In the past 40 years, the company has grown to become a global leader in education, training, apprenticeships, and job creation.
A former legal secretary and typing teacher, Sarina founded the company after she realised she had an exceptional talent for teaching and getting jobs—her problem was keeping a job!
She started her own typing school 'The Office' with just nine students. On graduation, she promised all the students jobs, and she delivered. Fast forward 40 years and The Sarina Russo Group boasts:
- Businesses across sectors including education, training, employment, entrepreneurships, psychology, property, cleaning, and facilities management.
- 93 sites across Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales.
- 44 countries sending international students to their campuses for learning.
- A presence within the UK for over 10 years.
- Over 1,000 staff.
As the driving force behind the group, Sarina is still completely involved in the day-to-day business operations.
"Sarina's DNA touches everything. She simply sprinkles the 'Sarina Magic', and then massive action is taken to deliver for students, job seekers, apprentices, and employers."
Brenden Brien, National Public Affairs Manager, The Sarina Russo Group.
The 'Sarina Magic' is clear to see when you understand the barriers she has pushed through. In a male-dominated business world, she has broken through glass ceilings, proved adversaries wrong, and paved the way for others.
In the 90s, Sarina attempted to purchase her first CBD office building in Brisbane, and was essentially ignored by the estate agent, and yet she went on to be welcomed as a member of the Queensland branch of the Young Presidents' Organisation.
Always a champion of female empowerment—half of her top-level managers are female—Sarina understands the importance of employing highly skilled people.
Kathleen Newcombe, CEO of The Sarina Russo Group, and Dianne Fletcher, CEO of the employment division, are two leaders Sarina admired. Kathleen worked for her competitor for 20 years, and Dianne held 30 years of public sector experience in employment and training. Sarina identified them both as extremely talented individuals, decided her business would benefit from their involvement, and subsequently spent the necessary time—many years—convincing them to join her.
In the past, Sarina has identified the importance of a diverse workforce, having arrived in Australia from Sicily at the age of five.
"As the daughter of an Italian immigrant, I am a massive believer in fostering and promoting workplace diversity in all its forms. The more diverse opinions in your business, the greater the creative 'buzz'. One of the ways to determine the health of your business is to listen to the 'buzz' it generates."
In 2009, Sarina's leadership qualities saw her 'rev-up' rather than close down when the business lost employment contracts for 11 of their 19 Queensland offices. Determined to make no one redundant, Sarina reinvented the offices as training centres and expanded her employment business into the United Kingdom.
"Sarina had the choice of laying off 200 staff and closing down. Instead she chose to keep their intellectual property and expertise, much to the disappointment of her competitors."
Sarina set herself a challenge to win back all the offices at the next tender round, plus an additional 30%. The target was exceeded when Sarina Russo Job Access grew from 28 to 93 sites nationally.
Sarina will celebrate her 40th year acknowledging the dedication and hard work of her team and how, on a daily basis, they change people's lives for the better. Every Friday, the team are resplendent in their specially designed 40th year polo shirts; the photograph shows Gemma Guy and Sam Billingsley-Dadd from the Quality Assurance team.
Each week the staff have been voting on an internal music poll to select the greatest songs from 1979 to 2019. The team have now created the ultimate music playlist that can be enjoyed by staff, students, and job seekers alike.
Professional Advantage are very proud to have been working with The Sarina Russo Group for the past 14 years.