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Benefits of beauty course much more than skin deep

By Fiona West | September 25, 2023

While getting up and going to work on a Monday morning may, for many, feel like an unremarkable routine activity, there is a group of 13 women in Western Sydney for whom this simple act is filled with a mix of healthy nervousness, anticipation and excitement.

These women have spent the past eight weeks at Navitas Skilled Futures Fairfield preparing for this moment – and they can’t wait. For many of them, it is not just the first time they will be working in Australia, it is the first time in their lives they will be working anywhere outside their own homes!

The 10-week full-time course – which includes eight weeks of theoretical and practical training at NSF and RTO partner Reach for Training, followed by two weeks’ work experience – prepares participants for further training for a career in the beauty industry. It aims to improve participants’ English language skills, while gaining practical knowledge and skills in makeup, along with employability and workplace skills. Most of the women are mothers and have also taken advantage of free onsite childcare with KU while they are at college.

Jwana, from Iraq, and My, from Vietnam, are two of the women participating in NSF Fairfield’s Pathways to Work Beauty course, which is part of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)*.

L-R: Participants Jwana and My, and NSF trainer Mary Ann Bando.

Jwana, 37, has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Iraq but has never used it.

“I didn’t work in this field because I have children and I should look after them,” she said. “The work [in Iraq] is not available for all. It’s very hard.”

With three children aged 3, 11 and 13, Jwana said an engineering career is something she might consider in the future, but for now working in beauty is something more accessible that she thinks she would enjoy as her first work experience in a new country.

“We learn how to apply the makeup, we learn about the resume, how to make resume, about work in Australia, the rules, the rights; because it’s different to our country, it’s very important to know that.

“I learned many things about workplace here in Navitas and we go to do work experience next two weeks. I’m very excited to do that because I didn’t do work before in my country. This is the first time.”

Asked if she was nervous about her upcoming work experience in a retail cosmetic store at Westfield Parramatta, Jwana said, “A little bit”.

“But we learn a lot of things in this course and I will use that in the next two weeks. Before I don’t know how to apply makeup – the steps and materials and the products. Now I know how to apply makeup. We practise the steps and we learned.”

The finished product! Students practised day makeup on NSF staffer Lina.

My, 34, will be working for two weeks at a pharmacy in Cabramatta.

“I’m excited,” she said.

“I’m feeling prepared and excited because I really want to know outside the classroom the work experience here in Australia.”

In Vietnam My studied business and worked in sales. But she said she needed to improve her “Aussie” English and learn more about Australia before she felt confident to work anywhere, and she was very interested in the beauty industry.

“I enjoy the classes a lot,” she said. “And the teacher was very helpful. She taught us to prepare a resume. The resume in Australia is very different from the resume in Vietnam. She helped us about all the skills you need and the government rules here for working – that’s very important information.”

My said making friends from other countries was a big bonus for her.

“I get to know new friends with a lot of nationalities. That is very new to me because when I was in Vietnam all my friends are same as me, Vietnamese, Asian. But here I get to know a lot of Arabic ladies. At first we not really friendly with each other but after a while … we doing a lot of teamwork so we know each other now, we very friendly with each other.

“Thank you to my teacher and all my classmates. They were very helpful during the course to help me finish the course.

“I’m thinking to continue my study but if there is a job available I would like to take it. Retail, in beauty or any field.”

NSF PTW Beauty trainer Mary Ann Blando said the women had really enjoyed the course, gaining two units of Certificate III qualifications (Lash & brow; and apply makeup) with theory and practical training delivered by Reach for Training, setting them up for further study to be able to enter the beauty industry.

In the classroom at Navitas she has been preparing them for those two assessments, the work placements and working in Australia.

“I started by helping them understand beauty-related words and phrases, such as beauty products and terms like ‘face shapes’, ‘skin types’ and identifying colours,” she said. “We also covered how to read and follow instructions, as well as customer service and communication skills and employability skills,” Mary Ann said.

“Over the eight weeks they have learned about working in Australia, including terminologies in the workplace, and they were also introduced to the Fair Work website so they understand workers’ rights and conditions, expectations and regulations.”

Garden wedding makeup for NSF staffer Rachel (centre).

The participants also got to trial Navitas Skilled Futures’ pilot innovative 360 project, providing a virtual experience of a beauty salon through VR images. The students used VR headsets to “look around” the salon, with embedded activities and an accompanying workbook covering vocabulary, listening comprehension, reading comprehension and a simulated interview with someone who works in the salon.

The experience – also being piloted in other NSF classes with a library, gym, surf life saving and retail – helps familiarise students with the workplace so they feel more comfortable when they experience the real thing.

The women are looking forward to going out on their two weeks’ practical experience. They can’t work somewhere where they are applying makeup on paying customers at this stage without a qualification so most of them are working in retail, in the Fairfield, Parramatta and Wetherill Park areas.

At the end of the course the women receive a Statement of Attainment, and their assessable units are recognised if they decide to continue with a certificate or diploma at a Registered Training Organisation.

Evening makeup. Three teams practised and explained their skills for a video.

“They all love makeup, that’s why they’re here,” Mary Ann said. “There are a lot of opportunities, especially in retail, selling makeup, and this is a good stepping stone for them if they want to continue to further study, which many of them plan to do.

“The good thing about this group is I’ve seen them all support each other. They know that mistakes are part of learning, and there is always room for improvement.

“They help each other to understand that and are very supportive, working like a team. This is setting them up for those team skills in the workplace. Here they learn they are more capable than they might have thought and they can learn and achieve something.”

“I have seen a significant improvement in this class since the first day, not only in language and learning about makeup, but in confidence. I think they will all do really well.”

*The Adult Migrant English Program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs

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