Home' HR Monthly : April 2016 Contents April 2016 HRMonthly 17
COVER: DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
Earlier this year, CareerTrackers launched an initiative
naming 12 companies that have made 10-year commitments to
supporting their work. Qantas is one of those and will provide
a minimum of 250 Indigenous university internships over 10
years and 100 Indigenous internships in areas such as finance,
engineering and flight operations, over three years.
“These commitments show the com munities we are working
with that CareerTrackers has long-term support, and that
employment opportunities will exist for the next generation of
Indigenous young people. CareerTrackers starts with the idea
of reconciliation, but then “goes on to prove that this is about
talent, not about lowering the bar,” says Combs.
The program helps participants identify what they want
to do and then builds on their strengths. It then approaches
a company with a person – not the idea of a person. From
small beginnings, CareerTrackers has grown to support 943
participants across a wide range of Australian businesses,
including law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills.
ABORIGINALS IN LAW
Herbert Smith Freehills took on their first CareerTrackers
Indigenous interns in November 2011. Brooke Massender,
head of Pro Bono and citizenship for Australia and Asia,
admits that the process hasn’t been without its challenges,
especially considering law firms typically don’t have
“The reality for any prospective lawyer is that getting a
vacation clerkship is a big hurdle,” she says. “If your grades
are not in shape by your penultimate year in uni, you’re going
to find it tough.” A vacation clerkship is an essential stepping
stone for a law student to gain access to the graduate program.
So the question for Massender then became how an
intern program could dovetail with the established clerkship
recruitment process. The answer: get the interns in earlier.
“If nothing else, an internship in their first or second year
builds a student’s legal research skills, boosts their confidence,
oral and written communication skills – and increases their
familiarity with the legal sector so that they can make strong
career choices.” The firm has now taken on a total of 17
Importantly, Massender has found that the internships
provide what she calls ‘stickability’ – “a real life context for
what they are studying” – which also opens up possibilities for
applying for funding to help with their studies.
In November 2015, a CareerTrackers graduate got onto
a vacation clerkship for the first time and another former
CareerTrackers intern began a graduate role with a different
firm (which proved to be a better fit) in January 2016.
“For Herbert Smith Freehills, it’s a practical way for the firm
to show its com mitment to reconciliation and justice in a very
broad sense. And we get a lot of fulfilment seeing the students
reach their potential,” says Massender.
MAKING THE BUSINESS CASE
As for the future, there are still huge hurdles to overcome
before Indigenous people get a fair go in the jobs market. Poor
levels of education, health standards and the remote locations
where many Indigenous people live are the largest. Other
problems, such as the negative role of employer practices and
policies, racial discrimination and cultural tensions are also a
barrier to progress. What firms like Argyle Diamonds, Qantas
and Australia Post have shown, says Mick Gooda, is that these
problems aren’t insurmountable, given the will.
“Just finding Aboriginal people in order to meet a target is
detrimental to the whole process if you’re not getting people
who can be developed into good workers,” he says.
Motivation has to be rooted in understanding the business
case for employing Indigenous workers.
“We don’t want employers doing it simply because they
love Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but because
they add value to the company. More than $30bn was spent
on services to the I ndigenous community. Having Indigenous
people in your workforce sends the right message and helps
you get those contracts.
“What I’m seeing is companies that give a fair dinkum are
building the infrastructure to make that leap forward – and
measuring the performance of their senior and middle manager
on how they’re going on these strategies. If that happens, then
you will see the incremental change that will produce the
outcomes everyone is looking for.”
Michael Combs is a keynote speaker at AHRI’s 2016 Inclusion
and Diversity Conference to be held in Sydney on May 13, 2016.
“THE RESILIENCE THAT OUR
GRADUATES HAVE, OUTSTRIPS
GRADUATES, WHICH IS SOMETHING
THAT COMPANIES CAN’T TEACH.”
MICHAEL COMBS, FOUNDER & CEO, CAREERTRACKERS
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