Providing a platform for a more diverse workforce

This post is also available in:

Let’s go back in time to early 2020. Yes, we’re back in the midst of the Covid epidemic, with lockdowns, closed borders and all the things we’re so glad are over now.

At the time, KAEFER in Australia was contracted by BHP to provide site-wide scaffolding and rope access services at the Olympic Dam mine in the Eastern part of the continent. Border closures within Australian states during the COVID peak reduced the available labour pool massively and meant that the workforce had to be almost entirely local. The need to attract potential employees from more diverse professional backgrounds was the birth of the Scaffolding Apprenticeship Programme.

Scott Salmon, Contract Manager at Olympic Dam and Operations Manager in the region, was inspired by the Scaffolding Apprenticeship he completed in the United Kingdom.

“The Traineeship Program was shaped based on my own experience completing the UK’s 24-month Scaffolding Apprenticeship, which I believe provides a comprehensive development pathway to set up trainees and apprentices for long-term success in their careers.”

Scott adapted the model and targeted the local Roxby Downs community with the aim of introducing young people from diverse professional backgrounds to the resources industry.

Scaffolding is a traditionally male-dominated occupation, with women making up just 1% of the workforce in 2021. (Australian Federal Government Jobs and Skills – Australia’s Labour Market Insights)

While this is a significant discrepancy, it also presented the potential to create significant employment opportunities for local people from diverse professional backgrounds who might not otherwise have considered a career in scaffolding or the resources sector. As a result, the apprenticeship programme was targeted at women and people from diverse professional backgrounds.

The 22-month traineeship includes extensive practical and theoretical elements under a mentorship arrangement that thoroughly prepares for a career in scaffolding. Scott and the Olympic Dam team recognised that they would need to introduce flexible arrangements in order to attract and retain female employees. To this end, KAEFER has introduced a number of initiatives, including flexible working alternative work assignments, additional maternity and a robust return-to-work programme.

“Typically, scaffolding qualifications in Australia are achieved through short training programmes: 5 days for basic, 4 days for intermediate and advanced scaffolders. However, KAEFER’s Scaffolding Traineeship is a multi-month programme.” Scott continues: “The Traineeship goes beyond the standard scaffolding qualification process in Australia. Our programme provides participants with a thorough grounding across both practical and theoretical elements of scaffolding, as well as an ability to understand and safely manage hazards that can be encountered on site.”

At the end of 2020, KAEFER launched a recruitment drive for scaffolding apprentices, targeting women living in Roxby Downs. This resulted in a first intake of 5 female apprentices starting the programme in January 2021 and a second intake of 5 female apprentices starting in April 2022.

Scott believes the customised mentoring approach of the Traineeship, combined with flexible arrangements, have been key to the program’s success in attracting, developing and retaining high numbers of female scaffolders.

The apprenticeship has already inspired other Australian teams to replicate the model. In 2022, a 12-week scaffolding cadetship programme was launched at our Naval Base facility in Perth, Western Australia, with much of the training content adopted from the Olympic Dam programme. A similar cadetship programme was also completed at our Gladstone Facility in Queensland in mid-2022. There was a high level of female participation at both sites.

“Programmes such as our Scaffold Traineeship provide a structured pathway for individuals from diverse professional backgrounds to develop their careers. We have been excited to see the success of this programme in multiple locations across Australia and look forward to continuing to roll this out further across our national operations.

We recognise the importance and benefits of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, including improved employee health and wellbeing, innovation and overall organisational performance.”

Victor Bogos
Managing Director, KAEFER in Australia

More News