CLARENCE Valley businesses should consider mirroring the percentage of indigenous people in the community in their workplace, a gathering of business people heard yesterday.
The Clarence Valley Industry Education Forum invited business people to an informal lunch in the Clarence Valley Council chambers to hear National Indigenous Television presenter Paul Sinclair and former NRL player Dean Widders present a report card on their Pathways Program, which they ran in the region in August.
The program looked at ways young people - particularly indigenous young people - could move from the education system to employment.
Mr Sinclair said the project looked at ways parents, schools and sporting organisations could work together to ensure young people were ready to make the transition from education to the workforce.
Mr Sinclair also said businesses needed to consider more indigenous employees.
"We're not asking businesses to take on people who are not suited to the job," he said.
"But if they have an indigenous applicant and a non-indigenous applicant with the same qualifi- cations, then we ask they give the indigenous person a chance."
Mr Sinclair said he would like businesses to mirror the percentage of indigenous people in the community (2% Australia-wide and 5% in the Clarence Valley) in their work places.
"We're not asking people to hire indigenous people to make up the numbers, but it would be good for them to have those figures in mind.
"There's no reason the workplace should not look any different to the way the community looks."
The business people attending responded positively to the suggestions and talked frankly about their experiences hiring both indigenous and non-indigenous young people.
The discussion managed to overturn a number of racial stereotypes and pointed to the importance of education in providing better employment outcomes.