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Building a career thanks to RAW opportunity

David Prestipino -

Civil construction apprentice Adam Varcoe typifies the ethos of parent company RAW Group to provide equal employment opportunities no matter race, gender or background.

A recent graduate of the RAW-linked South Australian Aboriginal Building & Civil Construction Academy (SAABCCA), Mr Varcoe - a proud Naruunga Narungga/Kaurna man and father of four - is a future leader in the civil construction industry.

He commenced his career in 2019 in civil construction on the Northern Connector Shared Path project and was RAW's first civil construction apprentice.

During his apprenticeship, Mr Varcoe worked on other projects such as the Glenside Subdivision, where he gained experience in drainage and pavement works.

After finishing his apprenticeship earlier this year, Mr Varcoe became the first Indigenous person to complete the Trade Certificate in Civil Construction and has since been promoted to site supervisor.

Mr Varcoe, who was recently named 2023 Apprentice of the Year by the Civil Contractors Federation SA, said the apprenticeship program gave young Indigenous people like himself the opportunity to take a new path in life.

"It's been the best time of my life actually," he said of the apprenticeship and opportunities it opened," he said.

"It's changed my everyday life, especially my family life as well... and I'm happy to go to work."

SAABCCA business development manager, Peter Burgoyne, said the heart of the Academy's mission was to promote Aboriginal apprenticeships in the building and civil construction industry.

"We're mainly about empowering Aboriginal individuals to actively participate in the economy of projects taking place on their ancestral lands," the former Port Adelaide football star told National Indigenous Times.

"Our mandate is to ensure the next generation has better opportunities than the last."

The RAW Group is a 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned and managed company, whose ethos 'Changing Lives Through Economic Independence and Empowerment' is ringing true.

The company has achieved several positive outcomes in Aboriginal employment, empowerment and economic independence, thanks to the academy's apprenticeship program.

Mr Burgoyne said participation data from 2019 to 2022 was unprecedented and meant "truly life changing" outcomes for Indigenous families and households.

Between that period, the company had engaged 76 Aboriginal and 19 non-Aboriginal employees, including seven Indigenous apprentices and employed women to work in non-traditional trades.

That meant more than $1 million was going into what were once long-term, disadvantaged, jobseekers' households and, more importantly, $840,000 into Indigenous households.

Burgoyne said those levels of income created significant differences for Indigenous families across South Australia.

"We are proud to highlight that a majority of our employees come from disadvantaged, correctional services and welfare dependent backgrounds, with limited educational qualifications," he said.

"We are creating life-changing opportunities that impact intergenerational unemployment and break the welfare dependency cycle."

Mr Burgoyne said the academy's mandate was ensuring the next generation of Indigenous people had better opportunities than the last.

"This endeavour not only benefits the industry and Aboriginal jobseekers but also contributes significantly to the broader economy," he said.

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