When Founder and CEO Michael Combs first had the idea for CareerTrackers in 2009, he told himself: “I’ll know this program is successful when we get one of our students working at Macquarie Bank.”
Ten years down the track, 46 CareerTrackers have started their careers with Macquarie, and by 2020 there will be 1,073 highly educated Indigenous professionals in the national workforce after being involved in the internship program.
Carlos Barrios began his relationship with Macquarie Group as a CareerTrackers intern in late 2015. As a law and accounting student at the University of Technology, Sydney, Carlos had been determined to follow the path of law. “Like many of my Indigenous peers, I saw it as the only avenue for social justice and social change,” says Carlos, who is of western Torres Strait descent. But after completing a law-focused internship through the program, he decided to broaden his horizons to focus on strategy and management consulting – and completed his internship with Macquarie.
“I loved the work and immediately fell in love with Macquarie’s people and culture. I found it was a very bottom-up driven, grass roots organisation,” says Carlos. “If you have an idea here, you can talk about it with your managers and they’re incredibly supportive.”
After completing his internship, Carlos joined Macquarie Group as a permanent employee in February 2018 and continues to build on his ambition of lifelong learning. “The more I learn, the more perspective I can bring back to the community.” This includes his participation in The Observership Program, as a board observer at The Smith Family, and CareerTrackers. “I’m taking every opportunity I can to learn.”
Following the success of the CareerTrackers brand and model, Michael Combs identified humanitarian migrants as another group of under-represented talent for professional jobs and created CareerSeekers in 2016. Since then 44 CareerSeekers have started their careers with Macquarie.
“When I met with heads of HR, they would talk about diversity beyond what we were achieving with CareerTrackers. Employers want to access a broader talent pool, and our model has proven that it can see young people from different backgrounds succeed.”
Through CareerSeekers, students complete paid internships that align with their degree over summer.
“A recruiter can see their job history includes the likes of Macquarie, and that gives them a greater opportunity to begin their professional career,” says Michael. “These young people are the first in their family to undertake a formal education in Australia. They might know how to navigate their way into university, but applying for a graduate job is different. And if the recruiter doesn’t know how to pronounce their name, this can set them back.”
Michael says Macquarie Group’s support and belief in CareerTrackers and CareerSeekers has been extremely beneficial.
“Recognition from a globally recognised foundation legitimises our work, and opens up new avenues for partnerships,” he says.
With a philanthropic grant from Macquarie Group Foundation, Michael aims to see CareerSeekers become financially self-sustainable. It can then create a community of refugee students who support each other, and in turn become peer mentors and role models for the next generation of students.
“Our grand vision is to help Australia see refugees as an asset to our community, not a liability,” says Michael. “We have to start somewhere. For us that means enabling people to meet a refugee and understand their story. Only then can they realise why families are using their life savings to send their child from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Australia by boat.”
“If we don’t tell those stories first-hand, we’re going to be subject to the Government’s narrative of the day. The more people can interact, share stories and make those connections, then slowly, we start to see change.”