What’s wrong with Training Packages – What is wrong with Training Packages?

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It’s all about emphasis – statement or question?

Training Packages are the bed rock of the Australian Vocational Education (VET) and Training system.  OECD’s Skills Strategy asserts that, “Skills have become the global currency of 21st century economies”.

If you don’t know what they are, Training Packages specify the skills and knowledge required to perform effectively in the workplace”.

Debate around a new system goes back over the past 10 years, starting 5 years after they were introduced in 1997.  If you were in the VET sector then, do you remember the massive change we all went through?  I remember teaching and assessing from the first Admin Training Package taking over from the national NOS curriculum!

Recent calls to ‘scrap Training Packages’ with a paper ‘Enrolments in VET Training Packages by Industry Skills Council 2002-10’ highlighting, “within each training package many qualifications have a very small or no student load, and a few qualifications have a relatively high student load,” are far too dramatized.

Industry bodies hit back over changes to training packages, at the suggestion of, “replacing training packages with a system where colleges develop their own qualifications and submit them for national accreditation”.

Discussion in the Australian VET Leaders LinkedIn group, attracted 58 comments in the space of a few days just on this article alone.

I think the purpose of Training Packages is confused.  Some see training packages as outcomes for qualifications and skills sets and others see them as skills for job roles and work.  Undertaking workforce planning and development, and building competency frameworks bring this difference to the fore.

When developing a skills profile for a job role, drawing upon units of competency from all training packages (which is a huge database and great asset) demonstrates that most job roles require 30-50 competencies, which is usually 2-3 qualifications worth.  For highly technical job roles and leadership roles, 50-80 competencies is commonplace.

The format for a job skills profile of 1. core competencies (employability/foundation skills), 2. functional competencies (skills required by many job roles such as leadership, management, IT and administration) and then 3. job specific skills work in an enterprise, industry or regional context.

Competencies for 1 job role are across multiple Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) levels, say Certificate III – Advanced Diploma, and usually from 2-3 different Training Packages, that could be managed by multiple ISC’s.

So, if you take a pick and mix approach to skills, matching competencies to the job role or the person, there are many options and good coverage of types of skills contrasted with matching a qualification to a job role or a person.

Where streamlining most needs to occur, across the whole training package system is in the core or common skills.  Using an online tool, that holds all national training packages for skills profiling, searches on ‘communicate’ and ‘team’ return results of 70+ and 120+ units of competency.  Whilst the levels of these units may be different it still seems significantly way more competencies for the same skills.

Taking the next layer in a job profile, functional competencies, again significant streamlining in leadership, management and occupational health and safety as examples would improve usability by enterprises, industries and regions.

The job specific component of a job skills profile has been over emphasised and it’s really these technical skills along which training package lines are drawn.  In reality, the job specific skills are a much smaller proportion of the overall profile if the core and functional skills have been designed appropriately.

Training Packages are changing, structured around 4 themes: Competency and Knowledge, Flexibility, Streamlining, and Foundation Skills.

The program of reform has been underway since mid 2009 and should be finished by mid 2014 and back in January 2011, the National Quality Council endorsed a new design model.

A number of years ago Wendy Perry and Associates Pty Ltd was contracted to review competencies from a training package.  The approach taken included identifying all the relevant job roles (around 30), building competency based skills profiles/job descriptions using Skillsbook and drawing in units of competency that fitted the role from across the training package database.  Instead of training package consultations, skills benchmarking workshops validated the competency based job skills profiles with industry based job descriptions identifying areas in common as well as gaps.  As a value add to the benchmarking activity, discussion went broader than looking at units of competency documentation, sharing insights on workforce development issues.  This process helped us to identify what to keep, delete and add, what was core to all job roles and electives that tailored the core skills.

The Industry Skills Councils (ISC’s) are custodians of Training Packages, with each council producing a Continuous Improvement Plan which outlines the changes to be made to the endorsed components of Training Packages in order to meet the existing and emerging skill needs of industry.  Service Skills Australia uses a process for continuous improvement that follows project scoping, drafting, consultation and feedback, feedback analysis, validation, quality check, submission for endorsement, endorsement, implementation, continuous improvement.

Information on Training Packages – policy and guidelines  provides a technical understanding of terms, language and development processes.

Written by Wendy Perry, Managing Director, Wendy Perry and Associates Pty Ltd, Head Workforce Planner, Workforce BluePrint.

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