Skills for All – Strengths, Weaknesses & Possible Confusion

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The South Australia government Skills for All initiative was implemented in July 2012 and has undergone a number of updates and changes.  Now the initiative has both strengths and weaknesses plus a possibly confused set of messages.

With a state election looming and whatever side of politics wins this is probably a good time to take stock and consider where to next?

Firstly let’s look at strengths and weaknesses as in an upcoming blog I’ll outline opportunities and alternatives to the current focus for Skills for All.

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Strength #1 – “I’d recommend this course”

Results of the 2013 Graduate Survey Outcome Report published by DFEEST on Skills for All – Training for Jobs indicated a high level (91% of those surveyed) of people recommending their course to others and a number of areas for improvement or consideration.

The majority of people (80%) undertook their course, “…to get a job or to change jobs and improve career prospects.”


Weakness #1 – Lag in gaining employment

From the report,

There can be a significant period between graduation and employment for some respondents. Almost half of the respondents who commenced their current job after their course completed their training 6 months or more ago. This compares with less than one third of unemployed respondents who completed their course 6 months or more ago.

Survey results highlighted that for some there was a long lag between completing their course and gaining employment.

It seems that for those that were unemployed some completed lower level qualifications and perhaps in areas where opportunities are limited.  Only a small percentage share of those who were unemployed completed the course to start their own business (1.9%).


Weakness #2 – Connection with job requirements and RPL

The connection between training and work or job requirements and tasks plus Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) still needs some further development as,

Respondents were less satisfied with:

  • “My learning needs were appropriately assessed before I commenced training”;
  • “The training prepared me well for work”;
  • “I received sufficient and relevant practical training during my course”; and
  • “I received appropriate recognition of my existing skills and knowledge”.

Other changes suggested by respondents to improve training were: having more time for practical training, better meeting individual learning needs, improving the management and administration of training services, improving equipment / facilities and assisting with work placement and employment.

From the student satisfaction survey results those in construction and business administration were least satisfied with recognition granted.


Strength #2 – Part time employment

In terms of participants employed during or after course commencement,

The largest share of this cohort (277 or 39.51%) completed a Certificate III level qualification with relatively greater numbers graduating from courses in Health Services, Community Services and Nursing. 393 or 55.43% of respondents were in part-time employment and 235 or 33.15% in full-time employment.[1]

So perhaps in these areas training is better connected to work with opportunities and outcomes for part-time workers improving (or maybe if participants were working full time they didn’t respond to the survey?).


Weakness #3 – Course delivery mode, practical vs. theory

Course delivery mode, even though many respondents said that there were multiple modes for their course, reflects mostly “Classroom and practical based training with a trainer”.  By comparison workplace training, work placements, web and online learning (which are used far more frequently in a workplace setting) were much less common or less frequently used.

I received sufficient and relevant practical training during my course…13.23% disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement. This level of dissatisfaction with the amount of practical training is of concern.


Strength #3 – Confidence

This is difficult to measure and calculate in terms of return but’s its pleasing to see positive comments about the level of confidence that participants gained particularly evidence in comments from those who were employed before commencing their course.

For example,

‘As I was already working in the field the additional training gave me further confidence and skills as well as reinforcing the importance of the work we do for children and families living with Autism. I also met others who are doing the same job so there was instant camaraderie and the chance to learn from them also.’ (Survey respondent – Best aspects of training)


Strength #4 – Personal benefits

Many survey respondents identified personal benefits from completing their course,

2232 (91.89%) of respondents indicated the course was personally beneficial with 60.27% indicating it was very beneficial. Responses were similar across respondents by employment status although respondents who gained employment during or after their course rated the level of benefit more highly with 69.46% rating the course as personally very beneficial.

Advancing skills and satisfaction of achievement were sighted most frequently by participants.


Weakness #4 – “Not happy and not what I expected!”

In the 2013 Student Satisfaction Survey Report,

10% withdrew because they were not satisfied with their training provider and a similar proportion because the training was either not what was expected or was not flexible enough.

An area for improvement particularly in terms of managing expectations and perhaps considering programs that give people practical experience of what the job and training requirements will be like before they commence.


Strength #5 – “I like the trainers”, “I got support” and “I used up to date resources”

Feedback indicated that, “Trainers had excellent knowledge of the subject content.”

Respondents were highly satisfied with the quality of trainers with 93.59% of survey respondents agreeing with the statement that “trainers had an excellent knowledge of their subject content” (52.03% strongly agreeing – Figure 13) and 91.74% agreeing with the statement that “trainers explained things clearly” (44.14% strongly agreeing Figure 14).

In terms of support,

91.87% of respondents agreed (40.6% strongly agreed) that they had “sufficient contact with trainers to support my learning and complete the course.”


89.29% of respondents agreed that their training used up-to-date equipment, facilities and materials.


Weakness #5 – Withdrawal stats

Another area from the student satisfaction (or lack thereof) results as the number of respondents who completed the survey and who withdraw was 603 (23.22%).

And when this is broken down,

The two most common reasons for withdrawal based on the adjusted total of 603 were “Changed jobs or started a new job” (15.75%) and “too many pressures on my time” (15.75%). 61 (10.12%)[2] respondents indicated they withdrew because “I was not satisfied with my Skills for All training provider”, 33 (5.47%) “the training was not what I expected” and 21 (3.48%) “the training timetable was not flexible enough”.

Interestingly the highest responses for dissatisfaction were recorded in Business Administration.  I have a specific opinion on this that I’ll reveal in a future blog.


Weakness #6 – “Where do I get advice?”

Students gained information on their options and courses from different sources with the least helpful being,

… InfoLine (17.77%), InfoCentre (17.91%) and Job Services Australia or Disability Employment Service Provider (JSA-DES) (19.05%)…

So some definite areas for engagement and product knowledge up skilling and I wonder if employers were asked this same question what their responses might indicate.

Also, was the Skills for Jobs in Regions contact and career development service providers an option to choose in the survey?


A confused set of messages

As Skills for All to Skills for Jobs has morphed and changed seemingly with each version of the Funded Training List (FTL) and policy announcements I would describe the messages about Skills for All/Jobs as confused.

If I was advising the new government and DFEEST (or its possible predecessor) I’d say this needs to be addressed urgently after the election is declared and here’s what I would suggest needs to be clarified:

  • Firstly a vision for South Australia’s workforce (more on this in a blog soon)
  • Who is Skills for All/Jobs for?  Is it focused on addressing business, industry and employer needs (workforce demand) or individual needs (workforce supply)?
  • What are the priorities?  (Is it employment, up-skilling, retention, growth, workforce planning needs and please don’t say “All of the above!’
  • How is the vision and priorities reflected in a list of critical job roles that informs the FTL remembering that 1 job role = multiple qualifications?
  • Is it time to ditch the FTL for an approach that identifies:
  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 in decline) – skills needed for critical job roles 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

I encourage you to post your ideas, what do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of Skills for Jobs in its current format?

Keep an eye out for the next blog on Skills for All – Opportunities and Alternatives, thank you.

Written by Wendy Perry, VET Strategist, WPAA, 8 March 2014.

[1] 50.31% of respondents who were employed before they commenced the course were in full time employment and 39.04% in part time employment.

[2] This includes 8 respondents from the “Other” category who indicated they had withdrawn because of dissatisfaction with their training provider.

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