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Indigenous graduates hone skills to enter workforce with confidence

David Prestipino -

While Year 12 student Miranda Simpson spent her final school year immersed in her studies, the Dubbo teenager found time to hone her business skills for a future career in the corporate world.

Ms Simpson was one of 43 graduates from Aboriginal Employment Strategy's class of 2023 who completed their traineeship program and now enter the real world with an industry-recognised qualification.

The 32 full-time trainees and 11 school-based ones come from diverse communities across New South Wales and Queensland, from Little Bay and Tamworth, to Ipswich and Grafton, and represent AES's mission to provide career opportunities in diverse industries for young First Nations people from various communities.

This year's graduation ceremony - celebrated at Penrith Panthers headquarters in Western Sydney - marked the 20th anniversary of AES's group training program, which has championed the career paths of more than 2,500 young First Nations individuals.

The school-based traineeship program first originated in Moree (through ANZ bank), Tamworth (ANZ and Commonwealth Bank), and Gunnedah (CBA and ANZ) in 2003.

It continues to be a pivotal program empowering students with valuable skills and experiences as they transition from education to the workforce, with key partnerships established in the finance industry with the likes of NAB, CBA, Westpac now set in stone, while other host employers such as the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council and local Aboriginal medical services also now fostering professional development of graduates.

Ms Simpson worked with NAB during her traineeship and the year 12 community leader said she the bank and AES helped her overcome several obstacles during the program and her final year of school.

"I gained long-time friendships engaging and helping community and mob, becoming a positive and confident role model and growing as a person, staying educated for my family," she said.

The hard work and dedication of Ms Simpson was recognised at the ceremony, winning the 2023 AES School Based Trainee of the Year, as was Ian Hammond, another success story who, six months from completing his traineeship with a Certificate IV in First Nations Health Care Practice, has already been offered a job with host employer Greater West Area Health Service in Mt Druitt, with the potential of nursing degree from university on the horizon.

Mr Hammond won the 2023 AES Full Time Trainee of the Year Award at the event.

Health trainee graduate Chloe Davis, from Sydney, spoke on behalf of her colleagues at the ceremony, saying the program was a great opportunity to further their development.

"Not only do we get to improve our knowledge and skills in class, but to also be able to step into the workforce, and feel confident with the care we provide for our people in our communities is even better," she said.

"I'm so proud of our journey throughout the traineeship, and I'm so proud of our class and how far we have come."

The AES traineeship program covers a range of qualifications, including business, health, warehousing, construction and IT to list just a few, with the program's training modules always evolving to meet the changing needs of the workforce.

Managing director Kristy Masella said the collective impact of AES was helping foster economic empowerment and employment opportunities for First Nations communities.

"I am proud to be leading an Aboriginal company made up of dynamic, passionate, big-hearted professionals who are committed to creating positive change in communities through brokering employment, providing culturally-competent mentoring and support and promoting Aboriginal excellence and talent," she said..

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