We’ve always been proud that within six months of graduating, around 70% of graduates are in employment. But in 2018, we came to the realisation that our post-program support of graduates was not working as effectively as we’d like. Through program evaluations we saw there were gaps in our approach to job readiness, so we set out to better understand the problem, so we could do our best to fix it.

We spoke with lots of graduates who assured us they were leaving the program full of confidence. But with every knock-back, every rejected or ignored resume, they reported that their self-esteem dropped. If they weren’t able to secure employment soon after Scarf ended, they could easily end up back in the cycle of unemployment. And we didn’t think this was good enough. So we decided to act.

And who better to guide our thinking than the very people who'd already been on the Scarf journey, and experienced the highs and lows of trying to turn their experience on the program into real jobs?


With the help of the wonderful Empowerment Pathways team from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, we put together a Graduate Focus Group, inviting six legendary Scarf graduates to a snack-filled evening at Higher Ground Melbourne. Everything was up for discussion. We asked the graduates to be brutally honest, and to tell us what parts of the program had helped better prepare them for the world of work, and where we could improve. 

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2018 Graduate Focus Group in action, led by Scarf's legendary Mae, and Carla from ASRC. 

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The results of this focus group went a long way towards shaping our current approach to Job Readiness and our Strategic Plan. Trainees identified they wanted to clearly see Scarf reaching out to the industry and creating direct pathways to employment. In 2020, this constitutes a significant chunk of our approach to Boosting Job Readiness, and we’ve already had great success in partnering with employers to link trainees and graduates into jobs.

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As a result of the group's feedback, we immediately began to revamp our program, taking on many of the ideas our graduates put forward. We made a video of a graduate giving advice and tips to future trainees (based on letters written during the session) and created heaps of new resources which directly addressed the knowledge gaps some graduates had when leaving the Scarf program, like – "how the heck do I read a staff roster" and "how do I learn a menu that’s much longer and more complicated than the one at Scarf was"?!

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We also placed a Job Readiness Workshop at the mid-point of our 10-week program, where trainees are encouraged to create their own bespoke job readiness plan, and to identify what they need to achieve to feel prepared for work. The session also includes a heap of information about HR-type things, Work Rights and Responsibilities in Australia, navigating award wages and superannuation, and guest appearances from Scarf graduates who share their experiences of working beyond Scarf Dinners. 

Continuing to listen to the voices of Scarf participants and directly experienced barriers to employment will always be fundamental to guiding our approach to program delivery.

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Cover Photo: Autumn Scarf '19 at The Rochey. Photographer: Linsey Rendell