Indigenous Employment and Workforce Development Strategies and opening the talent pool??

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.

Strengthening the Indigenous Procurement Policy

Having been engaged within the Indigenous sector, in both the Northern Territory and Queensland for well over a decade now, I have seen my fair share of ‘well-intended’ and constructed policy initiatives from the-then Government of the day. Some of which have worked in the way Canberra intended them to; others have missed the mark in providing a real difference to those on the ground.

Some of these past Initiatives have gone a long way to addressing the long-standing and holistic issues faced each and every day across the Indigenous landscape; however, I am also I firm believer in the fact we can always do more. We can do more to address both disparity and despair in rural and remote communities!

Aboriginal Communities such as ‘Gapuwiyak’ in Central Arnhem Land, ‘Umbakumba’ within the Groote Archipelago or Woorabinda’ in Central Queensland; some of which lie on the edge the richest resources in Australia with in excess of 85% unemployment?

From my experience across many employment- focused funding initiatives; from the ‘Community Development and Employment Projects (CDEP), Work for the Dole (WftD), Remote Jobs and Communities Programme (RJCP) to the now, Employment Parity Initiative and the brand new ‘Jobs, Land and Economy Programme (JLEP)’ I have been witness to many a Whitepaper or Ministerial brief on Indigenous employment percentages or outcomes and how well the initiative or programme is performing.

In turn, my time spent within this wide spectrum of community settings I have learnt that for any programme or Government initiative to work it needs to be not only reversed engineered with meaningful and long-lasting employment in mind, it needs to be people focused; a policy direction not often taken by Government.

As I am a firm believer in socioeconomic growth; especially across the Indigenous employment and business sector, I am paying close attention to current policy direction around the Coalition Governments’ Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) and how these changes are set to disrupt the current model for the better.

Recent changes made to the IPP will provide Supply Nation with additional resources to continuously monitor the 1600 Indigenous businesses on its Indigenous Business Directory to ensure they are, and remain, bona fide Indigenous businesses; including taking a zero tolerance to ‘blackcladding’, a term unfortunately becoming too familiar in the sector?

In addition, the Government also recognises that Joint Ventures can be an ideal vehicle for blackcladding, in turn all joint ventures will now be required to register on Supply Nation’s Indigenous Business Directory, meet a 50 per cent Indigenous ownership and control test, and have a skills capability transfer and Indigenous workforce plan in place which will be reviewed annually by Supply Nation.

Like all commercially centric policies, there are far too often wide gaps that appear, in which the business community can exploit; however, I must acknowledge Nyunggai Warren Mundine’s efforts across the Indigenous Procurement Policy and the change brought about to not only, strengthen this policy but to direct it more towards the Indigenous business community.  Furthermore, I congratulate him on his appointment as chairman of the newly formed Indigenous Business and Economic Advisory Council, which will guide implementation of the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy.

According to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs recent media release, “The IPP has been a runaway success with over 1000 Indigenous businesses winning over $1.084 billion in Commonwealth contracts since its commencement in July 2015, compared to just 30 Indigenous businesses winning $6.2 million in 2012-13; which by all accounts is a fantastic result and something that can certainly be built upon!

However, I am also left wondering what if this initiative had Indigenous employment, engagement cultural health scoring or alignment drivers attached to procurement targets, from a ‘Breaking the cycle, building a future’ perspective, would we be witness to the same level of successes and how further advanced would the sector be in relation to closing the gap data around employment, inclusion and welfare reform?

Only through learning and adapting can we all change!

Peter Remfrey

Managing Director

Pandanus Workforce Solutions

Introducing Pandanus Workforce Solutions

Pandanus Workforce Solutions specialises in Indigenous engagement strategies, project management and other specialised services providing a solid foundation to build a culturally capable workforce.

This is achieved utilising our existing networks, expertise and extensive experience working across a diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander landscape; including major infrastructure, resources and mining projects.

We have the experience and capability to assist Government and Commercial Organisations to deliver greater value to Indigenous Australians.

We understand the diversity that exists across Indigenous Australia, the complexity that this creates for Government’s policy and delivery responsibilities and we have a proven ability to deliver innovative solutions and provide valuable expertise to meet these challenges.

Our framework ensures everyone is on the same page from the very beginning of a project and continually revisits and revises these expectations. Our approach leads to a better understanding between all project partners and ultimately better results for all our clients and associated stakeholders.

