ANZ is expanding its employment and training programme for Aborigines. What began in December 2002 with just one school student, has blossomed into a scheme that offered 107 places to indigenous students in December 2007 and another 70 in December 2008.
This year ANZ will extend the programme to cover all of the country and offer 180 places.
By 2011 the bank wants to have 5% of its entry-level positions going to ANZ-trained indigenous candidates and - in conjunction with the Australian Employment Covenant - another 5% set aside for Aborigines who have trained elsewhere. That will mean more than 350 places a year.
The programme takes high school students at the end of Year 10, puts them through an induction scheme in the Christmas holidays and then offers them one day a week's paid employment for their final two years at school. Students who are concurrently enrolled in Certificate 11 in business via TAFE (Technical and Further Education) can work in the bank during holidays.
By the time students finish school, they have a Certificate 11 in business, are trained bank staff with two years' paid work experience, and are able to apply for any positions at ANZ. About 70% of trainees accept jobs at the firm on finishing school.
For students who enroll in a university degree appropriate to banking, ANZ pays certain fees, buys textbooks, and employs them part time during their degree.
But does this all make business sense for the bank? Bruce McQualter, ANZ's head of indigenous employment and training, says the firm is experiencing a 93% retention rate (after two years) for former trainees who now have permanent positions. This percentage is "unheard of among Gen Y staff," he adds.
"It's a new discovery of pipeline talent for the bank...These kids are perfect: when they start, they know us, we know them, and they are so keen and enthusiastic. Our problem is no longer finding a pipeline - it's keeping it," says McQualter.
But he believes the programme isn't just about getting entry-level bankers on board, it also: "breaks down barriers and assumptions in our general staff, binds us more closely with our customers, and gives these trainees purpose, respect, and a future that is seen by their peers."
Australia's other banks have been slower to start, but are beginning to get indigenous programmes up and running now.
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