The Engineering Pathway Industry Cadetship (EPIC) is an 18-month program for refugee and asylum seeker engineers. Engineers Australia graduate member Abdul Salloum is one of this year’s cadets working on a major road upgrade in Victoria.
Abdul is a Syrian resident, raised in Saudi Arabia. He studied for his bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering at a Malaysian university before moving to Australia in 2018.
Despite having a master’s qualification, a work visa and some experience working as an intern in Malaysia, Abdul found it difficult to find work in Australia.
As he began the process of getting his qualifications approved, he joined Engineers Australia and says as a migrant engineer, being a member was a great way to make connections and communicate with peers.
“I found the conferences, networking events and all the other activities that are organised by Engineers Australia very helpful tools to improve and widen my knowledge,” Abdul says.
Abdul’s dream of working as an engineer in Australia took an unexpected turn when the Saudi Arabian Government cancelled his visa, putting Abdul at-risk of being forced to return to Syria.
“It just got cancelled out of nowhere,” Abdul explains. “The rules changed in Saudi Arabia leaving me without any place that I could come back to safely. I'm Syrian and Syria, to this day, is still a very unstable country with civil war ongoing.”
Abdul was forced to seek asylum in Australia and apply for refugee status, which eventually led him to the EPIC training program. While working various jobs to get by, Abdul’s friends encouraged him to apply for the program.
Abdul was surprised when he was offered a position, but he is now six months into his two-year cadetship and says it is one of the best things that could have happened to him.
Through the program, Abdul gets on-the-job training on a two-year fixed-term contract with a construction company. He also receives support and mentoring, and a Graduate Certificate in Infrastructure Engineering Management through Swinburne University. “You get the local experience as well as a local education, which I lacked before,” he says.
Abdul is currently working on major road upgrades in Melbourne’s south-east with Seymour Whyte and says the experience has made him feel like a totally different person. “When I started, I didn’t know all the lingo and all the different abbreviations. Now, I am able to communicate swiftly and directly without any problem,” he says.
Abdul is hopeful that the graduate certificate, combined with his international qualifications and the hands-on experience gained through the program, will kick-start his career in engineering.
“There are heaps of opportunities and chances to improve myself to progress career wise, and also to be part of the industry helping Victorians navigate their day-to-day life,” he says.
“Growing up, I always wished to be working in infrastructure. I'm very proud of my job and I'm proud to be an engineer.”
The next EPIC program intake will take place in the last quarter of the year. Keep an eye out for updates in Engineering News about applying for the program.