Samantha Lingman, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Sandvik, experienced a career lightbulb moment during an initial meeting with a First Nations trainee:
“I could see they were uncertain yet resolute in their desire for change, seeking an opportunity to redirect their path, to develop skills, and to build up valuable work-life experience. It ignited a spark in me!”
Immediately after her meeting, Sam set about creating Sandvik’s First Nations Pathways Program. During the 12-month traineeship, participants complete a Certificate III in Business Administration and are given the opportunity to learn about and gain experience in different areas of the business.
But Sam’s vision for the program goes beyond simply creating the opportunity to gain professional qualifications. She hopes to impact real, lasting change in the lives of the people it helps.
“My passion lies in fostering a culture of respect for First Nations Australians. My team and I have embarked on a mission to create a program that transcends mere corporate checkboxes. Our First Nations Pathways Program has grown into a much broader commitment — it’s a genuine dedication to changing lives.”
We caught up with Sam to find out more about the First Nations Pathways Program and how Sandvik is setting the benchmark in First Nations recruitment.
Unlocking the potential in each individual
One of the first and most significant changes that Sam and her team implemented was to entirely rethink the interview process for all its First Nations applicants, whether they are applying to positions at Sandvik or enrolling in the First Nations Pathways Program.
Almost immediately, Sam observed that traditional, formal methods of interviewing were negatively impacting the performance of its First Nations candidates. Flipping the whole interview experience on its head, they moved the meeting away from the boardroom to a relaxed coffee and a chat.
“Picture this: no sterile office, no pens and papers – just a cozy, welcoming café where we can sit, share stories, and simply have a yarn. This shift in approach uncovered a treasure trove of narratives from our trainees: their life struggles, family dynamics, dreams, and ambitions unfolded during casual conversations.
“It wasn’t just a shift in location; it was a shift in perspective and a reminder that behind every candidate is a unique story waiting to be heard. By changing our interview style for First Nations applicants, we’ve seen a significant increase in successful placements.”
Success is not just about numbers
Since Sam set up Sandvik’s First Nations Pathways Program in 2021, her team has supported 20 trainees through the scheme, with nine trainees currently placed across four of Sandvik’s locations.
On completing the program, several trainees have secured permanent positions within Sandvik, while others have chosen to pursue employment elsewhere. Although celebrating candidates who leave the business may not seem like a traditional measure of business success, Sam and her team still see this as a huge triumph for the program.
“After completing the program, some trainees took roles in different industries or with other companies – and we actively support this! Before their time at Sandvik, they reported it was difficult for them to find employment, but now, with certification, experience, and newfound confidence, they have received multiple job offers. It’s amazing to see our work on the program empowering individuals beyond Sandvik.”
The program is about much more than simply recruiting First Nations staff to Sandvik. For Sam and her team, it’s about providing opportunities where there were none, and improving the lives of First Nations People.
“Our program is a channel for personal and professional growth, a means to instil confidence and empowerment. It goes beyond the professional realm and is about fostering an environment where every individual gains the confidence to navigate their unique path in the working world so they can realize their full potential.”
Advocating for growth
Alongside the program, Sam is also working with Sandvik’s Community Engagement and First Nations Advisor to develop and implement a culturally sound First Nations Workforce Strategy. The aim is to attract more First Nations employees to the company and retain them long-term by advocating for their growth and progress within Sandvik.
One way they are doing this is through pairing trainees with mentors across the company, and with additional training to enhance skills relevant to the business.
“Sandvik’s mentoring program aims to support First Nations employees’ needs, goals, and career objectives. We want to create an ongoing supportive and inclusive environment at Sandvik that goes beyond the program’s initial duration.”
Providing support at every step
The First Nations Pathways Program supports its employees even before their first day on the job.
Through speaking directly to recruits, Sam realized that some candidates were experiencing practical challenges that were holding them back from success. For example, one trainee was unable to access transport to get to work; so the team bought her a bike. For another candidate, they purchased a mobile phone and credit, so they could receive pre-employment phone calls. Sandvik also supplies travel vouchers so employees can get to work easily during their first couple of weeks.
“It speaks volumes about a company and my team that they consistently go above and beyond to help. The success of our program is truly a collective effort, and I am fortunate to have a dedicated team of allies at Sandvik.”
Extending a hand beyond the business
Sam knows that advocating for the advancement of First Nations Peoples goes further than career progression. As one of Sandvik’s Reconciliation Action Plan Champions, Sam works closely with local First Nations communities and helps deliver events for National Reconciliation Week and National Aborigines’ and Islanders’ Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week.
“Alongside my professional role, I am deeply committed to supporting the realization of Sandvik’s Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan. I collaborate with our Community Engagement and First Nations Advisor to foster meaningful relationships with local First Nations individuals and, when possible, Traditional Owners.”
“DEI initiatives can work – with the right mindset”
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are a constantly evolving journey. For Sam and her team, the key to seeing real change is compassion and understanding, a willingness to learn from your mistakes and through truly listening to others.
“I collaborate with immensely talented individuals who are deeply invested in ensuring our workplace is a space where everyone can thrive. Bumps and bruises are part of the process – it makes us agile, adaptable, and creative. But despite any ups and downs, our growth and boundary-pushing have been incredible, and I’m excited to be part of a company that continues to encourage such innovation.”