Skills for All – An Alternative Approach for the new South Australian Government

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This blog post is written to outline an alternative approach for planning, prioritising and funding skills development that builds upon Skills for All’s strengths, addresses the weaknesses and takes advantage of opportunities, all for the new South Australian government, whomever that may be from 15.3.14 or there abouts.

Survey Results and Pilots

I have reviewed DFEEST’s recent survey reports on 2013 Graduate Outcomes and Student Satisfaction plus the Training Innovation Pilots in Community Services and Hospitality as well as Pre-Apprenticeships Pathways.

The pilots are clearly about addressing some of the weaknesses identified in my previous blog, particularly weakness #1, 2 and 3.

An opportunity would be to base these programs on workforce demand with a workforce plan for the Community Services sector and one for the Hospitality sector if they are identified as industry sectors of strategic importance to South Australia and/or reflect regional priorities.

Pre-Apprenticeships and Australian Apprenticeships

In terms of Pre-Apprenticeships I would prefer to see direct support (by this I mean funding) of Australian Apprenticeships across all sectors and including School Based Apprenticeships.

I believe that industry/employer demand and the labour market more generally would work out what is needed as employers will not take on Australian Apprentices unless there is a job opportunity available.

The current version of the Funded Training List contradicts this priority outcome by only funding some Australian Apprentices and doing this sometimes in favour of theory based, non-practical training pathways that are without an employment outcome!

Why would the state government support this approach over a direct employment outcome?

Opportunities

I’ve identified a range of opportunities for the new South Australian state government, the Training and Skills Commission, stakeholders and interested people like you to consider.

Opportunity #1 – South Australian vision for the workforce

If South Australia had a vision for the workforce, aligned to economic and industry sector priorities, regional and motivational priorities then Skills for All could be focused on:

  1. areas where there is employment growth and outcomes (like Australian Apprenticeships)
  2. skills needed for critical job role
  3. priority sectors (which could also include those in decline) and regional needs
  4. motivational factors rather than target groups

Opportunity #2 – Integration with work

This feedback reinforces important components of Skills for All where training and work are integrated like Australian Apprenticeships, courses with mandatory work placements, skills transferability for those who may be facing retrenchment and skills enhancement for those currently in employment to support retention.

Distribution of survey respondents by fields of training would be interesting to compare to actual Skills for All enrolment and completion statistics.

Opportunity #3 – Motivational targets

Reasons for training were generally job related,

82.26% of respondents enrolled in their course for an employment-related reason. Most respondents (30.58%) enrolled “to get a job” while others enrolled to “try for a different career” (15.52%), “wanted extra skills for my job” (14.89%), or “to get a better job or promotion” (7.86%).

I would like to see these reasons (motivational targets) reflected in the public value framework including business establishment and in the way that priorities are set rather than an outdated way of classifying people into groups like young people, mature age, and people with disabilities and so on.

In the survey results the majority of people were employed vs. unemployed – how does this compare to the total Skills for All statistics?  Is that the right way around in terms of public investment?

Opportunity #4 – Funding to support industry sectors in growth or decline

Health Care and Social Assistance was the highest industry division for employment where respondents to the survey were employed.  Interestingly Education and Training was third and I wonder if this was an existing employee up-skilling activity?  A comparison here to industry sectors in growth or decline would indicate whether this training was supporting industry sector priorities.

Funnily enough,

739 (29.49%) respondents gave the most frequent response “having their current skills assessed and certified” as the job-related benefit they received from training, followed by 393 (15.68%) who responded “got a job”.

How does this statement marry with actual Skills for All statistics on RPL activity and also feedback that an area for improvement is “I received appropriate recognition of my existing skills and knowledge”?

Opportunity #5 – Business establishment and expansion

In Table 10 the job related benefits included:

Benefit Count Share %
Able to set up/expand my business 89 6.79

I’d like to see this % share much higher as this has a potential double impact on the outcomes of Skills for All.  If this benefit was a priority for Skills for All then it may enable businesses to employ new staff or Australian Apprentices and up skill existing employees.

Opportunity #6 – Multiple qualifications to meet job requirements

Identified as ‘Further study’ in the survey report results, I don’t think this describes what is happening here as,

867 (35.43%) respondents enrolled in another course after graduating. Of these respondents, 580 (66.9%) enrolled in the same field of training and 287 (33.1%) enrolled in a different field of training. Unemployed respondents were more likely to enroll in another course with 259 or 43.97% continuing with studies compared to 33.33% of respondents who were employed during or after their course.

As a workforce planner who regularly profiles job skill requirements and matches skills to units of competency from National Training Packages I know that most job roles need 2-3 qualifications worth of skills, across multiple Australian Qualification Framework levels and often from more than one Training Package.

Skills for All, now Skills for Jobs should focus on the job role requirements first and then see who that matches to qualifications or courses.  At the moment it is the wrong way around on the Funded Training List.

Opportunity #7 – Assistance to find work

I agree with how the situation is now, that is,

Training providers are not required to assist students to find employment, but where they do, it may signal that the provider has close and effective relationships with industry and workplaces

However through the Skills for Jobs in Regions program I have seen this type of assistance and targeted programs work very well.

In the future I’d like to see more joint partnership arrangements with regional agencies, industry, business and professional associations, major projects, employers, Employment Service Providers, Group Training Companies, Australian Apprenticeship Centres, Recruiters and Registered Training Organisations.

An Alternative Approach

I believe that there is an alternative to the current focus and approach for Skills for All.  This is something that I have thought long and hard about, discussing with some of you.

What is fundamentally missing in my view is a vision for the South Australian workforce – that is what is it really that we are all working towards?  If this was clearly stated as a policy direction then the system design, that is, Skills for Jobs (or whatever it might be called) would be far easier than we think.

There has been a definite shift from workforce participation to workforce demand but this needs to go far more than what it has in the past.

South Australia needs a workforce planning and development framework that outlines:

  1. A vision for the SA workforce
  2. Economic priorities – areas where there is employment growth and outcomes (like Australian Apprenticeships)
  3. Industry priority sectors (which could also include those sectors in decline) – skills needed for critical job roles, opportunities for skills transferability and reflecting regional needs
  4. Motivational factors rather than target groups and things like establishing / expanding my business, commencing an Australian Apprenticeship or getting a job

In a practical sense this would involve:

  • Developing a vision statement for the SA workforce
  • Identifying priority outcomes like employment including Australian Apprenticeships (including School Based) and establishing/expanding a business (among others)
  • Clearly identifying industry sectors of strategic importance to South Australia and supporting those sectors to develop industry workforce strategies like through Skills in the Workplace
  • Regional workforce plans and skills needs analysis identifying priorities and areas for growth or skills transferability developed by Skills for All in the Regions Networks supported by the Industry Leaders Groups
  • Redesigning the public investment framework to consider all of the above plus motivational factors linked to priority outcomes
  • A critical job role list rather than a Funded Training List with a skill/competency map to link to qualifications and units of competency from National Training Packages
  • Information and intelligence on future workforce demand provided to industry sectors, employers, career advisers and individuals
  • An underpinning evidence based approach to workforce development strategies (including training and assessment)
  • Contracting of endorsed providers to match demand with reward for joint partnerships and demonstrated relationships with partners outlined in opportunity #7.

I encourage you to post your ideas on what you think the opportunities and alternatives are for Skills for Jobs.

There is a lot to consider in this blog and so look out for the next post titled – What should South Australia invest in regarding jobs and skills?

Written by Wendy Perry, Head Workforce Planner, Workforce BluePrint, 11 March 2014.

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