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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Investing in diversity

Community Corporate was established with the goal of advocating for the important role of work as a cornerstone to settlement and belonging for newcomers to Australia.

The social enterprise company specialises in refugee recruitment, cultural training, coaching and workforce solutions. It works with refugees, migrants, mature aged women and young people, all of whom have gaps on their resumes from being new to the country or to the workforce, or their past unavailability because of parenting breaks.

The “employer-led model” works in partnership with businesses to identify workforce needs and customises a pre-employment training course for each corporate partner to give candidates an understanding of the industry, business ethos and role, as well as Work, Health and Safety and customer service practicalities.

Candidates are then matched to the appropriate position, with employers able to assess competency on the job through work trials.

Community Corporate says the model is about providing employers with a “safety net” to hire for potential and attitude and look beyond the pages of the resume where currency of experience or skills may not be prevalent.

“Our candidates, especially our refugees, have the best attitude for work, and we’ve seen this result in higher conversion into ongoing employment and retention rates exceeding 90% at 12 months,” Community Corporate founder and CEO Carmen Garcia tells Retail World. “Our people want to work and with the right employer commitment to invest in the long game … this is where we see amazing results.”

Retail industry employers are a major focus for the company, with Woolworths, IKEA and OTR among its partners in challenging conventional recruitment and unleashing the potential of diverse job seekers such as refugees and migrants. Woolworths has been a partner since 2016 and has hired more than 200 refugees nationally across its brands.

“We have [strong] interest in retail among our refugees, as they want the opportunity to find belonging in their new community,” says Ms Garcia. “They love helping people and see the inherent value of customer service skills for their future in any job or career pathway.

“Interestingly, we’ve seen the most career progression … in retail, with our job seekers moving into leadership roles or taking their overseas qualifications [which are] not formally recognised in Australia, like in IT, finance or engineering, and transitioning into skilled roles over time. Woolworths is a key example of this through their genuine commitment to opening the doors of opportunity for our refugees.”

During Refugee Week this year (19-25 June), Woolworths launched a new initiative with Community Corporate to welcome those refugees with overseas qualifications and experience into the three technological arms of its business, Woolworths’ IT department, WooliesX, and WiQ. The Refugee Digital and Tech Cadetship Program, according to Community Corporate, has led to Woolworths committing to 30 paid 12-week cadetships by December 2023. Refugees will complete job readiness and resilience training and ongoing coaching with Community Corporate and a cloud computing course with ServiceNow, a platform that delivers digital workflows, before beginning the paid work trials.

The new program builds on Community Corporate’s award-winning DiversityWorks! entry level programs that are said to have demonstrated that refugees share the values and attributes of most Australians and have a positive attitude for work, but just need an opportunity to prove themselves.

According to Community Corporate, many refugees have limited access to networks to help them navigate the Australian workforce on arrival to apply through online processes and without local references and work experience. They’re often discounted at the first stage of recruitment. The company adds that with English as a second language, many refugees are overly nervous in interviews and often unsuccessful in articulating themselves.

“Some employers still think hiring a refugee means visa sponsorship, and this isn’t true at all,” says Ms Garcia. “Refugees arriving via UNHCR processes are all permanent residents. It’s like hiring any other Australian.”

Ms Garcia calls on retailers to consider diversity recruitment.

“My question for the retail industry is: what do you have to lose by starting a conversation about diversity recruitment when there’s a shortage of talent?” she says. “The return on investment just might surprise you, and we’re here to help do the heavy lifting.”

This article is published in the September issue of Retail World.

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