After graduating from Shepparton High School in 2015, then 18-year-old Kuol Kuol packed his bags and made the move to Melbourne to pursue the career opportunities a big city typically offers.
‘‘I moved to Melbourne thinking that if I worked hard I would be able to gain the experience I needed to build my career, but I found that sometimes your cultural background and the perception that you haven’t assimilated well into the Australian community can limit certain opportunities,’’ he said.
‘‘I knew I needed to gain work experience, so I moved back to the country I was born in — South Sudan — where I quickly got a job working in government, but I missed my family and friends back home in Australia.’’
When Kuol moved back to Shepparton he discovered the National Australia Bank’s African Australian Inclusion Program.
Under the program, NAB partnered with Jesuit Social Services to provide six months of paid corporate experience to African Australians to help them gain local experience and build a path to an ongoing career in the Australian business sector.
NAB has been involved with the AAIP for close to 10 years, with more than 380 people taking part in the program since it started.
Typically involving roles in NAB’s head offices in Sydney and Melbourne, late last year the program was expanded to include roles in retail branches outside the major cities.
Kuol joined the team at the NAB Shepparton branch in early November as a customer adviser and has been enjoying getting to know local customers. It is the first time the AAIP program has been run in Shepparton.
‘‘I’ve really enjoyed the time I spend on the floor as concierge because I get to meet people from so many different cultures and help them when they come into the branch,’’ Kuol said.
‘‘This includes members of Shepparton’s African community, who may need a bit of extra help at times.’’
NAB Shepparton branch manager David Gillespie said Kuol has been a welcome addition to the team and had already received positive feedback from many customers.
‘‘Kuol’s friendly approach has brought a really positive energy to our team and he’s quickly found his feet serving on the counter, which can be quite daunting,’’ Mr Gillespie said.
Kuol said he was pleased about gaining local experience and building his professional network in Shepparton.
‘‘The experience and skills I have learned so far will stay with me as I build my career. All I needed was someone to give me a chance so I could get my foot in the door,’’ he said.