As most of my colleagues across my network will contest to; I am ever-so passionate about an increase in Indigenous involvement across all employment and business sectors; including those areas which are (or will very shortly) experiencing a candidate shortage.
I feel, given the widely untapped or under-utilised potential Indigenous employees currently out there within the market that are screaming out for a chance, we as a business community need to develop workable solutions for this demographic.
I did touch on this same issue back when commodity prices were not so great and we were experiencing vast amounts of pain across many sectors here in QLD and for that matter, nationally?
As the general resources industry looks to gain momentum and a market up-trend is on our doorstep once again, placing an ever-so present squeeze on the availability of good talent, I am left wondering what if?
What if the resources sector took a pro-active and strategic view on Indigenous Employment and Workforce Development programs and strategies as a value-added benefit to, not only tap into this highly untouched talent pool, but to win the race to secure highly sort after and qualified employees?
What if, we saw a dramatic increase in both employment and Indigenous business engagement within specific project or mining lease areas by resource companies with Traditional owner groups, would we still have the candidate shortage across the resources sector?
Well, I firmly believe if Indigenous employment and workforce development is done correctly and pro-active engagement all levels is reached, the key to unlocking productive and highly engaged employees is a mere formality and the balance between employers and employees across the resources sector will once again be where it should be?
Unfortunately, in my experience the appetite or engagement for localised Indigenous employment is minimal at best, especially within a soft employment market and in-turn the majority of Indigenous communities within resource rich areas are left behind as the pressure to produce gains momentum.
Aboriginal communities such as Woorabinda, which lies on the edge of the Bowen Basin in central Queensland and averaging well over 85% unemployment could see the flow on effects of pro-active and strategic local Indigenous employment and workforce development strategies, developed in conjunction with surrounding resource rich projects; whilst developing a BIBO type approach to workforce engagement.
I have not only had the pleasure in engaged with local Traditional owners and other community stakeholders on a holistic level, but I have been witness to well over 50% local Indigenous employment across many works packages.
As I hear the ever-present questions, including the how do you? And the, why do you? I am continually asking, Why not?
Why not? It makes not only commercial and economic sense but it ticks all those critical boxes including native title, ILUA compliance and Traditional Owner engagement!
Resource and construction companies that not only embrace, but increase engagement within local Indigenous communities play witness to a distinct improvement across all employment areas, including retention, training and development and diversity.
Those companies that embrace innovation and change the way they engage Indigenous employees throughout the HR life-cycle can drastically see a decrease in the cost-of-production as FIFO costs such as flights, accommodation and other unrelated costs are reduced. Other such benefits include a reduction in presenteeism and furthermore attrition, as it is well documented a workforce that is ‘Indigenous’ to the project area are more engaged and invested.
Project cost such as employee based mobilisation and accommodation costs, that are redirected towards pro-active strategies to increase local Indigenous employment and workforce development can drastically improve engagement and retention, in line with the nature of a localised ‘Indigenous’ workforce within the project landscape whilst decreasing dependency on welfare and creating socioeconomic growth long after practical completion.
In my opinion, the only way to create true Indigenous employment and workforce development strategies is to create a sense of proactive urgency throughout the contractor base and gain an initial confirmation and guarantee on the number and type of jobs available. Only through this method, can you gain a true level of dedication to local Indigenous employment.
You cannot merely, invest in training a set group of candidates on the hope they become employed, you must engage and guarantee jobs upfront whilst developing the workforce to suit! We have all heard the saying ‘Training, for training sake’?
One such method of developing strong localised Indigenous employment and workforce development strategies is to engage an Indigenous business that has the resources to provide a platform (Whether it be Labour hire or a contractor based model) to not only attract, engage and develop a true localised Indigenous workforce. A business that has the ability to perform at all levels of stakeholder engagement whether it be Traditional owner group, funding body or community health centre, as no one can do it alone and forming the right alliances is vital to the success of any project.
As the resources Industry looks to innovation to provide a buffer between production and ‘care and maintenance’ across the industry I can’t help but wonder, if Indigenous employment and workforce development strategies were more widely utilised as a way to reduce costs associated with large scale resources projects, would we still be experiencing a talent shortage in this sector?
As always, my door is always open and my phone is always answered.