South East Water (SEW) is one of the largest and newest employers in the Frankston area of south-east Melbourne. The Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) made initial contact with SEW’s Diversity Coordinator who facilitated a meeting with the SEW’s General Manager Customer. In discussion, several key SEW organisational imperatives emerged with which the BSL could assist, including:
- establishing a strong local community profile as a good corporate citizen
- building a pool of local casual staff with connection to the community
- engaging a younger generation in the work of SEW to foster innovation
- creating a pathway for existing talented entry-level SEW employees to gain leadership experience in a flat organisational structure.
The BSL and SEW workshopped a pilot internship program structure to address these priority areas, with an agreement that the core principles would include:
- a ‘graduate program’ structure, in which interns would cycle through arms of the SEW business to gain broad experience and test their aptitude in a range of areas
- internal SEW mentors for interns to provide guidance and support throughout the program
- ongoing external support from the BSL to interns and SEW mentors, team leaders and program leads
- possibilities created for ongoing employment at SEW for interns who thrive in the business
- the pilot informing a longer term intern program at SEW to four times annually
- interns being paid at a baseline rate for SEW employees.
Once the internship program was co-designed with South East Water, the BSL’s Employment Engagement Officer (EEO) took the lead on preparing interested young people for the interview process. The EEO concurrently worked with the identified SEW workplace mentors, and was able to provide guidance on engaging and working with young people.
During the internship placement, SEW mentors used the company’s professional development and review templates, along with others developed specifically for TtW, to give interns tangible goals to work towards and achieve.
Interns were also supported by the BSL’s Youth Development Coaches, and the EEO had fortnightly meetings with them to check in and get honest and open feedback. This was followed by a meeting with a SEW representative to ensure communication lines were always open, and feedback was being passed on immediately from both parties.