Coles doubles indigenous workforce

by Miklos Bolza19 Jul 2016
Supermarket giant Coles has succeeded in doubling its indigenous workforce over a period of only 12 months, bringing the total number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from 1,115 to 2,321.
This success has been led by the firm’s head of indigenous affairs, Topaz McAuliffe, who helped start First Steps – a three-week pre-employment program which targets indigenous applicants in communities where there are more than 15 vacancies.
First developed in 2011, initially with support from the Australian Government, the program is now wholly funded by Coles with 10 programs planned over the next year, a Coles spokesperson told HC.
“The program, which is aimed at Indigenous Australians who have been out of the workforce for a period of time or not previously employed, provides guaranteed permanent part-time roles to all participants and includes dedicated mentoring from the training phase and throughout the first six months of employment.”
Since 2011, First Steps has been delivered in 37 locations across regional and metropolitan Australia and resulted in an additional 550 Indigenous team members joining the firm, the spokesperson said.
This has been part of the overall strategy, headed by McAuliffe, to boost Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees at Coles.
“Jobs are the solution; jobs are the key to closing the gap,” she told The Australian.
While indigenous Australians now may up 2.2% of the workforce, Coles aims at increasing this to 3% – a target the firm says it can reach by 2018.
This is a dramatic turnaround for a firm which announced increase indigenous employment from 500 to 2,000 employees by 2013 and then failed to reach this goal.
The firm “probably underestimated” the difficulty of recruiting such a large number of employees, managing director John Durkan told The Australian.
“It’s not disappointing; it’s great to set targets and now we’ve accelerated past them,” he said. “With the groundwork in the beginning, and what Topaz has done, we’ve done better than we thought we would. It’s our duty. We’ve got to do the right thing.”
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