When Suzie Celotti’s husband Adrian accepted a job in Queensland’s Surat Basin working on a coal seam gas project, the Corporate HR specialist would never have guessed it would be the start of a new career path for herself.
Suzie and Adrian relocated from Melbourne to Chinchilla, and with grand plans of being a dedicated stay-at-home mum, Suzie was quite unprepared for the new life in recruitment that awaited her.
“I was caring full-time for our daughters who were aged two and one at the time and I suppose you could say I had a bit of cabin fever, or itchy feet,” Suzie explained. “I’m the kind of person who always needs to have something – or many things – on the go.
“I realised that even with all the resources activity in the region, there was no local labour hire or recruitment company in Chinchilla. I wasn’t looking to get back into work there and then, but I just couldn’t resist the opportunity which was in front of me.”
Suzie explained she had started businesses before and with opportunity knocking, she opened the doors of Celotti Workforce in Chinchilla in 2013, a labour hire and recruitment agency specialising in resources, construction, infrastructure and, more recently, agribusiness staffing.
“With my career experience in corporate HR and recruitment, and with Adrian able to feed me a lot of information about the industry in the region, it just made sense to put it all together and start the business,” Suzie said.
“There was a big push from the major CSG companies (Origin Energy, Santos, QGC) for local content and they were pushing the ‘buy local’ message, so there was keen interest for my business services right from the outset.”
It wasn’t long before Adrian’s project in the Surat Basin was completed, so the family moved to Darwin where Adrian was working on the construction of the Ichthys LNG project. Suzie trained an in-house consultant in Chinchilla to ensure her ethos of local staff supporting those seeking work was realised. This allowed her to continue to develop her Chinchilla business while broadening her horizons at the same time.
“Again, Darwin was a hive of activity at the time due to the gas industry and associated services so I started building up my Darwin portfolio of clients and candidates,” Suzie said.
“We found the Darwin market similar to regional Queensland at the time, with regard to skill shortages and thirst from companies for local candidates so our Darwin business grew very quickly.”
Demand has grown so quickly in remote Queensland and Northern Territory areas that Celotti Workforce has also taken the approach of establishing “satellite operations” where there is demand.
“Our most recent satellite operation was in Tasmania which was a temporary location we set up for about six months to service a number of clients with road infrastructure contracts in the Hobart area,” she said.
“We are currently in the process of setting up a satellite operation in northern Queensland for the supply of mining workers and we have projects in Mount Isa and Katherine on the go at the moment as well.
“Where we identify a demand, we appoint either a local consultant, or a consultant on secondment from another office, to represent us in that region, with support from our main office in that state. This enables us to understand the region on a local level, meet face-to-face with clients and candidates, and draw from local talent.”
To help Suzie and her team meet the demand for local Aboriginal staff, Celotti Workforce developed the TRACKS - Training and Recruitment Giving Aboriginal Careers A Kick Start - Aboriginal Employment Program.
“Once in the NT we really began to discover how many companies were struggling to attract and retain good quality Aboriginal workers,” she said. “Or, in some instances they were able to find the workers initially, but struggled to find a recruitment company that they felt comfortable to partner with, to continue to deliver a steady stream of workers once natural attrition came into play.
“TRACKS is a program for Aboriginal people who want to work in the building, infrastructure and resources sectors, who may or may not have the skills required to enter or participate in these sectors.
“The program supports companies who want (or have a need) to employ Aboriginal workers, but may not have the knowledge or resources required to make the quality connections required to recruit successfully, especially when we’re talking about local content/local candidates.”
As such, Suzie explained, the program fosters an understanding of an individual’s background, existing skills and their career aspirations and tailors training to help each individual move closer to their career ambitions.
“Our consultants work closely with Aboriginal organisations and community members to identify quality candidates with the right attitudes and motivations, who are then trained as needed (locally where possible) in specific competencies,” she said.
“This is done with an aim to finding them employment in jobs that are in close proximity to the country where they are from. In this way, the program benefits not only the individual, but the broader community as well which is culturally important, as the individual, the skills and the money all stay local. It’s not always achievable, but we do the best we can.”
The program has been so successful that Celotti Workforce now boasts a 17 percent Aboriginal employment figure across its labour hire business which is something Suzie says she is “extremely proud of”.
Celotti Workforce is currently partnered with an Aboriginal-owned registered training organisation to deliver the training and is in the process of developing its own RTO.
Suzie, now having worked in recruitment in the NT, says there is a clear need to improve networking and industry support systems for those working in our sector in this region.
“I would love to see recruiters in the NT talking to one another, sharing knowledge and ideas,” she said. “I know it can be scary, the idea that you might be letting your secrets out in such a small market, but I truly believe the benefits outweigh the risks.
“I think it’s also important for recruiters to have a strong network for the purpose of professional and career growth. I’d just like to see some of the industry comradery that we see in the south up here in the north!
As for living and working in Darwin, Celotti says: “…a lot of people see Darwin as a place for FIFO [fly-in, fly-out] work or somewhere to come for a few years and then leave (transient), at least in the sectors we typically recruit in”.
“I’d love for people to know that the NT has a bright economic future with a government which is actively pursuing population growth and committed to developing a robust skilled workforce with new training and employment opportunities in many areas.
“This is particularly true for areas where there are skills shortages such as construction/trades, health and community services, IT specialists and hospitality managers. People with skills in these areas are highly employable.”
“I see so many opportunities for partnerships and networking in the NT.”
This article was originally written for RCSA's The Brief and can be read here.