Civik, a new social enterprise incubated by White Box Enterprises, has officially launched in Cairns with a bold goal to create 250 jobs for people who face barriers to employment, all while addressing the labour shortages facing the telecommunications industry.
The people-centred organisation will train and employ individuals who face barriers to work in regional Australia, giving them the skills and confidence to pursue careers in construction, engineering and telecommunications.
This year unfilled vacancies in Australia’s civil construction sector are estimated to reach 100,000.
According to Civik General Manager Dominiqe Bird, “The current labour shortages present a remarkable opportunity for a social enterprise start-up like Civik. Our goal is to activate an untapped pool of talented, motivated workers in regional areas who simply require a chance to establish a career.”
Civik has employed a group of former refugees in Cairns who have undergone a specialised training program to equip them with the skills they need to work in the telecommunications industry. Research shows unemployment rates for refugees is approximately 77% in the first year of arrival before dropping to 38% after three years.
“At Civik, we focus on the unique skills and experiences of these individuals. Instead of viewing new arrivals as individuals in need of support, we use a strength-based approach which recognises their resilience, diversity, and the valuable contributions they can make to society and the economy,” said Dom.
“I can’t wait,” says Julienne, one of the first employees of Civik, who now calls Cairns home having settled there with her family four years ago.
“Where I grew up, it was mainly men doing this type of work, but when I got to Australia I thought, ‘Wow, I could really do this, women in Australia can work in construction too’,” says Julienne, who spent more than two years in a refugee camp in Burundi from when she was 11 years old before her family was accepted to resettle in Australia.
The motivation behind Civik came from an opportunity with Ventia, one of Australia’s largest infrastructure services providers, who needed to boost their capacity to meet demands of a major project with NBN Co.
“We’re excited to be a part of this fantastic program”, said Samuel Evans, Ventia Senior Project Director, NBN N2P. “This initiative is aligned to our strategy of being client-focused, innovative and sustainable. We are proud to be working with Civik and NBN Co. to unlock the workforce potential in regional and remote communities and support talented people who face barriers to employment.”
NBN Co General Manager Fixed Line Greg Thornton said, “It’s fantastic the nbn fibre upgrade program, which involves rolling out more than 65,000 km of optical fibre across Australia, is helping to provide new opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds in our regional towns and cities.
“I’m proud we were able to help our fibre roll out delivery partners in facilitating the training that will provide invaluable skills for now and into the future.”
In addition to working with former refugees, Civik is also exploring opportunities for First Nations people to access opportunities from the NBN rollout. "Civik is creating a training and employment model that is highly replicable, and we'd like to see regional and remote First Nations communities have the option to build and maintain their own telecommunications infrastructure,” said Dom.
This is the second White Box Enterprises-incubated social enterprise Ventia will work closely with. Since 2020 they have been a major client of Australian Spatial Analytics (ASA), a unique data-oriented professional services social enterprise that employs young autistic adults. ASA is one of the fastest growing data services providers and social enterprises in Australia today, employing more than 100 individuals, 80% of whom are neurodiverse.
“Working with large corporates with a strong focus on ESG, like Ventia, is a great enabler for innovation. We hope more corporates follow their lead and think about the role jobs-focused social enterprise can play in solving their business needs,” said Alex McDonald, Chair of ASA and Chief Entrepreneur for White Box Enterprises. “ASA is a great example of what is possible when you align business with a clear social purpose. We expect Civik to do as well as ASA”.
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