Employers and VET system – NCVER survey results

Today saw the release of the latest NCVER report on ‘Employers’ Use and Views of the VET System’, which contains a look at the relationship between industry and employers and the VET system and providers.  So what does it say about this relationship?  In a nutshell, it is not as good as it was.

The first telling statistic is that the proportion of employers using the vocational education and training (VET) system in 2013 decreased by 4.2 percentage points to 51.9% from 2011.  We also see both the apprenticeship/traineeship and other VET training participation number down by around 3.5% in each category and the number of jobs requiring vocational qualifications down by 3% as well.

So if the usage of the system has gone down, maybe the satisfaction levels have stayed the same or gone up.  Unfortunately this isn’t the case either.  We are seeing a marked decrease, around 6%, in employer satisfaction, in the skills participants obtain from doing vocational qualifications.  Now to be fair the percentage of satisfaction is still high, hovering around 80%, and  employer satisfaction with non-accredited training decreased by the same percentage as well, but a 6% decrease is not something to be taken lightly in my opinion and shows that there is a disconnect developing between the needs of the employer and what is being ‘taught’ to participants.

However the really damming numbers that come out of this report are hidden down in the expanded tables, in particular Table 12 – Reasons for dissatisfaction with the VET system.  Across the board the two main reasons for this dissatisfaction are;

  1. Training is of poor quality or low standard (30-50%)
  2. Relevant skills are not being taught (30-40%)

That these two reasons are the significant reasons for the employer dissatisfaction with the VET system is appalling, if the skills participants are being taught are not even relevant then why are we even bothering to deliver training to them.

So why are we seeing these results and are we going to keep seeing them into the future.  I think there are a lot of different things going on here, but some things I think are clear.

  • VET participants are not (for whatever reason, and I could talk about the reasons until the cows come home) learning relevant skills.
  • The training is of poor, low and inconsistent quality,
  • Training is too general to be useful to an employer.

Now these are things that I have spoken about in a number of other places and as I have said many times, one of the reasons organisations, move to operate their own RTO’s is because the quality of employees generated through the public and private provider system is not what is needed by organisations, there is a significant gap between the two, a gap that can be overcome when the training is done internally through the organisation or through a partnership, where the RTO truly understands the business and is will the work with the organisation to get the necessary outcomes.

I have for a long time now, been appalled by the skills of the majority of trainers that I encounter, the quality of the materials and the delivery methodologies of a substantial amount of VET providers, again both public and private, which is why we only work a small and selected group of providers.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is not just a VET sector thing, a lot of the non-accredited training I have  seen has been awful as well.  Good trainers, who can create and deliver good material seem to be as rare as hens teeth these days, and it is beginning to show that people outside the training industry are noticing.

So will see this downward trend continue, unless the training industry does something about it yes.  The industry needs to stop having this focus on government funding and assessment outcomes and start to focus on delivering good quality training that delivers to the needs of employers first and then think about funding and assessment after.  But we need to get the training right first.

Workforce participation, Training for the long term unemployed and the needs of industry.

I attended a very interesting breakfast earlier in the week, (thanks to the wonderful people at Busy@work)  where the central topic of discussion was around the subject of how to better unemployed and underemployed people with industry needs in order to facilitate meaningful return to employment.  Aside from a range of other issues that were discussed one thing that was raised a number of times was the gap between the skill level of, in particular long-term unemployed, and to be even more particular long-term unemployed youth, and the skill needs of industry and business.

So I got to thinking what are those basic skills that employers, large or small, need job seekers, particularly those coming from medium to long-term unemployment to have, in order for the employer to feel comfortable employing them initially and to retain them.  so I have come up with a list of what I think those really, really basic skills are, so here goes:

  1. Punctuality – The ability to be at work and ready to start work, at the time their day/shift/whatever begins.  I was always taught when I was young and in my first couple of jobs, both when I was at high school and in the workforce, that you should be there 10-15 minutes before your starting time so that you were ready and able to start work on time.
  2. Appropriate clothing and accessory choices – All work places have rules and expectations, some safety related, some organisational and culturally related.  Insisting that you wear a long sleeve shirt,  that your uniform is clean and or ironed, that you removed some of your piercings, are not unreasonable requests.  when I was in the police force in the very early days of my career (it was my first job) our Senior Sargent used to check our uniforms, shoes etc, to make sure that we looked professional and well turned out before we went out in public, representing the organisation.
  3. Basic maths – If you cant figure out that $1.60 is the out of $10.00 when I purchase an $8.40 item, without the use of a cash register or calculator, then you probably shouldn’t be working in a role that requires basic maths, and it shouldn’t be up to an employer to give you training in basic maths.
  4. Basic appropriate communication/language skills – I am not suggesting that new job seekers  or those returning from long-term unemployment need to have the communications skills of senior executive or master facilitator, but they do need to be able to talk to customers, in a polite, respectful, understandable manner.
  5. Basic customer service skills – I don’t care what job you are in, you have customers, they might be internal or external, but you have them, everyone needs to have some level of customer service skills, even if it is don’t swear at the customer when they ask you a question, because it drags you away from your txt/facebook conversation.
  6. Basic understanding of business – Really all I am saying here is understand that a business is not going to change its policy on facial piercing, simply because it is your preference to have a three-inch, pointed, metal stud protruding from the center of your forehead.  It is an understanding that they work for someone else and that working there comes with a set of rules and expectations,both from the business and from the clients of the business.

