23rd January 2012
Building Careers for Indigenous Students
In 2012, Commonwealth Bank will offer 70 school-based traineeships to Indigenous students around the country. Phil Lockyer, Manager of Indigenous Employment at the Commonwealth Bank, talks about the challenges and achievements of building careers for young Indigenous Australians.
Q. How did CBA’s Indigenous School-Based Traineeship program start?
Phil: In 2003 the Commonwealth Bank started a small, grassroots Indigenous Traineeship program out of regional NSW. The program expanded to other states becoming a national program two years ago, and in 2012 we will offer 70 traineeships across Australia to students in years 11 and 12. Every year it continues to grow.
Q. How does the traineeship work?
Phil: Indigenous students apply for the program through an external agency. Their applications are forwarded to us, and we match the students to a branch location that would be convenient for them. During the school term the students work one day a week in the branch as a paid trainee and full-time hours during the school holidays. We provide all uniforms and ongoing training. So it’s a real job and it offers good work experience.
Q. Does this program support the aims of Reconciliation Australia when they suggest that we need to “turn good intentions into actions” to help Indigenous Australians?
Phil: Absolutely. Reconciliation Australia wants corporations to walk their talk. At the Commonwealth Bank, we offer sustainable opportunities to Indigenous young people to help them forge a career and give them an opportunity in banking. We have a target, we report on it, and there is real interest and engagement in the bank to be involved in the lives of our trainees. When the whole bank is involved, then these opportunities become sustainable opportunities. It’s so easy to come in one year, do something good and walk away. That’s not what we do.
Q. What happens to the trainees at the end of the program?
Phil: With the School-Based Traineeship Program, we want the trainees to get a job with us if they’re right for the bank and have performed well. If we think they’re a good fit for the team and if they’ve delivered the level of service we need, we want to offer them permanent banking roles.
Q. The program then, is very ‘real’?
Phil: Absolutely. We’re not just choosing people for their diversity. Once they’re trained, we’re selecting them on their ability. What have they learned? How have they performed? We give Indigenous trainees a real opportunity. We expect students to grow into the role and to reach a level of competence that we would expect from any employee. It’s incredible to watch young people do that.
Q. How do the trainees develop in the two-year program?
Phil: We’re taking 16 year olds and helping them handle an adult environment with high stakes. They deal with people’s money, privacy, home loans, a whole range of serious issues. They start with no work experience. The level of growth and maturity you see – often within a few months – is the primary benefit for the trainee. They’re working in an adult environment. They’re used to structure from being in school, but they’re not used to communicating professionally with adults. It’s a real balance between developing them and working with them, and pushing them ‘out of the nest’. We encourage our trainees to step up and grow.