Skills for Jobs 2013 – The Training and Skills Commission 5-Year Workforce Development Plan launched

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In the setting of the Adelaide Zoo, The Training and Skills Commission launched Skills for Jobs: Five-Year Workforce Development Plan, detailed over two volumes and with a summary of a forward agenda for 2014.

Following an address from Minister Tom Kenyon, Commission chair Adrian Smith and Commission members Dr Michael Keating AC, Prof John Buchanan and Lindsay Palmer JP, spoke to different aspects of the plan with a Q & A panel  to conclude the formal part of the morning.  This format was an improvement on the 2012 event where the audience didn’t really get to hear much about the content of the plan.

With a focus on the implementation of Skills for All by the State Government, the Commission outlined recommendations to the Minister in the following areas:

  1. Potential market failures
  2. Emerging role and funding for TAFESA
  3. Provision of quality career services
  4. Completion and destination data
  5. Changes to the Funded Training List
  6. The structure of qualifications
  7. Facilitation of Learner Support Services
  8. Support for the Building Family Opportunities program

The commission is suggesting a capacity management system with an allocation of funded training positions (use it or lose it) to preferred/endorsed quality training providers.

This sounds a bit like the Tasmanian Skills Fund and they don’t have a ‘list’.

I believe that a one-size fits all approach to the application of the ever changing (shrinking) Funded Training List (FTL) has become messy with a direct link to the decline of Apprenticeship and Traineeship commencements (lowest level in a decade).  I’ve also seen regions develop their priorities to fit with local industry, employer, individual and community demand only to have some of these qualifications universally removed from the FTL contrary to advice from the regions.

Alternatively, I would suggest an approach that is based upon evidence based workforce planning (identifying current and future workforce needs), with economic, industry and regional priorities plus priority job roles balanced with target group and individual aspirations.

Thinking around “target groups” should shift from a demographics based view to a ‘motivation’ way of thinking.  For example rather than young people, mature people, existing workers, people with disability, Aboriginal people – why are people motivated to develop new skills?  Consider some of these reasons to motivate engagement:

  • Gaining an Apprenticeship/Traineeship
  • Being retrenched
  • Changing careers or a promotion
  • Meeting compliance, legislation or regulatory needs
  • Getting your first job
  • Addressing a job requirement, upgrade or industry currency
  • Developing for personal interest
  • Re-entering the workforce
  • Skill improving

From volume 1, I’d like to see “quality training provider” defined as it seems the Commission is referring to something beyond Registered Training Organisation (RTO) registration, the current Skills for All provider requirements and contract obligations.  I agree that innovation should be part of the criteria for providers however, “…the transferability of preferred provider status based upon measureable outcomes” (Recommendation #8) needs further explanation.

Forecasting into the future, the Commission has used the Smart Recovery scenario originally developed by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency and adapted by the South Australian government but is this putting all our eggs in one basket?  Perhaps this approach should be risk managed with another alternative scenario?

The Commission’s modelling of the demand for qualifications comprises the following components:

  • New entrants
  • Existing workers up-skilling
  • Existing workers – existing or lower level
  • Lower level qualifications before undertaking a higher level qualification
  • Reserve workforce (summarised from Vol 1 P17)

I don’t think this definition marries with DFEEST’s way of thinking about demand and I’m happy to hear your feedback on this.

It’s important to identify specialist occupation or priority job roles however in my practical experience using only ANZSCO occupations misses many job roles as described by enterprises and industry.  This reinforces the suggestion of industry sector workforce plans that identify current and future priority job roles.

Figure 6 in Volume 1 (P34) shows a possible model for Responsibility of Training Costs Model.  If the model is about paying for skills then why not link the type of skills to responsibility of training – for example essential skills, functional or transferable skills and job specific skills with the overlay of priorities and aspirations.  In my mind, adaptive capacity is not only skills but the combination of essential and functional skills plus demonstration of values and behaviours plus the ability to meet key performance indicators – however it’s a concept I’m still coming to grips with.

As a small business owner, a family business and chair of a business association I think assumptions and sweeping statements are often made erroneously about small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s).  I would like to see the Commission investigate the workforce development needs and priorities of SME’s particularly looking at the impact of the changes of the FTL, especially for Apprenticeships/Traineeships (including school based) and pathways from VET in schools.

Another area the Commission could do some very valuable work is on the nature of job skill requirements ultimately influencing the structure of qualifications and National Training Packages.  Working with an industry sector or a region to build a capability framework, mapping priority job roles, could be a very useful resource, evidencing the depth and breadth of skills required for contemporary jobs and transferable skills, feeding into the FTL and providing practical advice for Recommendation 11.

A network of workforce planning practitioners is recommended (#5) and I invite you to join the Workforce Planning Tools group on LinkedIn.

Volume 2 includes industry and regional profiles as a good starting point setting the scene for more detailed regional and industry workforce plans.

At the Productivity for the Future Training and Skills Commission forum yesterday I asked the question, “Should we ditch the Funded Training List?” and whilst the response from the chair of the commission was, “No, we should work better with it”, I truly think many of the problems with the implementation of Skills for All (aside from the lack of a consistent definition on what demand actually is and from whom) boil down to the FTL.  If that is the case why not rethink it?

I’ll leave you to ponder:

  1. Do we have a defined and clear vision for skills and workforce development where economic, industry, regional and participation priorities are balanced in South Australia?
  2.  Do we have the right ‘system’ to support a vision?

Written by Wendy Perry, Head Workforce Planner, Workforce BluePrint, 27 November 2013.

PS. Thinking about this post overnight it occurred to me that what may be missing from the plan is three common capability areas (gaps) – Asian Literacy, Digital Economy and Environmental Sustainability.  How does the plan address common workforce issues/needs that are across sectors and across regions particularly where training is probably not the appropriate response?

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