The CommBank Talent Story – increasing traineeship completion rates among young Indigenous people.

About Commonwealth Bank:
Commonwealth Bank is Australia’s leading provider of integrated financial services. When it was established in 1911, it was to be a bank for all Australians and all businesses. It was to be a bank of which the nation could be proud of. This reflects our purpose: to improve the financial wellbeing of the customers and communities we serve.


The CommBank School-Based Traineeship is one of the programs I’m overseeing that provides ongoing opportunities for Australian Indigenous high school leavers to explore careers in the banking sector.

The Indigenous Careers team faced a tough challenge when we commenced in 2015. The number of participants who completed traineeships hovered at less than 10 percent.

When we created the Indigenous Careers Team in 2015, we started focusing on building a consistent approach to recruitment, on-boarding and support throughout the program.

Based on the data we have collected, we know that if we can get these young Indigenous people through the first 12 months of the traineeship, the chances of them completing the full program dramatically increases.

So, the question is how can we achieve that?


We started asking program participants questions such as why they applied for the program, what they wanted to gain from the program and what they wanted to do post school.

This enabled us to build a relationship with the trainees and, where possible, connect them to other employees in the Group. For example, if a trainee was looking at journalism, we could connect them to our media team to provide further insight and guidance on how to pursue a career in that field.

Additionally, we leveraged off our returning year two trainees. We encouraged them to share their experiences; how they were initially nervous and found the first six months challenging, but emphasising that it does get easier and they will be supported. Many trainees have referenced this at the end of their Traineeship.


In addition to maintaining contact with the trainees, we focused on ensuring our hiring managers were equipped with the correct tools and knowledge to support them.

This included providing the managers clarity on the Commonwealth Bank Reconciliation Action Plan commitments and how the program supported our goals.

This was delivered through:

  • A guide for managers detailing the program, timelines and expectations
  • Webinars to discuss the program and allow time for questions.

We maintain regular contact with the managers throughout the program to provide support where required.

As the program involves partnerships with Group Training Organisations (GTOs) – external to Commonwealth Bank – we also set clear expectations, provide feedback on their performance and ensure they are supporting the trainees.


Pleasingly the last two years we have seen our conversion rates increase to over 25 percent. It is a move in the right direction that we hope to see continued.

This year we are expecting to see a conversion rate close to 50 percent.


There are a lot of factors to take into consideration:

  • Can we find the right candidates?
  • Is the manager in a position to support a trainee?
  • Where do we currently have trainee(s)?
  • Where have we targeted or not targeted in the past?

There are an increased number of programs available for students in the corporate world. Providing the GTOs clear expectations of what our program is designed to achieve allows them to source more suitable candidates for us.

During the recruitment process, we suggest the GTO arranges a visit to the branch with the students. This way they can gain a better understanding of whether it is right for them before applying.

There are times when students are encouraged to apply to the program by their parents or by support teachers at school. We realised that sometimes what the parents or teachers want is different from what the students are looking for.

One way to manage this is to speak to the trainee directly to understand what the student may be interested in post school. This way we can align aspects of what they will learn to assist with this goal.

Something else to consider is that you are dealing with young adults in year 11 and 12. This in itself may present a range of challenges. They are experiencing emotional and physical change, they are surrounded by their peers and may be easily influenced, and they may not have any idea of what they want to do.

To add to this, they are young Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander People. Statistically and historically, they may be exposed to various challenges in the family and community. We need to be ready to work with the GTO and support the trainee and manager when these instances do arise.



Sometimes, we over engineer things and we make things harder than they seem. This is not to downplay the career challenges faced by young Indigenous people and the mountain of work that still needs to be done to solve them.

I believe that in the midst of our search for golden solutions, we are missing out on doing the basics right – that is to maintain regular contact, communicate effectively, and try to build genuine relationships with our trainees.

Here’s what I have learnt from working with young Indigenous people:

  1. To not forget we were all teenagers once;
  2. They are a group who are becoming more connected to their country and are very proud of their culture;

We still have some work to do supporting young Indigenous people to realise their potential in and across all industries.


If you would like to find out more, feel free to reach out:
Matthew Rix
Indigenous Career Acquisition Partner at Commonwealth Bank

Do you have a Talent story to share? Drop us a note at with a brief summary and we’ll get back to you!

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