Auckland, New Zealand

From Alpha to Omega: Innovating in the Workplace

OMEGA (Opportunities for Migrant Employment In Greater Auckland)

November 16, 2008

Importing a successful labour force integration model saves time and money

New Zealand City View

Too often new immigrants to New Zealand, much like new immigrants around the world, end up falling into the frustrating cycle of “no New Zealand experience, then no job, no job, then no New Zealand experience.” The result is that many skilled new immigrants are unable to gain employment that is reflective of their education and professional backgrounds.

In June 2007, the Committee for Auckland, an alliance of local city leaders, attended a learning exchange in Toronto (Canada) hosted by TRIEC,the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council. Founded in 2003, TRIEC is internationally recognized for its efforts to help skilled immigrants gain the cultural skills and networks they need to excel in the work force of their new country. TRIEC’s occupation specific immigrant mentoring program, The Mentoring Partnership, has had particularly impressive outcomes, with more than 85% of participants acquiring full time positions in their fields after their internships and making impressive gains in their earning potential (67% higher post-program).

The Toronto city exchange led the Committee for Auckland’s Future Auckland Leaders group to adapt the TRIEC experience for a pilot mentoring program known as the “Skills for Auckland.” Modelled after what they had seen in Toronto, the program was targeted at skilled immigrants and included formal workshops as well as one-to-one guidance in the form of mentoring. The experiment proved successful. Over 50% of the participants in the pilot program went on to secure jobs in their chosen fields.

The success of “Skills for Auckland” resulted in the development of a scaled up version of the pilot project now known as OMEGA (Opportunities for Migrant Employment in Greater Auckland).

OMEGA was officially launched on March 5th 2008 with endorsements from over 30 of the region’s top employers and civil leaders, all of whom are now involved with providing both business leadership and a voice to the issues of underemployment amongst new immigrants to New Zealand.

Currently over one third of Auckland’s 1.4 million residents are foreign born. Facilitating their transition into appropriate employment is viewed as essential for the economic growth and vibrancy of the city.

OMEGA’swork was modeled on best practices from TRIEC but adapted to meet the local conditions and needs of Auckland’s labour market. Like TRIEC, OMEGA helps skilled immigrants find paid internships and matches them with mentors in their professional fields. OMEGA helps interview and screen candidates. The host employers pay the intern’s stipend.

When OMEGA was localizing the TRIEC program, one challenge that they faced was getting business to embrace the concept of a paid internship as a form of recruitment, as well as some challenges stemming from local labour and employment laws.

To participate in OMEGA, applicants must be able to legally work in New Zealand, be a landed immigrant within the last 3 years, have at least 3 years work experience internationally, have achieved at least a bachelor’s level of education, be without paid New Zealand work experience in their particular field and be fluent in English.

Once immigrants have been accepted into the program, Omega matches them with similarly skilled mentors and helps secure paid internships through its network of Founding Employers. Founding Employers then conduct further interviews and select interns based on a competitive recruiting process.

Internships are between 3 and 6 months and are located in the Greater Auckland Region. Corporations involved with OMEGA include: ANZ, , New Zealand Post, Air New Zealand, Bank of New Zealand, Vodafone, Genesis Energy, Simpson Grierson and Deloitte.

By adapting the most successful TRIEC practices to jumpstart a locally viable immigrant labour market integration strategy, Justin Treagus, OMEGA Programme Director, says, “We were able to swim as soon as we started. Following the TRIEC model was invaluable in the amount of time and resources we saved, I would say that we were easily able to fast track our program by six months or even a year. We had our site visit in June 2007, officially launched in March 2008 and by April of that year had our first set of mentors.”

By following the TRIEC model, OMEGA was successful from the start, “”One story that always sticks with me,” says Justin, ” was when we had an Asian man come in to keep his wife company while she learned about the mentor program. He had been trained in India in geographic information systems but for the past five years had been working as a cab driver. As he sat there listening to the program, he decided that he should be part of it. Three days after he his first mentor meeting, he had a full time job in his field!”

For a selection of library resources related to this Good Idea, see sidebar at right.

Making it Work for You:

  • Innovation is associated with success. When considering new approaches to labour force integration or other local economic development needs, look for established programs that you can adapt locally, and then systematically overcome barriers to implementation.
  • Go to the source for information about successful labour force integration models. Contact organizations and municipalities directly to learn more about their implementation strategies.
  • Share your success with others - and in the process gain recognition, potential partnerships and opportunities for future collaboration.

For this Good Idea contact:

Justin Treagus, CEO
P O Box 106937, Auckland City PostShop
Auckland, New Zealand,
Tel: +64 9 379 3483

New Zealand Immigration on moving to New Zealand