Investment in Aboriginal staff pays off for SA based small business

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In just 13 years, South Australia’s Intract has grown into one of the country’s largest private sector employers of Indigenous personnel, boasting more than 100 Indigenous staff in 16 offices and workshops across the country.

The civil construction, building construction, building maintenance, asbestos remediation and demolition services company primarily works with the Department of Defence, Tier one contractors and the South Australian Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

With a head office in Dry Creek, north of Adelaide, the majority of staff are SA-based, followed by the Northern Territory, including Darwin, Katherine and Arnhem Land. It also operates in Torres Strait. For interstate work, the company recruits through direct employment, internal pre employment training programs and Aboriginal labour hire companies.

Founder and owner John Briggs said most of the work is secured through Indigenous Participation Policies. The company now boasts a turnover of about $50 million.

“There’s a lot of worry and stress along the way, and a lot of investment,” John said.

“Everything we do is an investment. But our biggest focus is making sure that our projects run well and make profit”.

To that end, and to build capacity of Intract, John has partnered with minority shareholder McMahon Services, to use their management systems and support the upskilling of staff.

“It’s a business arrangement. Intract share and pay for all back of house, their legal, their insurance, payroll” John said.

“But it’s capacity in the high-end expertise that we need on some of these massive projects – we are performing a couple of builds in Woomera that are multimillion projects.

While John is keen to upskill his own staff into project management and engineering roles, it’s a slow process.

“You can’t just have someone come off a shovel, make him a supervisor and then have him project managing. It doesn’t work like that,” he said.

“You’ve got to be all over the contracts, all over everything. And you have to procure for these jobs as well. It’s a massive team effort that requires good smarts, otherwise, you’re going to go broke, if you don’t have the right people running the jobs.

“It’s the expertise, the engineering and project management, contract controls and all of those things on site that are so important to run a job and to make a profit to continue to employ Aboriginal people. Otherwise, if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

For its staff, Intract offers more than a job. It actively helps them apply for home loads, open savings accounts, create budgets and supports children to attend school. John also personally advocates for staff who may fall foul of the law.

John believes being an ICN subscriber is definitely worthwhile. Whilst they now get most of their work directly from major project owners, John said it was good to keep the company name out there for projects they might miss, or if potential clients want them to submit a tender.

In the early stages of the business, he also attended ICN networking events.

“I guess I went to everything in the initial stages, including the opening of envelopes. You know, that phase of setting something up, you’ve got to get yourself out there and use several different types of medium,” he said, adding that business that are just starting out can benefit “enormously” from the ICN network.

Find out more about Intract on the company website.






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