Western Australia has been hard hit by the workplace shortages affecting many organisations in 2022, especially within the aged care and disability services sector.
But challenges also bring opportunities, and Brightwater is taking a progressive approach to addressing the shortages.
In recent months Brightwater, in conjunction with MercyCare, has developed a program to place people from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds into jobs within Brightwater’s 2100-strong workforce.
Brightwater’s Talent Acquisition Specialist Holly Reid says the usual methods of securing staff are no longer working.
“It was a struggle to find laundry assistants,” she said. “We were definitely not being flooded with interested candidates.”
Holly says it was time to do something different to attract employees who would not only suit the roles but also Brightwater’s culture and values.
She says a partnership with MercyCare – which provides specialist employment services to refugees and asylum seekers – offered the right opportunity.
“All the candidates we've had through MercyCare are authentic, courageous, progressive, and caring, and those qualities fit well with Brightwater values.”
Together, Holly and MercyCare’s Employment Liaison Officer Jacqui Whelan have developed a program that identifies suitable candidates and then supports them through Brightwater’s application and onboarding process.
The first successful candidate, Than Than from Burma, came to Australia as a refugee seven years ago. In August she began working at Brightwater Linen in Malaga.
Providing wrap-around support
Jacqui says refugees and asylum seekers face significant barriers in their attempt to secure employment.
These include lack of familiarity with the job application process and Australian workplace practices, difficulty accessing necessary documentation, language and/or cultural differences and not having a support network.
The program put in place by Brightwater and MercyCare addresses some of these barriers by providing wraparound support during onboarding to ensure candidates can navigate the process. They also get follow-up support after they are placed in a role.
"It's wonderful to see Brightwater taking the opportunity to think creatively and open up opportunities for people who have structural barriers to workforce entry,”
“It is also a way to work towards mitigating some of the workforce shortage that exists at the moment. It's a win win for everybody.”
Following the initial success with one new recruit, Holly and Jacqui were asked to put the program to the test with a bulk drive: Brightwater Linen requested 15 more employees in three weeks.
A flurry of activity followed, including group interviews and a tour of Brightwater’s commercial laundry facility in Malaga. In the end all positions were filled, which was a sign to Holly and Jacqui that the process would work moving forward.
“We're very grateful that we’ve been able to provide new opportunities for people, and at the same time gain fantastic new employees for Brightwater,” Holly added.
In following up with her MercyCare clients, Jacqui says she has received positive feedback about how they feel in their new Brightwater jobs.
“It's wonderful to see the enthusiasm and the great joy the people are getting out of it and the sense of pride as well. It's really lovely,” she said.
Just the first step
According to Holly, this is just the first step in opening up Brightwater’s recruitment process by providing support to help people from a range of cultures and backgrounds enter the workforce.
“The best part of my job is working with people who have been overlooked in the past because of a particular barrier and being able to overcome it with them to welcome them into Brightwater.”