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Call for more employers to take on Indigenous staff

Leading national, not-for-profit recruitment services and group training company, the Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES) has called on more employers to consider taking on Aboriginal employees following on from their expansion into Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast in May of this year.

Business Development & Operations Manager for the North Coast, Nancy Pattison said apart from the banking sector, industries had been slow to jump on board with the AES’s Employment program, despite the mutual benefits for both companies and career-seekers.

“One of our biggest struggles has been that we have so many job-ready career-seekers but not enough opportunities being made available by businesses willing to take on trainees or workers. We need more industries to jump on board – not just the big banks. We want businesses to be aware that we don’t just send through any career seeker to a position but that we match them carefully with the employer and offer ongoing mentoring to both the employee and the company’s business manager.”

Ms Pattison said they have received positive feedback from companies who had already taken on trainees and employees.

“The businesses that have already taken on Indigenous staff are constantly giving us praise for the high standard of career seekers we have placed with them as well as the benefits both professionally and personally that they have experienced.”

Depending on the industry there are a range of benefits for companies wanting to invest in their business through accessing Indigenous workers and Indigenous talent.

“Benefits can even be as fundamental as companies boosting their bottom line through generating more Indigenous customers by being able to provide culturally aware staff and culturally competent services. On a personal level we have also had a lot of employers comment on how much they had learnt about Aboriginal culture and how the organisation had benefitted from involvement in cultural events such as NAIDOC week, as well as our Cultural Awareness Training. There is also a very strong ‘feel-good’ factor for people when they know they are making a difference.”

Ms Pattison, who grew up in Kempsey on the North Coast, said it is that same feel-good factor that keeps her and her team passionately working towards finding not just jobs, but careers for everyone who knocks on the door of the AES, both in Kempsey and now in Coffs Harbour.

“When I was growing up in Kempsey it was difficult for Aboriginal people to find employment in mainstream organisations. Unless they were working with an Aboriginal organisation, work was virtually non-existent and unfortunately some of these challenges still exist today. We’ve expanded into Coffs Harbor which is a larger business district with lot of opportunities. There are a huge number of Indigenous kids in the region who finished year 12 last year and we want to make sure they don’t slip through the gaps. We are also working with people who are looking for a career change or just want to develop more in their careers.”

As an Aboriginal organisation, Ms Pattison believes the AES is better placed to not only serve job-seekers but businesses looking for committed staff.

“With the current system a lot of career seekers feel obliged to go to appointments with employers because they are forced to by Centrelink. The difference with the AES is that people don’t have to come here. They come to us because they want to make a positive change in their lives and they are ready to go into the workforce. We know our people and we know the needs of our people and we can match those needs to the right employer who is looking for someone who offers their particular set of skills.”

Ms Pattison said most AES staff are from the community they work in, and while this connection to community is vital she admits it also means her team rarely finishes work when they leave the office. Living and working in a community where there is a huge need for meaningful employment can often lead to being on call, even at social events.

“You’re known as the recruitment person so even if you’re out on the weekend or going to a footy match you never stop work – it is 24/7. People will even come to your house to ask ‘what’s going on with this job?’ You have to love your job to do what we do, and that’s why we all do it. We know that we’re making a difference in our community.”

While many recruitment agencies focus on filling jobs and moving on, Ms Pattison said the AES is more focused on long term strategies for sustainable employment and interesting and rewarding careers.

“If you want to be able to make changes to the lives of someone and their family, it’s important to look at progressing their career. It’s not just about a job, we help them to do a career plan and to set goals for themselves for the next 3-5 years. We want them to do something that they love as that is sustainable for both themselves and their employer. When we help someone set goals we want them to understand what sort of training they need to get to where they want to go and what they need to do to work towards that.”

According to AES Chief Executive Officer, Kristy Masella, the benefits of hiring Aboriginal people flow on not only to the worker, but also to their family and the whole community.

“When you invest in Aboriginal people, you are investing in Aboriginal communities and their futures. You are investing in social, economic and cultural outcomes that will directly benefit Aboriginal people, but also the broader Australian population.”

Since 1997, the organisation’s approach to connecting career seekers to employment opportunities has transformed the lives of well over 15,000 Indigenous people all over Australia.

The AES also pioneered school based traineeships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the financial sector in 2002. Since then, it’s Career Preparatory Program in partnership with ANZ and CBA, has grown to involve over 30 corporate partners across Australia including NAB, Westpac, Telstra, Intercontinental Group, Kmart Tyre & Auto, Coates Hire, Westfields and Nine Entertainment Co…just to name a few.

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