Interview / Photo Opportunity
Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.
Interview / Photo Opportunity
Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener.