Skills for Jobs and Workforce Development

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The South Australian (SA) Training and Skills Commission released the 2012 Skills for Jobs 5 Year Plan today.

Chair, Adrian Smith, handed the report to the Hon Tom Kenyon MP Minister for Employment Higher Education and Skills at the launch where I was a guest and enjoyed breakfast with the Robert from the Master Builders Association on one side and Phil from Resources and Engineering Skills Alliance on the other – two very important industry sectors for SA.

Skills for Jobs

With the tag line of Better Skills, Better Work, Better State the key message from the report is the twinning of participation and productivity – a target of 69% participation rate by 2025.

My view is that the target is very achievable as with demographic forecasts we’ll have far fewer younger people entering the workforce into the future.  To some degree the rate will take care of itself due to a reduction of absolute numbers in the workforce unless we have major changes with immigration or other initiatives to boost the labour pool.  If unemployment decreases, the potential available workforce is likely to have multiple barriers to employment and with labour shortages employers will need to be even more open to where their workforce supply is drawn from.

Using one of my favourite quotes from the OECD (2012)… “skills have become the global currency of 21st Century economies”, the report seems to translate ‘skills’ into a ‘qualification’.  I think this quote it’s intended to mean skills for job roles which is regularly proven to be at least 2-3 qualifications worth of competencies or skills across a range of Australian Qualification Framework levels and multiple national Training Packages.

“South Australia’s transition to a highly-skilled economy needs to be supported by commensurate investment in training” (p. 7) – I’d like to see ‘training’ replaced with the broader term of ‘workforce development’ (including training).

Report 1 on the progress of Skills for All highlights and increase in enrolments by 26%, over 200 Skills for All providers, 1000+ courses, TAFESA is now a Statutory Corporation, caps on 5 qualifications, 60 skill sets available and monitoring of areas with huge growth that doesn’t match with evidence of industry and job demand.

The Skills for All Funded Training List will reflect priority qualifications linked to job roles and this therefore equals areas of government investment.  An evidence based, practical approach to what’s included on the list will be important.  The best, most transparent way to do this would be to identify critical or priority job roles, map the roles to skills from national Training Packages and see how this matches to qualifications.  This process reflects the way skills are used in a workforce plan and skills needs analysis for current and future workforce profiling.

Generally a job skill profiles identifies the common or core skills required for all job roles including foundation skills, functional skills which are those common to multiple job roles and then job specific skills which differentiates one job from another.  This is the starting point to improve participation as the job skills profile can then be matched to an individual’s skills profile and programs can be designed around the gaps.

The report outlines predicted industry [vertical] demand differentiated from learner demand, however it can miss horizontal [functional skills across sectors] needs such as digital, sustainability, marketing, finance, workplace health and safety and leadership capabilities plus regional development.

Capabilities include skills and competencies, values and behaviours, key performance indicators and on the job performance, and this thinking is not [yet] represented in Skills for All.  A move away from products (Training Packages) is suggested however a move to competencies as skills currency [see OECD quote] using national Training Packages as a huge database and mapping the relevant skills that fit the job role absolutely works.

For example, an emerging model from the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula will test a model of adaptive capacity with a collaborative approach to workforce development, including a regional skills profile, led by a coalition of willing employers (including Workforce BluePrint’s clients) from mining and resources, local government, agriculture, food processing and related industries especially where there is seasonal, harvest or shut down demand.

I think 2013 will be a watershed, transitional year, with further skills reform (national and state) and changes to funding (priority based, hopefully vertical and horizontal).  With NBN-enabled, leadership and Asian Century capabilities needing to be incorporated into skills development to support growth, South Australia’s India Engagement Strategy and the China Strategy.

The Workforce Development Program provides grant funding for industry-wide workforce projects.  Projects may focus on a single enterprise, an industry sector, a major project or region, industry supply chains, clusters, or companies within them.

Funding is for projects in the following priority areas – planning the workforce, recruiting skilled staff, developing existing workers, retaining workers, fostering innovation and change, and improving training delivery.  Read the Workforce Development Program Guidelines and the Program Application Form, then contact Workforce BluePrint as your potential workforce development and planning partner.

Interested in building your skills in workforce planning and workforce development to build a workforce plan or provide advice?  Book into our 2013 Workforce Architects Program soon as places go very quickly and please email your ideas for future webinar and workshop topics to

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

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