Global company funds employability programs for disadvantaged kids

CITI Australia’s philanthropic arm CITI Foundation provides community partners over $1 million to help disadvantaged Australian youth find their feet in the workforce. 

The grants are part of the Pathways to Progress program which launched in 2014 as a job skill-building initiative that aims to equip young people with employability expertise. 

Head of community development, sponsorships and engagement for Citi Australia and New Zealand, Louise Lindsay said there is no better time to implement personalised services for youth employment. 

“Job creation has slowed, and young people are competing against older workers with more education and experience,” she said. 

“Young Australians in transition from education to work are particularly vulnerable, especially with low educational attainment [and] existing employment precarity…

“This is why targeted programs for youth are so important, ensuring every young Australian is given a fair go.”

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, youth employment has plummeted in Australia. 

On June 25, 2021, the Australian Government released its Youth Engagement in Education or Employmentarticle as part of the larger Australia’s Youth report, which concerns the general wellbeing of young people aged 12-24. 

The article found youth unemployment rates in 2020 were the nation’s worst since 1977.

It also identified the proportion of young people living in low socioeconomic areas, not in employment or education, was more than twice as high in 2020.

In response to the federal government’s damning statistics, Citi Foundation has backed community partners who provide young people with skills to navigate a rapidly changing economy. 

“We hope to see an increase in the number of low-income vulnerable youth who obtain employability skills, gain professional networks [and] become employed,” Ms Lindsay said. 

In order for this to happen, Citi Foundation selected partners who promoted inclusivity in the workplace and meaningful economic and employment opportunities. 

“We sought our reputable organisations who could build scale and make a real difference.” 

Citi determined inclusivity by the extent to which grant partners served majority underrepresented populations. 

“We ask all grant applicants to outline their diversity, equity and inclusion strategy efforts,” Ms Lindsay said. 

“As well as how they proactively consider factors such as gender, race, sexual orientation and disabilities.”

In total, Citi Foundation is supporting five programs that concern disability support, Indigenous education, and disadvantaged youth programs. 

Northcott is a not-for-profit organisation that provides disability services to over 12,000 adults and children. 

The organisation was chosen as a Citi grant recipient, for their devotion to workplace inclusivity. 

The Northcott Experience Tasker (NEXT) program will support young people aged 17 -24 with disabilities to learn vocational skills.

Backed by the grant scheme, the program will supply young people with tailored support to real-world hiring requirements, labour gaps and emerging workforce trends. 

“The program is designed for young people living with learning difficulties who are preparing to leave school…” said the organisation on its website. 

“During the program, they will have the opportunity to access coaching, mentoring and work experience opportunities that will enable them to be ready for the future of work.” 

Citi Australia CEO, Mr Marc Luet, said disability support is a long-standing interest of the foundation.

“Citi celebrated Disability Awareness Month in October and our partnership with Paralympics is Citi’s first global, mission-led collaboration,” Mr Luet said.

“It made perfect sense for us to extend our community partnerships with our Citi Foundation grants.” 

AIME is a not-for-profit organisation overcoming cultural disadvantage in Australian society. 

The organisation’s IMAGI-NATION program, backed by Citi Foundation grants, fosters mentorship programs between university students and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students.  

Meaningful connections across age-groups are encouraged, to promote knowledge exchange and educational equity. 

In 2018 Indigenous Australians made up only 1.8 per cent of all university enrolments, according to Closing the Gap report, published in 2019. 

The report also found 66 per cent of Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 had completed year 12, compared to 88 per cent of non-indigenous Australians. 

To reform educational disparities the program will engage 500 year 11 and 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to develop a clear post-school plan. 

AIME hopes creating a plan will allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to set goals for the future and find purpose. 

In doing so, school students are led to consider university, full-time employment, trades, or further training. 

AIME mentor and Bunjalung woman Sherice Jackson is working alongside Citi Foundation to close the educational gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 

“I started the AIME program [in 2013] when I was nine,” she said. 

“They gave me a voice that I never knew I needed.

“It was the mentors that made the most difference.” 

Since launching, the Citi Foundation has provided more than $230 million for workforce preparation programs. 

In September 2020, the Foundation announced an additional $100 million to put towards the program and a three-year commitment to provide economic opportunities for young people.

Citi is dedicated to promoting economic progress and workplace equality to improve the lives of low-income communities.  

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Tia Haralabakos

Tia Haralabakos is a Media Communications student at Monash University specialising in Journalism and human rights. She is interested in the multi-faceted landscape of digital media, particularly addressing challenges to online reporting like diversity and content moderation. Tia’s journalistic interests include human rights and social affairs.

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