Now certainly there are going to be roles out there that are appropriate for the groups of people that I am talking about here that require, different or higher levels of skills to the ones listed, but for most entry-level positions, having these six basic skills, place those candidates head and shoulders above all of the others.

How do we give youth, long-term unemployed and other groups, these skills.  Is it something that young people should have been taught at school,  (particularly maths and communications), or come from parents and role models (punctuality and politeness), some of it should and for those that have it, it probably has.  Unfortunately though, for some long-term unemployed, whether they are in the youth demographic or not, even if they did have these skills at some point (and a lot of them probably didn’t), they have dissipated with lack of use over time.

The bigger issue for me, (and this seemed to be a bit of a theme at the breakfast) is how do we teach these people these skills.  In Australia we have government-funded organisations, whose roll it is to assist people with entering or reentering the workforce, particularly those who have been unemployed for a significant period of time, but still we seem to have this situation where candidates turn up for interviews and ongoing employment without even the basic skills i have listed and then we wonder why business and employers either don’ take them on in the first place or only retain them for a short period of time.

I would really like to hear what people think, both about my basics skills list and any ideas about how we might better be able to increase these skills in the people that need them most.

Is L&D a profit centre?

Another nice blog post from Sukh, which poses a really interesting question about whether L&D should be a cost or profit centre.

Thinking About Learning

I got inadvertently drawn into a Twitter chat today where this question was posed:

Tricia Ransom responded with the following:

Which I responded to by saying that I don’t think this will ever happen as long as L&D remains an internal function. The only way it could become a profit centre is if it directly sells its services to external clients of the company.

I could end this post right here, cos that’s pretty much my whole argument. But, well, it’s my blog and I’ll carry on if I want to. So here’s the longer version of the answer.

What I’m not arguing is that L&D doesn’t add value to the business…

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Corporate MOOCs – What’s my incentive?

A fantastic post by Craig Weiss on the value and problems associated with Corporate MOOC’s. This is well worth spending the time reading and thinking about.

By Craig Weiss

In the past two months, a trend is showing up at am amazing rate – MOOC platforms within a LMS.  For the most part, those that have been adding them, have done so on the education side of the house.  In fact, one vendor offered me an opportunity to create a MOOC and they would stick on their platform – an honor, but not something of interest.

If you think MOOC platforms are just for education – you are in for quite a surprise – they are making an appearance in the corporate platforms too.  A couple of vendors are already in the process of adding them – and if you know this industry – and hopefully you are gaining more knowledge – you would know that the industry screams lemmings – so expect more to come in 2014.  But, I digress.

The question or questions must be why?  Why…

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AHRI – Pulse Learning and Development Report 2013

As most of you know I devour these reports and state of the industry papers about the world of L&D so it was with interest that I read the 2013 release of the Australian Human Resources Institute – Pulse L&D report.

So what are the interesting little highlights I found when I read through the data collected.  Well before I talk about that it is important to note that this survey unlike the 2010 survey was not done in conjunction with the AITD, but was done solely with AHRI members, which may or may not have had an effect on the results.

The first thing I found interesting was in the comments from the AHRI Chairman, where he says ‘it is pleasing to note also that nearly a third of the sample group (31 per cent) report that learning and development budgets account for more than 5 per cent of revenue’  but seemed disappointed that 68% of the organisations surveyed had L&D budgets which were less than 5% of revenue.  I find this statement a little strange and at odds with the general level of L&D investment (as a % of revenue) globally, and this may be a case of simple misunderstanding of the wider global L&D community trends.  I say this because in the 2012 ASTD State of the Industry report the average figure for direct expenditure as a percentage of revenue is around the 1.2%, with most Global Fortune 500 companies averaging around 0.7% of revenue.  Now while it is true these levels globally are rising, it would be difficult to suggest they would top 5% of revenue anytime in the next few years at least, which to me says that investment in Australia in L&D is in very very good shape, when we compare it globally and to intimate that budgets of less than 5% of revenue are disappointing, is a little bit strange.

