Skills for Future Jobs – Foreward Agenda

The South Australian Training and Skills Commission’s Skills for Future Jobs report emphasises engagement as an extremely important priority and why is that?

Well the commission is suggesting eight additional criteria for Skills for All providers including:

  • Established mechanisms to support industry engagement and the development of collaborative partnerships with employers (including for the identification of relevant competencies in training packages delivered by RTOs).
  • Industry endorsement of training delivery (online, hybrid or peer-based environment aligned to the intended occupational outcome.

A Forward Agenda for the Commission includes thought leadership on Training Package reform; best-practice models for industry engagement; and alternative pedagogical approaches that fit with the needs of specific student groups.

Highlighting that the South Australian economy is at a crossroads and that the jobs of the future will be different to today’s jobs, some of us expected to read about innovative policy ideas on the future workforce and employment.  Areas such as entrepreneurship, exporting and outsourcing or new and emerging job roles say out to a 2020 horizon.

Generally a qualification caters for part of a current (or past) version of a job role although this does depend on the industry sector and in the Commission’s report,

“Stakeholders have expressed concern about the proliferation of qualifications and sometimes tenuous links between training delivery and employment outcomes”, (Vol 1 p. 8)

Considering future job roles, this requires skills from multiple existing qualifications, across AQF levels and Training Packages plus there are skills not yet captured in the VET system.  Until you build job skill profiles for current and future job roles and map it back to qualifications then you can’t see these links and determine if they are there or not.

If the Commission is interested in Training Packages and influencing reform, for their advice to be credible and practical, then real job skill profiles and examples as they apply to enterprises, industry sectors or regions must feature in their analysis.  This would also include Australian Apprenticeships and their fit to contemporary job roles.

“The evolving VET landscape has led to a decline in traineeship and apprenticeship activity across the system”, (Vol 1 p. 8)

Apprenticeships and traineeships have fallen under Skills for All simply because many are not on the Funded Training List.  What other training arrangement gives a true indication of demand from employers and industry?  The combination of employment and training should be a high priority for funding in the view of many of us VET professionals.

If a Funded Training List must be persisted with (a growing number of us prefer it was ditched for true demand based applications) then the logical starting point is a vision for South Australia’s workforce based upon the Premier’s 10 economic priorities.  This would cover identification of current and future critical job roles and capabilities, all mapped back to skills and qualifications.

Suggesting a capacity management system is an interesting move in light of the unsuccessful approach taken in New South Wales by Smart and Skilled however the special principles for allocating public funds for high-priority locations and groups is a step in the right direction.

“Recommendation 6: Supporting Regional Workforces – Establish regional educational hubs that provide a coordinated approach to training delivery through improved transport infrastructure, online access and support services”, seems very practical however facilitating numerous regional workforce projects demonstrates to me time and time again, that what is needed is a great local facilitator who can galvanize regional employers and supporters around a workforce action plan.

Discussion on who should pay for training isn’t new and seems to assume an off the job model rather than an integrated approach. For example, as an employer I don’t think about the direct and indirect costs unless my employees are being asked to work on tasks and assessments that are not relevant to their job role and our business.  Linking this idea to best practice, an approach that starts with a competency based job description, where learning and assessment activities are tailored to suit the role, and where these activities add to workplace productivity as well as achieving competency outcomes is ideal.

Figure 7: Responsibility of Training Costs Model (Vol 1 p. 42) misses Network or Region Specific skills and I think Industry Specific should be before the Occupational Specific layer.  It doesn’t follow for me that there is Increasing Community Benefit as you work down the model – I’d flip this around.

Hopefully School Based Apprenticeships are not missing from Recommendation 9: VET for School-Enrolled Students – Promote VET qualifications to secondary schools students as a legitimate and valuable pathway to further training and employment and completion of the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE).

“Industry Demand for New Qualifications” should be “Industry Demand for Critical Capabilities and Jobs” which this could be formed into a very important piece of work by the Commission into 2015.  Rather than focusing on the qualifications first, identifying broad capabilities linked to economic priorities together with priority job roles by industry and region, would form the basis of a qualifications map.  Taking this further and mapping to existing Training Packages and qualifications would inform the Commission’s position on Training Package reform.  In both a strategic and practical way, an exercise like this would show duplication of skills, areas where skills are catered for, areas of capability that are not yet in the Training Package system and perhaps should be.  As a byproduct, a map like this could extend thinking around a Funded Training List.

I strongly disagree with this statement, “…because the skills for these Qualification-linked Occupations are highly specific, the qualifications are not readily transferable”, (p. 19 Vol 1).  This statement ignores the fact that skills within those qualifications are transferable and that job roles need depth and breadth of skills.  Taking this tact could likely result in qualifications and Training Packages that are further removed from what future job roles need.  If you don’t get people to the point where they are capable first, how can you then build upon their skills with adaptive capability?

The report states,

The aim of identifying QLOs is to highlight where detailed workforce planning may be useful and government intervention in skills planning may add value. (p. 19)

Beyond this narrow focus, workforce planning is the best way to identify current and future capabilities and job roles, based upon employer, industry and regional demand.

Workforce action plans owned and implemented by industry sectors, networks (for example supply chains) and regions are even more valuable and the Commission’s report doesn’t really touch on this – why not?

Coming back to the main takeaway for providers.  It is engagement with industry, stakeholders, employers, apprentices, businesses and regional communities, with the ACE sector, the South Australian Certificate of Education and students, individuals who are disengaged from the workforce and/or educationally disadvantaged that you’ll need to focus on.

Probably the next question is… what’s the best way to engage with all these different clients?

Written by Wendy Perry, Head Workforce Planner, Workforce BluePrint, January 2015.

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