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Unlocked capital boosts youth employment


Apprentices from all industries will have access to interest free loans to purchase their tools of trade, thanks to an innovative banking program.

In an industry first, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and one of its Alliance Bank® partners, BDCU Alliance Bank® has developed the Social Impact Loan Program, addressing local community needs through an impact investing framework.

Following extensive community engagement Alliance Bank® partner, BDCU Alliance Bank®, identified youth employment in their region as a key social issue.

The $200,000 Apprenticeship Loan Package will provide apprentices with small unsecured, interest free loans up to $5,000 to buy their tools of trade. The package also includes discounts on tools from local suppliers, a financial literacy-mentoring program and a professional mentoring program.

BDCU CEO, Jan Edwards, said the Social Impact Loan Program supports community sustainability through seeding and fostering local business and saw this as just the beginning.

"The Social Impact Loan Program assists Alliance Bank® Partners to realise their social enterprise goals, and BDCU Alliance Bank® has set aside $200,000 of capital initially to fund the program," Ms Edwards said.

"The opportunity gives young locals a career head start, access to funds they mightn't otherwise have had and the support they need to budget and take control of their finances and their careers.

"Aside from the social value of the program, over the long term BDCU Alliance Bank® will benefit from ongoing loyalty from program participants.

"We're really excited to launch this package in November, and we hope this is the first of many such programs that Alliance Bank partners can offer to the community," she said.

The potential for the Social Impact Loan Program is significant as it replaces the data driven approach of modern day lending with local decision-making, prioritisation, oversight and knowledge.

Head of Alliance Bank®, Carolyn Adams said the program also enables Alliance Bank® partners to meet community and member needs specific to their region.

"Every community is faced with funding gaps and the Social Impact Loan Program has the potential to address a range of societal needs such as crisis accommodation, disability services and environmental initiatives," Ms Adams said.

"Powered by the release of member capital that is enabled through the Alliance Bank® partnership, each mutual company will govern the reinvestment of funding, targeting programs and issues that are most critical to address in their communities.

"We believe the Social Impact Loan Program could develop a critical and sustainable pipeline of investment opportunities through providing an empowering framework to Alliance Bank® partners, their members and communities," she said.

Rhys Hamilton, a 20-year old carpentry apprentice from the Southern Highlands and among the first to participate in the program said, "This means I can get the tools I need; I am buying a drop saw and laser level. I want to do a good job and having the right tools will make a big difference. I couldn't have bought them without BDCU's help."

Rhys' employer, Shane McDonald of Wilderness Carpentry agrees, "BDCU Alliance Bank is helping young people by supporting them financially so they can stand on their own two feet. That's really important, particularly in regional Australia, because young people tend to move to the city. We need to keep talent here and it's great to see a local bank playing its part in keeping the local economy and community vibrant."

Alliance Banks, which have an industry member base often spread across many states, are considering ways to support member's family needs through similar apprenticeship programs or educational loans.

About Alliance Bank®
Established in 2014, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and an initial alliance of four mutual companies AWA, BDCU, Circle and Service One created the Alliance Bank® model.

Alliance Partners provide infrastructure and staff to support customer-facing sales, servicing and operations, while Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is responsible for product, policy, systems, technology services and software supporting the banking business.

The Alliance Bank® mission is to develop a strong and valued social enterprise brand and reputation within their marketplace and for their members.

The potential for community investment under the Alliance Bank® model is significant. The largest 50 credit unions have combined capital of $6.85 billion w