Butchers carving out a better future for indigenous workers
Marketing Consultant Steve Cremona is one of the thousands of unrecognised Australians doing good things to help Indigenous Australians make it in the workforce.
The 37-year-old butcher from Blacktown in Sydney's west works for not-for-profit employment agency Ability Options Employment which strives to help jobseekers with barriers to find a job and keep it.
In the course of his job, Steve often works with Indigenous jobseekers who suffer from a range of challenges including diabetes, dyslexia and poor eyesight as well as having a lower level of workforce training.
One such jobseeker is apprentice butcher Jacob Van Der Schoot, 18, whose father has Indigenous Victorian roots and who has struggled with dyslexia which ruled him out from a number of jobs.
Jacob applied for a position with Woolworths three years ago and also approached Ability Options Employment to give him some extra support in the application process.
As it happened, Jacob got the job anyway, but Ability Options Employment has been able to give him some much-needed help to ensure he thrived in his new role, like his brother who is a successful butcher at Woolworths Penrith.
Ability Options Employment referred him to Steve, who has been giving him on the job training ever since.
"I'm a butcher by trade so it's worked out really well," Steve said. "I do all Jacob's onsite stuff and I also go out to TAFE to just give him a hand with some of the stuff out there."
Jacob receives the bulk of his training from Woolworths, which has a large Indigenous workforce, but he also gets supplementary training from Steve in areas where he is lagging.
"If Jacob is receiving training in how to use the bandsaw and he's lagging behind and not picking it up as quick as they'd like, instead of the manager having to spend extra time with him I'll step in there and spend the extra time," Steve said.
"I find the work especially satisfying. It's an old cliché but you get the rough stone and you shape it into a diamond and it's been like that with Jacob."
Jacob, who lives in nearby Whalan, says Steve's support has been an important part of his success to date.
"It's been heaps good," Jacob said. "Without him, I wouldn't have made as much progress."
From here, Jacob says the next step is into management, first as a Second in Charge, and then as a Manager.
"There's no secret to getting ahead at Woolworths just put your head down bum up and do your job," he said.
Steve agrees that if he stays on his current path Jacob will climb the ladder – with a little bit of help.
"Jake knows I don't flatter him too much and I've told him today I can see him moving to be a 2IC," Steve said.
"Jake is a really good cutter. There's just a few other things we need to work on with him. He's a pretty talented butcher preparation wise and cutting wise. We've just got to work on the paperwork side of things."
For Jacob, who is dyslexic, paperwork is a bigger problem than it is for the average employee but based on his past experience his is confident he can make it.
"I've had people sit down and teach me to learn how to read and the stuff that I need to learn how to read. My manager sat down and helped me with that so I know I can do it."