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‘If you want to do this job, you do it the same as them’ Recognising the skills of Indigenous and culturally diverse workers in the Australian rail industry.

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Presentation on theme: "‘If you want to do this job, you do it the same as them’ Recognising the skills of Indigenous and culturally diverse workers in the Australian rail industry."— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘If you want to do this job, you do it the same as them’ Recognising the skills of Indigenous and culturally diverse workers in the Australian rail industry Katie Maher

2 Skills recognition Recognition of skills, knowledge and experience currently held, regardless of how, when and where the learning occurred.

3 Equity ‘Ensuring that everyone is treated in a fair manner, according to their individual needs and circumstances’. ‘Creating a work environment where employees are recruited, promoted and treated on the basis of their individual skills and abilities’. (ACT Public Service Respect, Equity and Diversity Framework 2010)

4 Methodology: 19 organisations 58 interviews Small to large Public, private Operations Infrastructure Corporate Assessments Policies Equity & diversity ATSI employment strategies

5 Industry partners

6 Why equity and skills recognition? Uptake of skills recognition is low among those in ‘low grade’ roles. ‘Those whose work is low paid and least valued … often have the greatest need for skill recognition’ (Billett 2005).

7 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) employees are particularly likely to face barriers to having their skills, knowledge and experience recognised. (Gordon & Wanganeen 2008; Maher 2010; Eagles & Pope 2005)

8 Analyses employee and employer attitudes to equity in skills recognition. Considers ways in which current workforce development practices enable and obstruct recognition of employee skills and knowledge.

9 Underlying objective To learn what is not said about skills recognition processes and what is not written into policy and strategy documents.

10 The problem of not seeing equity as a problem Many HR managers, trainers and assessors claimed that equity was not a problem in their workplaces.

11 ‘Look, there’s no Indigenous issues here!’ Some respondents said equity was not an issue for ATSI employees in their company as they employed few or no ATSI employees.

12 Under-representation ‘I don’t know of any Aboriginals in the railways’. ‘They just don’t pass, they just don’t get past the psychometric testing … they just don’t make it unfortunately’.

13 Company typeATSI employees State passenger service - large2.1% State passenger service - small0.4% State passenger service - small/medium2.0% Passenger and infrastructure company - large 2.0% Private company operating across states - large 3.0% International freight company operating across states - small 0

14 While rail companies often set employment targets for equity groups, most do not have targets for ATSI employment in better paid positions that require recognition of higher level skills.

15 Being more skilled than ‘low skilled’ there is a ‘continuing lack of respect for Aboriginal culture, people, perspectives and skills … which then becomes a reason for confining Aboriginal people to low skill, low paid jobs on reduced pay and conditions’ (Norris 2006, p. 243).

16 Outdated and misguided views of the skills and knowledge of Indigenous peoples Rail Express, Issue 2, June 2011, p. 29

17 Treating everyone ‘the same’ ‘I’m giving the same information to everybody … because we have these standards, practice and procedures that we go through … you are going to come into our system and you are going to go across these hurdles, and it doesn’t matter who you are’.

18 Is terminology a barrier to skills recognition for some employees? ‘It possibly could be but I’ve not come across it yet, because we work on the rail language here.’

19 Where employees name their skills in culturally specific ways their ‘skills, qualifications and experience remain unrecognised and are lost to the labour market, and individuals are often forced to work below their level of skills and expertise’ (Constable et al. 2004, p. 13).

20 ‘The equity is not just there, we do have a lot of Indigenous people … and they are not given a fair chance to get through the processes... They can do the job by displaying it to you, yeah’. Workplace trainer/assessor, interstate freight company

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22 Pre-employment programs ‘That particular community [are] not used to a testing environment, so we run what’s called a pre-apprenticeship campaign, and so we work with them to get them comfortable using tests and practising tests and being in that sort of environment under that sort of time limit’. Transfield Services RAP

23 ATSI involvement ‘We might not have the people in-house that have that background knowledge and understanding to recognise those skills in others … There might be some misalignment between the worker’s skills they are demonstrating and the perception of what those skills are’. (Learning quality and accreditation manager, large state rail company)

24 The equity case for diversity Equity in skills recognition should not be restricted to the ‘business case’ for productive diversity nor ‘severed from the histories of wider structural and cultural inequalities’ (Squires 2006, p.27).

25 If some groups are seen to present ‘greater business advantages than others’ then diversity management can ‘undermine rather than increase equality between groups’. If based on such assumptions, ‘diversity management paradoxically affirms sameness’. (Squires 2006, pp ).

26 Current skills recognition processes present both opportunities and barriers to equitable recognition of skills, knowledge and experience.

27 Assumptions and constraints Equity is not important Everyone is treated the same It is fair to treat everyone the same Equity a low priority if equity group numbers are low ATSI applicants/employees are ‘low skilled’ Standards and regulations are fair

28 Recognition can be strengthened by Experienced ATSI and CALD assessors, trainers and recruiters Experienced and committed equity and diversity officers designated ATSI engagement workers Responsive pre-employment programs Commitment to Reconciliation Action Plans and ATSI engagement strategies

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