Late last year, Noor was struggling to find a part-time job.
“I tried to work in the food industry, but it didn’t work for me at all,” says the recent Bankstown Senior College graduate.
“You have to be under pressure all the time, and I’m not really good in the kitchen without my mum’s guidance. Plus, one employer wanted me to have at least three training sessions before he’d pay me. It was terrible.”
Running out of options, Noor sought advice from her mentor, Majella.
Majella and Noor were matched through Youth Off The Streets’ National Scholarship Program in 2021. Although Majella is based in Dubai, she regularly offers Noor emotional support and guidance on everything from school and university to managing her health and wellbeing.
“I have the most incredible mentor,” Noor confirms.
Majella spoke about Noor’s employment challenges to Christalla, the Scholarships Administrator at Youth Off The Streets, and learned that The Social Outfit was running a training program that could suit Noor’s needs.
The Social Outfit is a ‘fashion label with a difference’ that has operated out of King Street in, Newtown for nine years. The store participates in the circular economy, as it receives 85% of its textiles from major Australian fashion brands and has saved approximately 15 tonnes of material from ending up in landfill.
First and foremost, however, The Social Outfit is a charity enterprise that assists refugees and migrant women to feel welcomed and get settled in Australia.
Noor is one such migrant woman, as she left Palestine to begin a new life in Australia in 2019.
“I went to The Social Outfit and did my interview – everyone was lovely,” Noor explains. “They just made me feel so comfortable. It wasn’t a formal, scary kind of interview at all.”
“Then, a week later, I was accepted for the program. We started straight away in January.”
Noor began training under the supervision of several female leaders. One of these leaders was Adele Bettiol – The Social Outfit’s Commercial Operations Manager, who is responsible for the programs that the label organises and the products that they sell.
“I make sure that we drive through the product and create a retail team that’s constantly growing and developing,” Adele says. “I also work closely with the Production Manager, so we can grow our contract manufacturing and provide more employment and upscaling.”
“The more we’re able to increase our impact, the more we’re able to increase the number of women who come through our programs and the difference we make in the community.”
Among these programs are sample-making courses, beginner sewing courses and industrial sewing classes – as well as a retail training program, which Noor began in January.
“I was working with two lovely ladies once a week, who were both incredible,” Noor remembers.
“There were also online tutorials – so we had to watch a couple of videos, take notes and answer some questions before each shift.”
“It was almost like going to school once a week, but it was way more fun than school. I got that whole experience of talking to customers and saying things like, ‘Hi, how are you today?’, as soon as they entered the shop.”
“I was struggling to leave the shop floor, because I loved working there so much.”
Noor also learned how to arrange sizes, stock online orders and manage different payment methods. As Adele explains, it’s skills like these that help new migrant and refugee women overcome barriers to employment.
“We tailor our training programs towards bridging that gap and providing that first local experience, as we’ve found that 78% of women who come through our programs lack that experience,” Adele says.
The Social Outfit also strives to provide a safe environment with personalised mentorship and support – the same philosophy under which the National Scholarship Program operates.
“Noor’s mentor here, Sonya, helped her to dream big, develop career goals and have the confidence to go after what she wants,” Adele recalls.
Two weeks before the retail training program ended, Sonya, Adele and their colleagues from The Social Outfit offered Noor a part-time position.
She began learning how to complete sales and quickly excelled as a Sunday manager.
“I love engaging with customers and telling people the story of The Social Outfit – because a lot of stories are hidden, and they shouldn’t be at all,” Noor says of her new role.
In particular, she enjoys explaining how The Social Outfit’s clothes are handcrafted by fellow migrant women in the Marrickville workroom.
“There’s all these bright colours and designs, and the garments are so special because of how they’re made,” Noor says.
Noor’s initiative and drive to improve her customer service skills – along with her passion for The Social Outfit – have made her an asset to the organisation.
“Noor is such an important part of our team – and she absolutely upholds our core values of diversity, community empowerment and creativity,” Adele adds.
“I have no doubt that we’ve grown in customer support because of the relationships that she’s built with her wonderful, authentic self.”
As Noor continues her personal growth within the walls of The Social Outfit, she is also preparing to begin a Bachelor of Psychological and Social Sciences at Western Sydney University.
Her educational journey is proudly supported by the National Scholarship Program.
“Thank you for supporting me throughout the past two years,” Noor recently wrote in a letter to her sponsor, the JMJ Grant Foundation.
“I feel lucky and proud to be a scholarship recipient, and I’ve felt support when I needed it the most. I’m so grateful for all the doors this scholarship has opened to me.”
To find out more about the Youth Off The Streets National Scholarship Program, click here.
To learn more about The Social Outfit, click here.