Jobs and Skills Australia has recently released two comprehensive reports shedding light on the employment and educational outcomes of First Nations individuals. The First Nations Workforce Analysis and the findings from a survey of employers’ experiences with First Nations job applicants provide valuable insights into the progress, challenges, and opportunities within the First Nations workforce. While gaps still exist, particularly in remote areas, the reports highlight positive trends and efforts to bridge the employment divide.
Positive Employment Trends
The First Nations Workforce Analysis reveals encouraging trends in employment across various occupations and industries. Over the five years leading up to 2022, the number of First Nations people working as Contract, Program, and Project Administrators increased by an impressive 42% nationwide. Other occupations that experienced substantial growth included Welfare Support Workers (33%), Aged and Disabled Carers (31%), and Child Carers (22%).
The report highlights the public administration sector as the highest-employing industry, with a 27% increase in First Nations individuals employed between February 2020 and May 2022. Notably, this sector’s resilience and reduced reliance on hospitality jobs allowed First Nations employment to recover more quickly than non-Indigenous employment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Examining regional differences, metropolitan areas saw significant growth among First Nations Plumbers (25%). In comparison, regional and remote areas experienced a 32% increase in First Nations individuals working as Drillers, Miners, and Shot Firers.
Furthermore, the analysis predicts high growth in community service occupations over the next five years. Many First Nations people are already employed in these fields, such as Aged and Disabled Carers, Welfare Support Workers, and Education Aides, which bodes well for future opportunities.
Educational Attainment and Employment
The report acknowledges that First Nations’ tertiary education attainment remains proportionately lower than non-Indigenous peoples, particularly in remote areas. However, there is cause for optimism as the analysis reveals that First Nations individuals with qualifications in high-demand fields are more likely to secure employment directly related to their studies. For example, 71% of First Nations people who studied education were employed in occupations that utilised their skills.
Employers’ Experiences and Strategies
Based on Jobs and Skills Australia’s Recruitment Experiences and Outlook Survey, the second report provides insights into employers’ experiences with First Nations job applicants and the strategies to support their successful transition into the workplace.
The survey indicates that First Nations applicants have a commendable 70% success rate when applying for jobs, and 93% of businesses that hired a First Nations applicant reported that the individual adjusted well in the workplace—52%of enterprises implemented strategies such as buddy or mentoring systems to assist in this transition. However, the adoption of more comprehensive techniques like Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) or cultural competency training for staff was found to be rare, particularly among smaller businesses.
Interestingly, while large businesses were less likely to adopt transition strategies (68%), medium-sized (50%) and small businesses (49%) demonstrated a higher inclination towards implementing such support systems. Additionally, 10% of businesses accessed programs and subsidies when employing First Nations applicants. However, the high success rate of job transitions suggests that the lack of uptake in these programs and subsidies does not significantly impact successful outcomes. Medium to small businesses were more likely to utilise programs and subsidies (12% and 11%, respectively) than larger businesses (5%).
The newly released reports shed light on the progress and challenges within the First Nations workforce. Positive trends in employment growth, particularly in sectors like public administration and community services, offer hope for continued improvement. However, educational attainment gaps and the need for more comprehensive strategies to support the successful transition of First Nations applicants into the workplace highlight areas that require attention. By leveraging the findings of these reports, policymakers, employers, and stakeholders can collaborate to build upon the positive trends and address the challenges, ultimately promoting a more inclusive and equitable First Nations workforce.