Ventia recently launched a new partnership with Civik, a people-centred social enterprise with a mission to create jobs for communities that typically experience high unemployment.  

Civik will train and employ individuals - in particular, First Nations people and former refugees - who face barriers to work in regional Australia, giving them the skills and confidence to pursue careers in construction, engineering and telecommunications. Research shows unemployment rates for refugees is approximately 77% in the first year of arrival before dropping to 38% after three years1. 

"We're excited to be a part of this fantastic program", said Samuel Evans, Ventia Senior Project Director, NBN N2P. "This initiative is aligned to our strategy of being client-focused, innovative and sustainable.'

We are proud to be working with Civik and NBN Co. to unlock the workforce potential in regional and remote communities and support talented people who face barriers to employment."

Like many industries, the telecommunications sector is booming, resources are stretched to the limit and demand will only increase over the next 6-12 months, according to Sam.  

In light of this, the Ventia Telecommunications team has been evaluating different ways of boosting capacity. One of those initiatives was working with White Box Enterprises, an organisation that works with social enterprises, government and companies like Ventia to build, support and advocate for large-scale jobs-focused social enterprises, giving disadvantaged individuals access to meaningful and inclusive employment.   

The result was the creation of Civik, whose crew have undergone a specialised training program to equip them with the skills to work in the telecommunications industry, specifically on NBN Co's fibre upgrade program. 

Daniel Johnson, Crew Lead, Gerard, (Congo) Jacques (Rwanda), Luke (Kenya), Julienne (Burundi) and Joe (Myanmar)


Pilot program 

The pilot program was launched on 8 May in Cairns with two First Nations supervisors and five former refugees between the ages of 18 and 40 from the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Myanmar and Kenya. A month later, the small crew began its first day of work on the nbn® fibre upgrade project. 

18-year-old Julienne is the youngest of the crew. She settled in Cairns with her family in 2019 after fleeing the war-torn African nation of Burundi. Julienne spent more than two years in a Barundi refugee camp before her family was accepted to resettle in Australia.  

"In the African community here, I'm sure I'm the first woman to work in construction", she says.

Where I grew up, it was mainly men doing this type of work, but when I got to Australia I thought, 'Wow, I could really do this, women in Australia can work in construction too.

A basic level of English was important for joining the pilot trial.  

Basic training involved completing a first aid course and safety training, procuring a white card, locating underground assets, asbestos removal, installing pits and pipe and many other tasks to prepare them for the civil works required as part of the nbn® fibre upgrade program. 

According to Civik General Manager Dominiqe Bird, labour shortages are here to stay. This presents a unique opportunity for social enterprises to create jobs for people who face barriers to employment.  

'The current labour shortages present a remarkable opportunity for a social enterprise start-up like Civik to activate an untapped pool of talented, motivated workers who simply require a chance to establish a career,' he says. "We want to change the paradigm and create resilient communities at a local level." 

The social enterprise partnership with Ventia is a viable employment model that can fill this void for disadvantaged communities. 

Pictured L-R: Tity, Julienne (Burundi) and Joe (Myanmar)


Unique Partnerships 

Ventia has been working with White Box Enterprises since 2020, initially on a partnership with Australian Spatial Analytics (ASA), a unique data-oriented professional services social enterprise training and employing young spatial analysts with autism.

White Box Enterprises has been active in the Far North Queensland region for just over 12 months and has a clear mission to create more jobs for individuals experiencing disadvantage in the region. 

"We want to see a jobs-focused social enterprise in every community across Australia," said Alex McDonald, Chief Entrepreneur for White Box Enterprises.

We are working to activate the latent labour market matching community needs with business needs.

"ASA is a great example of what is possible when you align business with a clear social purpose," said Dominique. "We expect Civik to do as well as ASA".  

In 18 months, the target for Civik is to generate 250 jobs and have 15 sites up and running in regional target areas like Rockhampton, Toowoomba, Wagga Wagga, Melbourne, Newcastle, Harvey Bay and Western Sydney.