Ready to work

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Don’t you love a good news story? While retail has been hard hit by COVID-19, it hasn’t stopped Kmart from recruiting six students from Newton Moore Girls Academy.

Year 10 student Lara Riley, Year 11 students Che-Leigh Jackamarra and Maya Hume, Year 12 students Juliann Harvey and Stephanie Riley and Girls Academy graduate Shakira Whitby will all be starting at Kmart Eaton Fair in the near future.

Post-school transitions officer Cassandra Pipe worked closely with Brendon Ah Chee, Kmart Group Indigenous employment advisor for WA/NT, and Kmart Eaton Fair manager David Langan to get the girls ready for the workforce.

“We assisted the girls through the pre-employment stage by hosting Kmart Group for the group interviews, working with families to ensure the girls had all the necessary paperwork and attending in-store signup,” Cassandra said.

“Girls Academy has made a commitment to assist with the transition of our students into the workforce and will continue this assistance through the next stages as the girls complete their online induction units.”

Brendon said these kinds of success stories were what made his job so rewarding.

“It is all about getting our mob into jobs and I really enjoy working with the younger generation in identifying opportunities,” he said.

“The roles at Kmart and Target are predominantly for juniors so this is a good place to get young people into work.

“I also really enjoy working with the community and connecting stores with partners such as Girls Academy. I used to work in the education sector many years ago and I was involved with Girls Academy in the early days, so it’s great to see how the academies have expanded over the years and I’m now able to assist with getting students into jobs.

“Kmart and Target are great businesses for young Aboriginal people to get work experience and set them up for the future post school for a career in retail.”

Brendon first met with Girls Academy’s post-schools transition team in Perth back in January to talk about how Kmart Group, a division of Wesfarmers, could work closely with Girls Academy in WA. He looked at the availability of roles in Bunbury and said David was keen to provide a number of opportunities for the students. 

“It was important to establish a relationship first between Newton Moore Girls Academy and the store manager, so it is always a good start for everyone to meet first,” he said.

“From that initial meeting, it just took off! Cassandra arranged for interested students to visit the store for an interview, get an idea of the role and what the store was like behind the scenes. This was in early March and by the end of the month all applicants were notified of the outcome.”

When COVID-19 restrictions halted the recruitment process, the store manager was still able to get the students in to complete their paperwork.

“I know that David is genuine in his commitment to Aboriginal employment,” Brendon said. “I am confident he will continue to work closely with Girls Academy and ensure his store and staff are supportive of employment opportunities at Eaton Fair.”        

Cassandra said the support Girls Academy had offered students through this process had helped them to overcome many barriers that they believed prevented them from being able to secure employment.

“Helping the girls to change their mindsets and work towards this goal has filled both themselves and their families with a sense of pride,” she said.

“The girls are incredible ambassadors for our Girls Academy program. Whilst the pre-employment stage was quite daunting for a couple of them, they showed up and pushed through their nerves. I am so proud of them for being leaders within our Academy and their community.”

The girls will be working in casual roles, with shifts to be determined in the coming weeks, but Brendon said the stores were good about working around sporting and education commitments.

Naturally, the new recruits can’t wait to rock up to work. “I am excited to start working at Kmart,” said Juliann Harvey. “The staff seem really friendly and supportive. I love shopping there!”

Brendon said it was also important that Kmart Group worked closely with community partners like Girls Academy to ensure they attracted people who wanted to work for them. “Educating and ensuring that each workplace is safe and has sound cultural understanding to make new teams feel welcome is also a huge part of the support I provide.”

He sees the relationship with Girls Academy blossoming and hopes to work with Coodanup Girls Academy to find roles for girls at Mandurah Forum Kmart.

“I am chatting with the Kmart Mandurah team now to understand their team dynamic and knowledge about culture, and so will look to follow the same path with the Academy students at Coodanup College,” he said. “All going well, and perhaps with the help of technology, I hope we can meet and set up some opportunities for Coodanup Academy students to join our team!”

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