27/04/2016 - 16:44

Meeting indigenous job targets

27/04/2016 - 16:44

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Training and employment schemes targeting indigenous workers are slowly gaining traction.

Meeting indigenous job targets
FLEXIBILITY: Nick O’Callaghan (left) with Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion. Photos: Attila Csaszar

Training and employment schemes targeting indigenous workers are slowly gaining traction.

THE Wirrpanda Foundation, mining camp operator Sodexo, and employment agency atWork Australia are three very different organisations seeking to bolster indigenous jobs in Western Australia.

Wirrpanda and atWork are among nine organisations in WA to have contracted with the federal government for the delivery of 1,575 indigenous jobs through vocational training and education centres (VTECs).

The downturn in resources construction projects has made it a lot tougher to reach their targets.

Wirrpanda chief executive Lisa Cunningham said her group had broadened its focus, and was achieving some great results on CBD construction projects.

At the Perth Stadium, Wirrpanda and group training organisation Skill Hire work together to help Brookfield Multiplex and its sub-contractors fill available positions.

The two organisations share an on-site office.

“It’s early days but the model is really good,” Ms Cunningham told Business News.

“It’s really starting to build momentum.”

Next door to the stadium, the foundation has attracted strong support from Laing O’Rourke, which is lead contractor on construction of the new railway station.

Laing O’Rourke has employed 10 indigenous workers who completed ‘ready for work’ programs run by the foundation.

Ms Cunningham said the foundation had placed 160 indigenous people into full-time work under the VTEC program, on its way towards its goal of 230 positions.

“It has taken a couple of years for some employers to understand the model,” she said.

With 1,600 Aboriginal people on its books, she said there was a long way to go.

atWork Australia divisional manager Michael Kolomyjec said his group was strongly tracking towards its target of 200 positions.

He said the scheme achieved good results because the focus was on filling jobs rather than simply completing training.

“Offering pre-employment training oriented to the employer’s need is a good way to go,” Mr Kolomyjec said.

atWork had learned a lot since starting the VTEC program, he said.

“There has been continuous improvement,” Mr Kolomyjec told Business News.

“What we have now has been advanced from what we did 12 or 15 months ago.”

The keys to success were the screening of candidates, together with matching the job requirements and training.

“If those two things are done well and they are matched with mentors and other support, the recipe for success is strong,” Mr Kolomyjec said.

“It does need a commitment from an employer.”

Sodexo has previously employed indigenous workers through the VTEC program, and has upped its commitment.

It has pledged to create 400 new jobs for indigenous Australians after becoming the latest company to join the federal government’s ‘Employment Parity Initiative’.

Indigenous employees currently fill 8 per cent of jobs at Sodexo and the company is aiming to lift that to 20 per cent over the next four years.

This would put Sodexo well above most other contractors in the mining sector, with only a handful of companies achieving more than 10 per cent indigenous employment.

The federal parity initiative, launched in March last year, aims to generate an extra 20,000 jobs for indigenous Australians over the next four years.

Employers to have signed up so far include Crown Resorts, Compass Group, MSS Security, and Accor Hotel Group.

Speaking at a launch event this month at Kuditj Kitchen in Northbridge, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the program offered tailored contracts and funding assistance.

He said all payments would be linked to participants achieving 26 weeks of employment.

Sodexo Australia country president Nick O’Callaghan said one of the main attractions of the EPI program was the high degree of flexibility it afforded.

Sodexo’s partners in the program include Tom Price-based Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation, Karratha-based REFAP, Perth-based Karlka Recruiting Group, Cannington-based PEEDAC, and the state’s Department of Corrective Services.


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