400 new jobs will be made available over the next four years to unemployed indigenous Australians by services company Sodexo under the federal government’s employment parity initiative (EPI).

The company is one of many taking part in the government initiative, which aims to increase national long-term indigenous employment by 20,000 people over the next four years.

Federal minister for indigenous affairs Nigel Scullion said 90 per cent of people to be employed under the scheme would be those classified as facing the largest barriers to employment.

“In this case we have a number of people who have already been subjected to a whole range of pre-employment things but those have faded because they didn’t get into a job.

“Our investment has been big in preparation and it hasn’t been very big on providing the engagement and the glue.”

The program offers tailored contracts and funding assistance to Sodexo to help incorporate Indigenous jobseekers into the workforce.

The initiative was developed in response to feedback received from business groups in a review prepared by businessman Andrew Forrest.

The lack of flexibly-tailored contracts was identified as a major hurdle to corporate Australia’s ability to help close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Payments made under the scheme commence after 26 weeks of regular employment, with the government subsidising wages and providing support to employers through transitional arrangements.

Sodexo country president Nick O’Callaghan said his company’s participation in the EPI would help ensure it was provided with a foundation from which to develop future leaders.

“We have the funding available to create some internal benchmarks and internal objectives that becomes business as usual… this is about sustainable business practices that make sense for Sodexo, make sense for our indigenous strategy and enable us to be better than we otherwise could have been.”

Currently 8% of Sodexo’s workforce is indigenous, but the company aims to lift this to 20% in the future.

“We believe that figure is more than achievable, yet we need to be very pragmatic about the objectives that we set for ourselves,” he said.