Indigenous traineeships paying off

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 11 Juli 2014 | 20.01

A foot in the door ... Tom Franklin, pictured on a farm near Wagga. Tom started as a teller at the bank in Gundagai at age 16. Source: Supplied

FOR Thomas Franklin, the best part of his job as an agribusiness banking manager is getting out on people's properties, talking to hardworking farmers and giving them advice about their finances.

It's a job he loves and one he's proven to be good at.

But the driven 20-year-old indigenous Australian from the small NSW town of Gundagai freely admits that if it wasn't for an opportunity that came his way at 16, he could still be looking for a job.

Mr Franklin is one of an increasing number of indigenous youths who are getting their feet through the doors of the corporate world via traineeships with large firms — an approach a new report suggests is working.

Auditing firm Ernst and Young has completed one of the first analyses of the financial and social value of a corporate indigenous employment program.

It has examined the National Australia Bank's indigenous traineeship program and found its school-based apprenticeships deliver a social and financial dividend worth $2.71 for every dollar invested, and that figure increases to a $3.14 return for every dollar invested in NAB's full time traineeship program.

The report shows trainees reported consistent improvements in their communication and social skills, and their confidence and self-esteem.

Federal MP Alan Tudge, the parliamentary secretary helping Tony Abbott deliver his indigenous affairs agenda, told News Corp the Coalition plans to make it "as easy as possible" for employers to take on school-based trainees.

Scheme supporter ... Parliamentary Secretary Alan Tudge. Source: Supplied

"Corporate traineeships have been a terrific pathway for young indigenous Australians to get a flavour of work, and a pathway directly into a job after they finish school," he said.

"The banks have done particularly well in using indigenous trainees and I would love to see more companies take on indigenous trainees as a mechanism for boosting their overall proportion of indigenous employment."

Head of Indigenous Finance and Development at the NAB, Glen Brennan, said the Ernst and Young report is proof the program "is much broader than simply providing an income."

"We know that providing a job opportunity to an Indigenous Australian can impact their financial stability but a job is so much more than that," he said.

And Indigenous policy expect Nicholas Biddle, with the ANU's Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, said while putting a dollar value on the benefits of indigenous employment programs was difficult, the evidence suggests these programs have positive effects.

Mr Franklin, who started working for NAB when he was 16, said the experience made him more focused and determined.

"It pulled me into line and made me mature quicker," he said.

Fellow trainee Anthony Lew-Fatt always knew he wanted a meaningful career but as a young boy growing up in Alice Springs, he had little idea what that career path would look like.

Today, seven years after making the bold decision to move to Darwin to seek it out, he has become a successful business banker, even providing banking advice to the Northern Territory government.

"I am a big believer that if there is an opportunity there — take it — because you can't always second guess yourself," he said.

And Corey Ward left his home town of Thursday Island in the Torres Strait because the employment prospects there were negligible,

Nowadays he is working in retail banking and dreams of becoming a financial planner.

"At this point I'm trying to open as many doors as possible," Mr Ward said.

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