Submission to the Indigenous Jobs and Training Review

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) is the peak national industry association representing exploration, mining and minerals processing companies in Australia.  MCA members account for more than 93% of annual minerals production in Australia and a slightly higher proportion of minerals exports. Members of the MCA have been at the forefront of Indigenous economic development for a number of years, negotiating agreements with traditional owners for access to land and providing employment and business development opportunities for communities.

This submission proposes key strategies to be implemented by Government for consideration by the Indigenous Training and Employment Review.  The strategies are premised on the vocational education and training (VET) system being responsive to industry skill needs rather than what the VET system is able to deliver and the identification of meaningful jobs within sustainable economies.  Their focus is on the preparation for employment, training and connection with a job for Indigenous Australians in regional, remote and very remote communities based on the lessons learnt among the members of the MCA.

1. Redirect funds to support employer directed training and employment:

  • Empower employers to independently contract training providers to provide industry led training that is relevant to available employment opportunities by putting the training funds directly in the hands of employers either through funded programs and/or tax incentives.  This will help to avoid provider driven ‘tick the box’ style training outcomes.
  • Encourage employers to use the Skills DMC/MCA VET Quality model to assess training providers.
  • Provide generic foundation and pre-employment skills training pathways that are relevant to the employment opportunities available in a region.
  • Develop and support a range of training/education pipelines (e.g. apprenticeships) which effectively engage Indigenous people already in the workforce to develop career pathways. It is important that these pipelines take into account industry trends such as those towards automation.
  • Focus effort (e.g. via wage subsidies, tax incentives) to enable employers to achieve employment outcomes by putting in place the additional workplace supports (i.e. cultural awareness training, supervisor training, site mentors, income management assistance, additional training and career support, and community based mentors to assist employees manage external pressures).
  • Enable community based organisations to provide the support required outside of the workplace and partner with employers.
  • Direct training funds and/or tax incentives to contractors, and their subcontractors, to build the capacity of Indigenous enterprises.  This would assist the minerals industry (and governments) to realise Indigenous employment and wealth creation outcomes from procurement strategies, particularly during the investment downturn.
  • Commit to minimum red tape compliance requirements, potentially through industry-driven funding initiatives such as the National Workforce Development Fund. 

2. Develop supply of future Indigenous employees:

  • Require schools to work in partnership with the private sector (and potentially other schools in the community) to establish school to work programs.
  • Incentivise individuals, and communities to support individuals, to complete Yr 10 and Yr 12 by developing innovative schooling options (e.g. trade centres in the Northern Territory), facilitating employment commitments, subsidising further studies and providing monetary rewards for individuals who have completed critical educational milestones and communities with high retention rates.
  • Ensure curriculum standards provide required foundation and pre-employment skills and ensure school assessments are applied consistently ensuring all graduates meet the expected standards.
  • Provide ongoing schooling opportunities and support for young mothers, including affordable childcare.
  • Ensure career counselling opportunities encourage rather than discourage Indigenous students, of both genders, to pursue a diversity of career options, and that these are both appropriate and available.
  • Support community based action programs to ensure social and health issues like family care-giving, alcohol and drug use and physical fitness for work are overcome as obstacles to permanent employment.

3. Revise the role and build the capacity of RJCPs and JSAs to be a more effective interface between supply and demand factors.  To be effective RJCPs and JSAs should:

  • Encourage innovative opportunities for prospective employers and Indigenous employees to meet in a mutually beneficial way e.g. recruitment ‘speed dating’ forums which enable employers to identify people based on cultural fit to their business.
  • Practically encourage the private sector to review their recruitment processes for unconscious bias.
  • Better understand and assess the work culture, recruitment processes and competency requirements of the local/regional employers in order to better prepare prospective employees.
  • Liaise with the private sector to identify future recruitment drive opportunities and prepare potential employees in advance.
  • Liaise with the private sector and local Indigenous leaders to identify innovative local strategies that will build the foundational and pre-employment skills of Indigenous people, develop transitional and flexible employment pathways, and enhance retention outcomes.
  • Liaise with other RJCPs and JSAs to negotiate employment and training opportunities that have improved economies of scale.
  • Undertake capability/work readiness assessments grounded in a set of agreed foundations skills and attitudes so that the private sector can trust their judgement and referrals.
  • Support retention outcomes more so than employment outcomes.
  • Provide access to a pool of suitably trained and supervised community mentors that can be accessed by employers to support their Indigenous employees to improve retention outcomes.
  • Identify systemic issues (such as housing) that require a State/Commonwealth Government policy response.

4. Facilitate labour mobility across regions and industries

  • Broker FIFO opportunities across regions including those where the critical mass and the economies of scale do not exist.  This approach will enable employees to retain their cultural connection to land as well as address seasonal related barriers to employment.
  • Facilitate and develop recognition of similar competencies across industries to better manage industry cycles.
  • Develop culturally appropriate affordable housing stock models that would enable employees who move to where the jobs are to bring their immediate family which will help to maximise retention outcomes.
  • Harness the opportunity to develop foundation and pre-employment skills and provide paid employment pathways while Indigenous people are incarcerated.
  • Target communities where industry and community have identified a willingness to partner equitably to achieving employment, training and retention outcomes.
  • Improve transport services in communities to enable people access to reliable and affordable travel options.

5. Establishing effective governance structure

  • A long term focus that transcends the political and funding cycles as premised upon genuine consultation, patience and persistence is required to realise the required behaviour changes of Government and Indigenous communities to achieved desired outcomes.
  • A flexible place based approach that enables the establishment of local/regionally empowered Committees comprising Indigenous leaders, Government and private sector representatives to make decisions regarding service priorities, strategies and providers relevant to the community/region.
  • Contract independent brokers to resource and service the Committees.  Their responsibilities could include developing and facilitating the implementation of a local strategic plan, or the integration of many plans that currently exist.
  • Government is responsible for providing: a policy function to resolve common intractable issues experienced across regions innovatively and concurrently;  a common outcomes, principles and governance framework for the Committees and independent brokers to operate within; and an administrative function for service delivery within the region.

6. Other

  • Establish Indigenous enterprise hubs that will build capacity of Indigenous enterprises and assist them to establish joint venture arrangements to increase their footprint across regions and to diversify.  Stronger and more sustainable Indigenous enterprises will provide more employment opportunities for Indigenous people.
  • Facilitating sharing of best practice among employers and trainers of Indigenous people.

Given the level of Indigenous disadvantage it can be expected that a long term, integrated and holistic approach to Indigenous employment will need to be undertaken.  Whilst a local/regional approach is being advocated, the minerals industry is very aware that some regions have more opportunity and capacity to support Indigenous employment then others.  There is a need for Government to be transparent about the criteria and principles it will use to distribute limited funds and how it will impact on the ongoing viability of remote communities in particular so that communities and regions can plan accordingly.

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