"It's a fine precision cut for vegetables called Brunoise", standing in the beloved kitchen where Ashish Parikh devoted his heart to, he answered calmly to the question about what kind of cut it is that he just saw. No, it is not a scene in the reality TV show Master Chef, it is simply one of many processes that everyone needs to go through to demonstrate the knowledge and skills in their qualified trade field if they have applied for Job Ready Program (JRP) - a four step employment-based program introduced by Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) in January 2010.
Like many international students, Ashish came to Sydney, Australia from India to study in a vocational college in 2008; hoping once the study is finished, he can apply for permanent residency (PR) and contribute what he has learnt to Australia.
With a passion for cooking, he chose to study a two-year course in hospitality and commercial cookery. Just when he felt lucky enough to be studying what he loves, a sudden TRA rule change turned his outlook up side down.
"I wanted to get my degree to be assessed before the end of 2009, but my last exam was on 12th of December. With only two weeks left and Christmas holiday coming up, there was no enough time to get my result and apply for skills assessment then apply for PR." With the obvious disappointment, Ashish did not express any resentment. "I am thankful my college gave me my result as soon as they can. But the process lead up to applying for PR was too long."
Ashish may have just showed what patience is, and it is the quality what many international students possess given the situation they find themselves in. If it was not for the rules change that has taken place, he could have saved more than three thousand dollars and be eligible for applying PR one and half year ago. But thanks to the JRP, the longest and the most expensive skills assessment in existence, he had to start all over from step one again.
"Because I went through the JRP, I want to share my experience with other students, " Ashish smiles. "It might help them." As one of very few students in Australia that have successful completed the JRP since it has been introduced, he has every reason to be smiling. There are several mini-steps and requirements in each of the four steps in JRP, any action that goes wrong in the between could mean the delaying of the whole process. Ashish's rather smooth ride means not only he relieved the huge financially burden of his family, he also faced less risk to other further immigration rules change.
"It was easy for me to apply for a Provisional Skills Assessment, the first step of JRP, " Ashish explains. "Because I had finished my two years study, got my trade qualification, got 6 for my IELTS in each band and I was working part time as a cook while studying for more than 6 months. That's all I needed in order to pass Provisional Skills Assessment."
The waiting period for Ashish to get the PSA result was three months. In the meantime, he applied for the Skilled-Graduate (Temporary) visa (subclass 485) and started the full time cooking job in a commercial kitchen in Sydney that serves two hundred customers per day with the same employer he was working full time with.
While Ashish made the passing step one of JRP seem so easy, it is no easy job for some students who could not find part time employment in the relevant trade filed or get score of 6 for IELTS in every band. The challenge for Ashish though, came in during step two of JRP, Job Ready Employment registration, where he had to persuade his manager to agree to register with TRA. That means not only his employer need to sign the paperwork, monitoring and signing Ashish's Job Ready Journal each month, they were under the obligation to be inspected and interviewed by officials from TRA.
"It was quite difficult to ask them at first because my manager may need to discuss with his boss," Ashish frowns. "But I was very good at my job, always willing to help others and putting in extra effort in developing my skills," with a proud tone, he continues. "I explained to my manger I studied commercial cookery and that is what I want continue to do in Australia. So I need their help to apply for PR."
Every time Ashish talks about his job, you can see the sparkle in his eyes. Perhaps it is this kind of passion that moved his boss, but Ashish attributes the successful experience also to a good liaison officer from TRA. "The liaison officer from TRA was very helpful. When he made the workplace visit to my kitchen, he explained the purpose of JRP clearly to my manager and answered all the questions I had," Ashish speaks with gratitude.
The workplace visit is part of the Job Ready Employment registration step. After getting a positive outcome from it after two weeks, Ashish took the training courses for professional development at TAFE, he was again a step closer to completing his JRP. "There are one three hours workshop called 'working with others' and an English ability interview. In the workshop they teach you some knowledge in how to work with other people, and for the interview, the tester will ask you some general questions and ask you to write something about your work to show your English ability" he explains. "I took these two parts once a week because I had to work. They cost me one thousand dollars."
One interview and a three hours workshop for one grand, this is the cost for those international graduates who want to finish the JRP. And that is only a small part of the total amount. At each stage, there is an amount of fee that needs to be paid varying from $150 to $2000. For Ashish, the complete JRP cost him $3590. "That is the number I will never forget," Ashish shrugs his shoulder. "There is nothing you can do."
Luckily for what Ashish can do, he carried out them well. In third step of JRP, the Job Ready Workplace Assessment, the well-organised cook provided the manager-signed Job Ready Journal that he had been keeping for twelve months as well as the payslips and bank statements as a proof of paid experience. When the independent Workplace Assessor visited his workplace to conduct the three hours practical test, he performed his cooking skills and answered all the questions about their menu and cooking general knowledge effortlessly. "If you have been working full-time and kept updating your skills, you should be fine for this test," Ashish says. That is how he past his test and become "job ready", which gives him the permission to apply for the Job Ready Final Assessment, the last step of the JRP.
"I'm very happy that I got my approval letter from TRA for the final assessment on June 17th (2011), only a week after I applied for it. So I have just enough of time to apply for PR before the rules change again in July" Ashish smiles.
But with a heavy price tag and lengthy process that Ashish has gone through, finishing JPR is no guarantee to a happily-ever-after story. The PR application just started another uncertain wait for him. The occupation of Cook is on the lowest level of processing priorities as with many other occupations on the old Skilled Occupation List so it may take years before his PR is granted. Although he has patience he still feels this is an unfair burden.
There is one thing that he is sure about the future though, "when I get my PR, I will repay my family in India slowly the money I borrowed from them four years ago when I came to Australia. That money made it possible for me to pay for the JRP."
Next edition: Ashish's tips for other students who are considering JRP and another international student's experience with JRP.