A Pakistani-Australian engineer who helps refugees start their own business in Australia was awarded the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year award at a forum in London's QE2 Centre on Tueesday.
Eighteen months after launching the programme, Usman Iftikhar was awarded the Commonwealth's highest honour for young achievers.
He was presented with the award by Commonwealth's newly appointed youth ambassador, Prince Harry.
Iftikhar, who represented Australia at the forum, conceptualised the idea of helping refugees and migrants find job opportunities based on his own struggle after moving to Australia in 2013.
Born in Pakistan, Iftikhar completed his Bachelor's degree from the GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology and then moved to Australia to pursue a master's degree in engineering management.
“After finishing a master's degree with a distinction at the University of Wollongong, I had high hopes and big ambitions for my career. I had all the right ingredients on my resume, yet I faced a major roadblock to finding any meaningful work in Australia,” he wrote in a post for Medium.
“After a couple of years of trial and tribulations, I realised that this problem was systemic and bigger than my personal experience,” he added.
He then co-founded Catalysr, which aims to help migrants and refugees develop their own business plans and make money using the skills they already have.
“Catalysr is the first startup incubator for refugees and migrants in Australia, enabling them to start their own business, create jobs for themselves and others, and be in control of their own destiny,” according to Iftikhar.
“Our approach is to provide an alternate pathway to people and unleash their untapped potential to help change the landscape not just for them, but also their communities. We aim to provide the right conditions to accelerate that chain reaction in their life,” he says.