Our extensive services

  • Project Management (Employment & Workforce Development, Planning and Implementation)
  • Community Engagement
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pre- Employment Course Design and Implementation
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Apprenticeship and Trainee recruitment, management, coordination and support
  • Mentoring and Support Services
  • Career Planning and Management
  • Labour Hire Coordination
  • Cross Cultural Training Coordination
  • Indigenous Policy Development
  • Reconciliation Action Plan Development and Implementation
  • Indigenous Project/Program Diagnostic and Evaluation
  • Tenders (Indigenous Content, Funding Applications and Brokerage.

Contact Peter today on 0402 822 897 or to discuss how we can further value-add you operations.

Indigenous and Industry lead Engagement – The focus for real change!

It has certainly been a while since I had the ability to sit down and put together my thoughts on the much debated and at times frustrating sector that is Indigenous employment, engagement and socioeconomic advancement.

Now, as a non-Indigenous person I don’t attempt to possess all the answers or know how we as a society fix these on-going issues? I am only attempting to raise awareness of what we are doing isn’t working and we MUST change tact!

As most of my closest colleagues know, I grew up in the early 80’s on the small Aboriginal community of Wurrumiyanga (Nguiu) on Bathurst Island, north of Darwin. I think there is still a picture floating around somewhere of me, aged around 4 years old dressed up on Tiwi Grand final day, as the Tapalinga mascot? The local Tiwi Island AFL team my farther played with.

Growing up on the Tiwi Islands, I consider myself extremely privileged to have been embraced by members of this traditional owner group. Through the understanding of their culture and lifelong connection with the people and the land, I possess a strong commitment to the empowerment of the Indigenous people of Australia incorporating socioeconomic advancement.

Now, thanks to the highly successful Australian Government Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) there is a real focus from the business community for the engagement of Indigenous business within the procurement process; However the question I am constantly asking the business community is, what really makes up an Indigenous Business or for that matter, a meaningful partnership with an Indigenous business?

What it means to me quite simply, is a long term and meaningful connection with the Indigenous business community, traditional owners of the land and a real focus on changing the communities in which you work and the lives of those you employ.

One such Indigenous engagement model that I have had the pleasure in implementing, was a highly successful employment and workforce development program that not only provided capacity around Indigenous employment (around 20 – 30% of the total workforce) but built socioeconomic advancement through the establishment of an 100% Indigenous owned Labour hire company that provided approx 750 Aboriginal employees with employment.

Late last year I had the absolute pleasure of exploring this very journey with a senior and exceptionally strategic human resource manager of a major civil contractor in Brisbane. It’s a discussion I could happily have 100 times over and one I thoroughly enjoyed, as it provided meaningful direction to the organisations core values regarding Aboriginal engagement and the use of workforce development strategies together with Labour hire options.

This discussion was not only from a place of passion and dedication but a strategic, long term direction, based on a holistic approach to workforce development. During which we explored how by integrating culturally rich learning and development practices into their operations, they can significantly increase engagement and Indigenous employment numbers through a labour hire model whilst developing socioeconomic advancement.

Engagement with traditional owners. Yes, it is a long term concept and yes it takes commitment. But, if done correctly, the commercially driven ROI is huge. Not to mention the ‘Employer of choice’ and diversity benefits to an organisation.

The real long term benefit of this concept to an organisation willing to develop these strategies, is that you are locally engaged with those who possess a deep understanding of the project area. Another added benefit, and sometimes hidden benefit, is that you minimise lengthy delays in cultural heritage / Native title issues. All the while being provided with a local workforce; a workforce that is ‘Indigenous’ to the project area and who are 100% invested in the project.

Yes, I agree, for any project to be achieved on time and under budget we have deliverables that are commercially driven. However, I do also firmly believe that the key to long term success in the procurement of viable and cost effective projects, are sound and effective Indigenous Engagement strategies.

I have worked with and been a part of some really great organisations that have seen the real economic and moral benefit of these strategies in play and I must say, there is currently a lot of good work being done within my networks nationally to increase Indigenous across the business community!

In conclusion, as this area is a real passion of mine (if you hadn’t already picked up on it!), I naturally see the benefits for any organisation willing to invest. However, my challenge together with those that advocate for increased Indigenous engagement, is to keep educating the market in the long term benefits and ROI!!

Only through education can you keep learning and adapting!