Outback Stores remains committed to providing meaningful employment, career pathways and an opportunity to complete nationally accredited training for local people whilst remaining on country.
As expected COVID-19 presented significant challenges in the second half of the year in keeping local staff engaged in work and training. Community uncertainty, biosecurity restrictions and substantial financial support from the Australian Government for remote community members were all contributing factors.
Despite these challenges we finished the year with 87% of team members employed in community stores identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI). This equates to over 219 people in remote communities engaged in work. We continue to focus on improving job satisfaction and work attendance. More senior staff are now providing support through mentoring relationships, specifically on navigating the challenges of a new job and workplace. This has made a positive impact.
We continue to see young aspiring retailers progress through our pathways to management. This year we had 10 employees completing their Certificate IV in Retail Management after our first completion only 12 months earlier.
Our highlight this year was Alma Ngalmi becoming Outback Stores’ first accredited Indigenous Retail Trainer. Alma came to Outback Stores in 2017 with five years’ experience working in the Barunga Community Store where she was also a director. She started in a reception and administration role but was promoted into the training team after returning from maternity leave in early 2020. Alma’s experience and cultural understanding is already proving to be an asset.
We remain dedicated to providing a relevant, interactive and engaging learning experience for trainees. This year we have made significant inroads in improving and tailoring our training materials to better suit our cohort. Trainee feedback has so far been positive, with increased levels of satisfaction and improved efficiency.
Our focus over the next 12 months will be on continuing to increase the number of permanent employees and growing the total number of hours worked by staff in stores. Identifying and supporting aspiring leaders with building a career pathway in retail management through VET and pathways to management remains a core objective.
We are working closely with the NT Department of Education developing a retail pathway for remote students. The aim is to engage interested students through work experience and school-based traineeships and then onto our pathways to management. This is scheduled for trial in early 2021. We also continue to work on graduate opportunities with the goal of increasing employment at our Darwin Support Office.