Qantas has been accused of exploiting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees for cheap labour, without offering them a chance of a career with the airline.
The mother of a former Qantas Indigenous trainee has accused the airline of exploiting her son, by using him for cheap labour, and not offering him a paid position at the end of his two-year traineeship.
Peta-Joy Williams’ son Baylun was recruited by non-profit organisation Maxima in 2016 for a Qantas traineeship in administration and corporate services based at Sydney airport.
He started out working one school day each week during Year 11, but after positive feedback from his supervisors, he accepted an offer to increase to two days a week in Year 12.
“That meant that he wouldn’t be able to sit his HSC exam, and he opted to do that because it’s money in the pocket and it’s more experience,” Ms Williams told NITV News.
“In his head, the promise of having a full-time position when he finished high school – he didn’t need to do the HSC.
“He’d basically been told many times by many different people that there was going to be a job at the end of this.”
Traineeship ‘a waste of time’
Despite being nominated for Indigenous trainee of the year, Baylun was told at the end of his two years with Qantas there were no full time positions available.
“At first I was a little bit disappointed,” said the 18-year-old, who is now studying to be an apprentice electrician.
“I was expecting a job at the end of it.”
Baylun feels the time he spent with Qantas was a waste, and only delayed his current career path.
“If I’d known I probably would’ve just planned to move into a different career path… I’m doing an electrical pathway at the moment, so I could’ve started that a bit earlier,” he said.
Others had similar experiences
Peta-Joy Williams said several of Baylun’s fellow trainees have had similar experiences.
Kade Russell was another Indigenous trainee who finished the program in the baggage services department in 2018.
He was told a full-time position would be available if he was able to obtain his driver’s licence, but four days before he got his licence, Qantas advised there was no longer a job available.
“It felt horrible – I didn’t expect it,” he said.
The 18-year-old said Maxima had promised ongoing work at the end of the traineeship.
“They said it’d be a guaranteed job if we went well,” he told NITV News.
Qantas says traineeships offer ‘significant benefits’
According to Qantas, almost half of last year’s group of school-based Indigenous trainees were offered a position with the airline, or with another employer.
A spokesperson declined to comment about specific cases, but he did say Qantas was proud of its traineeship program.
“Providing students with a paid traineeship while they’re still studying, gives them a great start in finding a job and helps increase overall Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in the workforce,” they said in a statement.
“Qantas and Maxima Group, which facilitates the training, make it clear to all students that we don’t guarantee students a job at Qantas at the end of their traineeship.
“While some graduates will be offered a role where one is available, others take different paths including employment with other companies or tertiary education.”
Maxima denies traineeships are exploitative
A spokesperson for Maxima said the organisation “completely rejects the suggestion that the school based traineeships we are involved in are exploitative or a form of cheap labour”.
“Our staff would never guarantee full-time work after the traineeship – we are offering work for the duration of the traineeship and are never in a position to guarantee what might happen after that,” they said.
“We are firmly of the view that even where the traineeship does not lead to ongoing employment there are significant benefits to the young people involved, such as the development of real world work experience and ‘employability’ skills.”
Traineeships can be beneficial
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Discrimination Claims, said traineeships can be beneficial to young job seekers.
“Traineeships offer the chance for a young person to get some real world experience as they complete their school, or university or TAFE study,” he said.
“I’m not sure any company can promise a full time job at the end of a traineeship program, but for many young people, they’re a chance to get a foot in the door and to start a successful career.”
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, traineeships take one to two years to complete, and must be registered with a school or training college or university, but there is no requirement for a company to offer a full time position at the end of the program.
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