Still as always the vast majority of people in the industry are female (70%), though I would really like to see a survey done in the Australian market that look at gender across roles within the industry as I think, particularly if we think about senior management and executive learning roles these figures may not be giving us the full picture.   If anyone knows of a survey like this, particularly one with data collected from organisations with a range of L&D functions I would be interested to know about it.

Again as we tend to always see in these surveys, most L&D functions sit either solely with HR or within HR and externally to it, with only 11% sitting outside of HR as a separate function.  Now as we know where Learning should sit has been a topic of debate for a long time now, but in reality it seems nothing much has actually changed.  The other thing that interested me on this page of the report was the size of L&D team with more than 75% of learning functions only having between 1-5 staff.  Now I am sure that this has something to do with the fact that 60% of the respondents worked for companies with less that 500 staff and 80% for companies with less than 2500 staff.  I also think and this is just personal opinion here, that it has a lot to do with the Learning function sitting inside HR, and to some extend being treated as a poor cousin to other HR functions, and a misunderstanding of the value both in people and monetary terms of a well-funded, highly functioning Learning unit, but then again I am a L&D person I would say that.

Some of the really interesting information for me starts on page 11 of the report were it begins to look at the mix of L&D activities with organisations.

The vast majority of L&D activities within organisations turn out to be….. wait for it……Internal face to face training, Well who would have thought that.  Certainly not anyone who had been to any of the major conference recently where it almost seemed that if you talked about-face to face training and not, informal MOOC’s than you were a dinosaur, who needed to move out of the way.  In fact this idea is only further supported on page 12 where we see that only 8% of the Learning Activities provided by organisations are e-learning based, with the two largest percentages being in-house training and inductions. (Sorry had to say that, it is just nice to see some real figures that point to the fact that online learning in not taking over the world at least not inside organisations.  The other two really interesting bits of information from this were that the split between formal and informal learning was about even with informal a little bit ahead, nowhere near the 90:10 split we would expect to see under some models of informal learning and the in terms of kinds of training compliance and other training were split about 50:50 as well.

So what then do people think are the most and least valuable learning and development activities, well the most valuable are clearly induction of new staff and leadership training (though I am unsure of the real value of leadership training myself), closely followed by training relating to in-house operations, (surprising all the stuff that organisations need their staff to know), with the least valuable (as I have always suspected to be the case) Team building activities followed by compliance training.

So there you have it, nothing stunning, but some facts which I think tend to shed some light on some of the rhetoric of learning pundits and evangelists out there.

As always if you have any thoughts of comments I am more than happy to hear them.



A competency Model for Trainers

I have been doing a lot of work recently around metrics and evaluation of trainers and how to best work on the professional development piece for them and one of the things that has come out of this is the idea of a competency model for trainers.  Now the ASTD has just recently released its latest competency model for trainers, and while it is valuable and comprehensive, that is perhaps the problem I have with trying to use it in our circumstances.  It seems to take a more overall HR/OD view and is more suitable for trainers running their own enterprises than those working in organisations.

So after some wide research I decided to develop a competency model of our own, around what I saw as the four key competencies that trainers and learning folk in general, particularly those working in organisations needed.




As you can see it is fairly simple model, breaking the activities and competencies of a trainer up into four broad categories, Development, Delivery, Assessment and Management. with each of these being broken down into smaller sub categories.  There is still more work to be done here, particularly in cashing out the sub-categories and how to evaluate them, but I thought I would share this in its early form and see what people thought.


If you have any feedback I would be really glad to hear it.

What life, this, L&D

another great post by Sukh. I have to admit I am guilty sometimes of bagging HR folk for not understanding L&D, and for being glad at least in my case that we are not part of HR, which does give me a level of freedom when it comes to delivery of outcomes.

I still think however as I have said on many occasions before L&D is the HR sweet spot.

Thinking About Learning

Communities. We talk a lot about them. They’re a very regular part of life, both physical and digital. Cycling, church goers, Twitter, cheese lovers, Apple haters, Instagrammers, Vine users, wine lovers, gin haters, and so many more. They help to connect people and give people a sense of purpose. That’s important for people, cos we all enjoy connections. I enjoy them massively, and over the years have found an array of communities that I’ve been part of, left, and found new ones, and it goes on.

There comes an interesting cross-section where sometimes, the communities we’re part of, serve two different needs, and they have a natural friction. We enjoy both, and for some period of time, we dip in and out of each community as it meets our needs. As time goes on, other things start to become known about the other community. They’re like this, or they’re like…

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