National Workforce Development Fund – Suggestions for Improvement

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Building on the National Workforce Development Fund – Fundamentals blog this post makes suggestions for improvement.

The first suggestion relates to the name of the fund.  It’s called the National Workforce Development Fund when in fact it only funds training and assessment of whole qualifications and some Training Package endorsed skill sets.


Workforce Development is a much broader concept, seen as an umbrella term for strategies that bridge the gap between the current workforce and the desired workforce forecast.

So in its current form a more appropriate title is probably the National Training Fund, however I think its name should be retained and what is funded should be broadened.  Using ‘workforce development’ language, and then only funding training and assessment, confuses enterprises, partners and Registered Training Organisations.

The second suggestion would be to marry the assumption that the National Workforce Development Fund (using the definition in broad terms) will fund activities other than training and assessment – that is, true workforce development strategies, addressing business needs.  Training and assessment is useful to address some workforce issues or gaps but often this is only a small percentage of 30-40 workforce issues identified through workforce planning for each organisation.

To identify workforce development needs you must undertake a workforce planning process.  I use a 5 step model – organisations, industries, regions, States/Territories and countries can build a workforce plan covering:

  1. Context and environment
  2. Current workforce profile
  3. Future workforce profile
  4. Gap analysis and workforce development strategy design
  5. Review, evaluation and monitoring

Encouragingly, applications as Innovative National Workforce Development proposals have been allowed and this is more along the lines of what is actually needed in a very practical sense.  I believe the fund should allow for the collection of evidence and analysis via a workforce planning process rather than expect that everyone will already have a workforce plan (although I do see this as a fundamental of operating a modern business or enterprise).

So why plan your workforce?  Knowing what you have, what you need, and the specific gaps over the longer term, will mean that you’ll be ahead of your competition with a workforce that is ready for the future.

My third suggestion highlights the need for the direct connection between the National Workforce Development Fund and the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency’s Future focus 2013 National Workforce Development Strategy.  Here an emerging scenario of Survival of the fittest – adapt, collaborate, diversify, niche or die!” should be taken into consideration against the four scenarios outlined in the strategy, as this is our current reality.  I would like to see a National Workforce Plan as you cannot have an evidence based National Workforce Development Strategy without undertaking a pragmatic workforce planning process.

As the fourth suggestion and most importantly, is the issue of focussing on workforce demand as a fundamental basis for identifying needs and priorities.  A feeble attempt (even though I appreciate it’s difficult) from a national, state and territory perspective has been made at identifying workforce demand.  That is, critical job roles, the numbers of people required and the skills profile identifying core or common skills, functional skills and job specific skills that are way more than 1 qualification worth.  Until this forecasting and analysis is undertaken, Australia will be ‘developing people’ but for what outcome or opportunity?

Finally, whilst it might be obvious to some, not all Registered Training Organisations ‘get’ that they need to be workforce development providers.  Whilst there may not be the market for all RTO’s to become workforce development service providers there definitely isn’t the Vocational Education and Training (VET) market for all of the current RTO’s registered in Australia.

I welcome your feedback and comments.

Written by Wendy Perry, Head Workforce Planner, Workforce BluePrint, 26.4.13

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