Helping Millions to Succeed
Wednesday, 7th September 2016 at 9:52 am
Global consulting firm Accenture has equipped 1.2 million people with workplace and entrepreneurial skills worldwide, and they’re aiming to reach three million by 2020.
In the Australian context, Accenture is focused on addressing the country’s growing underemployment problem.
With digital technology fundamentally changing the way business operates, Accenture wants to ensure job hunters have the skills needed to find meaningful, full-time employment.
Key to Accenture’s Corporate Citizenship strategy is collaborating with the Not for Profit sector, and the firm has partnerships with organisations including the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, Mission Australia and The Smith Family.
In this month’s Executive Insight, Louise May, executive sponsor of Corporate Citizenship, spoke to Pro Bono Australia News about upskilling disadvantaged Australians through Accenture’s Skills to Succeed program.
What corporate citizenship initiatives does Accenture run?
One of the key elements of our strategy is around the program we call Skills to Succeed, and this is part of a global strategy which is aimed at equipping people around the world with the skills to find a job or build a business. And to give you a little bit of history on this particular approach, it started out with a goal to equip 750,000 people across the world with either skills to find a job or build a business by 2015. And by March this year, globally, we’d actually managed to already equip 1.2 million people. So recently… we revised that to be a lot more ambitious, and now as a firm we’re actually targeting to reach 3 million people across the world by 2020. So really that’s the spearhead of the work we’re aiming to do in the employment area.
Who do you help through the Skills to Succeed program?
There’s a couple of areas that we specifically focus on within that ambition, and that’s really around youth, so we in particular are focusing our efforts on working with youth from lower-socioeconomic areas and this is in that context that if we look at the statistics for young people, so those who leave school between 15 and 19, they’re at significantly greater risk of periods of unemployment and [going] in and out of the workforce.
The other area we focus on, picking up on our work with AIME [Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience], is with Indigenous Australians, and we focus on a couple of areas there again. One is with young Indigenous people, and particularly this is with our partnership with AIME where we’re their Year 12 national partner, and our objectives with AIME in partnership is really to raise the levels of retention of Aboriginal people within school, but similarly to be focusing on equipping them with employability skills. And while we’re talking about Indigenous Australians, we also have a strong partnership with Many Rivers, and that’s really very much focused more on those remote communities, and in particular building their business and entrepreneurial skills so they can be more self sustaining and again participate in the community both from a social and economic perspective.
The other areas that we as a firm focus on is women, and in particular again focusing on unemployed women or women who’ve had difficulties or challenges in their lives. And two of the charities we work with are Dress for Success and Wear for Success, and again within the context of that cohort we’re very much focused on working with those groups to help women build their confidence, build their self esteem and again build their employability through targeted skills development.
Why does Accenture focus on these cohorts?
Our broad aim with our corporate citizenship is very aligned with our strategy as an organisation, and really that’s about improving the way the world works and lives, and for us a strong part of that is understanding the communities and participating in the lives of the communities that we work with. So there’s a couple of things that help us there. With our Skills to Succeed goals around equipping people with the skills for employment we focus on some of the more at-risk areas of the population where we think we can bring our skills and capabilities and make a profound and impactful difference, and that aligns with our corporate vision about improving the way the world works and lives and also resonates really strongly with our employees who feel similarly motivated by making that difference in people’s lives, and doing that at a local level with their own communities is a fundamental part of that strategy and is also a very empowering aspect from an engagement perspective.
How does Skills to Succeed work?
We have a couple of pillars or goals in that space. The headline is we want to get three million people equipped with skills by 2020, we do that by partnering with a number of organisations who are working with youth, Indigenous Australians and women as some key focus areas to actually address some of those employability issues and skill gaps in their constituents, and we have a number of activities and strategies that are local to the Australian market to help them in that.
So a couple of the organisations that we work with… include the Beacon Foundation, it includes Many Rivers, it includes AIME. We have a very long relationship also with The Smith Family and with Good Return and Mission Australia. They’re just a couple of the partners that we work with. But in each instance it’s really about working with them, sitting down with them to really understand the programs that they offer, and then working through how Accenture can use some of the skills and capabilities that we have to assist them in reaching those groups, and meeting that goal of building their skills and capabilities. We do that on a quiet targeted basis with each of those organisations.
One of the things that we’re going to be launching shortly… is our Skills to Succeed Academy, and this is in line with one of our goals to say our objective should be to focus on partnerships that bring together organisations across sectors, and also create large-scale and lasting solutions that can help close that employment gap. So our Skills to Succeed Academy is actually an online service that has created a number of modules of training that our partners can use with their [clients] to help build employment skills. So that’s one of the ways we’re really going to look to provide additional capability and some really practical training that’s aimed at some of our target groups to help them in those employability skills areas.
How vital are corporate partnerships with Not for Profits?
Particularly for us we have a lot of long-standing relationships with the Not for Profit sector. Just on a personal level I’m very impressed and enthusiastic about the job those Not for Profit organisations do in our society in terms of reaching, in a lot of cases, the more disadvantaged to help them address multiple needs.
So for us to reach our goals of Skills to Succeed, we believe that we need to partner with that community. They have relationships and trust of the people who we’re trying to reach as well. And it’s really through that collaboration and partnership that we can bring some of the unique skills that we have as an organisation along with the passion and the motivation and the reach of those organisations to really start to achieve the goals that we have.
Do you find there are challenges in running your corporate citizenship programs?
That’s a good question, I think on one hand we’re very lucky to have clear goals and objectives with regards to corporate citizenship and they flow down from a global level with our global goals around Skills to Succeed, and we’re also empowered then locally to make a contribution to the achievement of that global goal. So I think there’s no doubt about the motivation and intention and willingness of our organisation to commit to those causes and publically to those goals and those outcomes, so that’s one great piece of news.
The partnerships with the Not for Profit sector are really important for us, so we do invest a lot of time and a lot of energy in making sure we understand that community and that we understand the programs that they offer and that we spend time working with them to understand the programs they are delivering and where those opportunities are for us to really chip in and help provide specific expertise and resources to assist them in jointly meeting the goals that we share in meeting, in this particular case, employability skills and actually addressing the skills gap and equipping people with skills to find jobs or grow businesses. So that’s also fundamental for us.
And I would say that we invest time and we invest effort and we focus on in, and we also engage our people in the delivery of that. So in addition to having full-time teams dedicated to managing our programs around corporate citizenship and managing the relationships we have with our partners, we actively work with all of our workforce to get them to participate in the activities through sponsored time off to work on our corporate citizenship activities.
You mentioned the Skills to Succeed Academy which will be launching soon. Are there any other initiatives Accenture is looking at for the future?
We’re very focused on meeting that global goal of three million people so we’ll continue to focus on that this year. We’ve actually just refreshed our corporate strategy for 2016, and we’ve also reinforced through that process an ongoing focus on youth on Indigenous Australians and women. We’ll be very much focused on that launch of Skills to Succeed Academy which is going live from October. So this year will be very focused on working with our partners to embed the academy in some of the programs that they deliver and to try to start getting people utilising that training.
And we’ve also, recently in our refresh, identified a need and a desire to work with returned servicemen and women, so we’ll see and have seen some new initiative now rising out of some of the work we’re likely to undertake with returned servicemen and women to also help them with new skills to reenter the workforce and reshape careers into new areas.