Accountability, Innovation, Agility and the skills Gap

So yesterday I went to a fantastic presentation from Denise Myerson and the MCI Team including the wonderful Natasha Wright about their recent

trip to the recent SHRM Conference in the US and the themes and trends that came out of it.  The four major themes (see the title of this blog post) were

  1. Accountability
  2. Innovation
  3. Agility
  4. Skills Gap

Now what I found really interesting about the afternoon was the fact that these four issues or challenges if you will resonate quite strongly both personally and organisationally, in particularly agility and the skills gaps.  When I look at the way the landscape has changed over the last few years, in the not-for-profit and government sectors, in Learning and Development and HR and in the business world in general, Accountability and the ability to respond in an Agile manner to the myriad of challenges which face us every day do call for innovative solutions.  The real problem I see is the skills gap, when I look at the health and community services sector, the mining and industry sectors we are all crying out for staff who have the right skills, attributes and behaviours to meet the needs of industry, particularly at entry level positions, and in highly technical areas.

We seem to have a situation at least in my opinion where we have plenty of  people who skills that are not relevant to the needs of industry, who aren’t interested in entry level positions, who are unwilling to do something that is outside of their vocation or to be retrained and we seem to pander to these attitudes.   If we don’t find ways to address the skills gap, if we don’t have people with the right skills and behaviours in the right roles then how can we possibly hope to respond in Accountable, innovative and agile ways to the next challenge that comes along.

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Government Funding, RTO’s and Organisational Learning

As some of you are aware I posted recently about how organisations fund their L&D;

from which I got a number of interesting responses.  One of the types of responses worried me however and points I think to what is a major issue within the training industry within Australia.

A number of responses revolved around using the traineeship and apprenticeship funding to basically fund organisational L&D, saying things like, ‘maximising these funding arrangements can offset the costs of training in other areas.’   Now while this is in essence not incorrect it seems to point to an attitude among a not insubstantial number of players in the L&D industry in Australia which is it seems to attempt to maximise the amount of government-funded training in order to create, and this is a term someone used in conversations recently, ‘a slush fund to provide other training.’  With attitudes like this is it any wonder the government has changed the way in which it deals with the trainee and apprenticeship funding.

Sure it is attractive for organisations when a RTO comes along and says we can do all of this training of your staff for you and it won’t cost you anything, in fact if we structure it right and you put enough people through than we can give you a discount and you will actually make money on the deal, but is it what the funding was designed for and is it actually going to train the staff with the skills they are going to know.  In a lot of cases it seems that the organisation would have got a far better result from choosing skills sets or non accredited training to put their staff through, rather than a qualification, simply because it was free or they would make some money out of it.

It has got to the point now that it a vendor/provider starts saying things like ‘well we specialise in finding ways to be able to fund the training at little or not cost to you,’ then I stop listening and it would take something substantial for me ever to consider them a vendor that I would deal with.  I am not interested in the funding, I am interested in the training.  I am interested in it being what we want both from an organisational and a staff point of view and provides us with the outcomes that we need.

We do ourselves a disservice as an industry when we focus on how, and how cheaply we can fund the training that we deliver to staff.  Lets stop talking about the funding and start talking about the training and the outcomes and what it is we actually need from a vocational training system in this country.

Queensland’s VET Skills and Training Taskforce (Some More thoughts)

Some more thoughts on the recommendations of the QLD Skills and Training Taskforce

Today I want to continue on from yesterdays post and look more closely at some of the recently released recommendations of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce and I thought that I might start off with the second set of recommendations (Recommendation 1.0 really just reaffirms the importance of the VET sector and Training in general) around and Industry Engaged VET system.  There are three main areas the recommendations look at;

  1. An Industry led Skills Commission,
  2. Government VET investment, and
  3. VET in Schools and links to Higher Education

So lets look at each of them separately, starting with

An Industry Led Skills Commission (Recommendations 2.1-2.5)

Recommendation 2.1  The Queensland Government establish a truly industry-led Queensland VET sector characterised by the creation of an independent statutory Queensland Skills Commission directly accountable to the Minister for Education, Training and Employment.  I really think this is a great idea particularly when linked to 2.3 and 2.4 which would hopefully see the commission have control over the funding and contracting arrangements themselves.  This was and I think that I echo the thoughts of a lot of people here, one of the big issues that faced Skills Queensland they did not have any real power in relation to the funding etc which reduced their ability to be as effective as they could have been.  (This should not be seen as  criticism of Skills Queensland whom I think have done and do a fantastic job in terms of their connection with industry.

The only criticism I would level at this recommendation comes from 2.2 and is around the make up of the commission.  While I understand the Governments viewpoint on wanting the ‘4 pillars’ represented to suggest that the largest employment sector in the state (Health and Community Services) should only potentially have representation is ridiculous in the extreme.

The Health and Community Services Industry:

Injects more than $16.2 billion to the Queensland economy each year

  • Pays more than $13.5 billion in wages and salaries
  • Attracts volunteer and carer contributions, estimated to be worth $10.5 billion annually
  • Purchases around $2 billion worth of goods and services annually from other Queensland industries and businesses
  • Created 20,400 new jobs in Queensland in 2011 representing more than 80% of Queensland’s job growth of 25,400
  • Created 71,900 new jobs or 28 per cent of the state’s total employment growth over five years to 2011

There should without a doubt be at least one representative of the Health and Community Services Industry and I would suggest two (one from the Health Industry and one for the Community Services industry) as despite any assertions to the contrary it is the biggest employment area both currently and into the future and has and will continue to have incredibly high need for training of staff and unlike some other industries (mining in particular) does not have the wealth of self-generated funds to put towards training staff, relying heavily on Government subsidy.

Transforming VET Investment (Recommendations 2.6-2.8)

There is really nothing out of the ball park here, the only thing I would say echo’s my statements above, about the need to ensure that the Health and Community Services Sector is not left out of the ‘selected Certificate IV and above qualifications, skill sets and other specific priorities.’  There is a significant need for the Health and Community Services to be able to access funding for training at levels above a Certificate III level.  I would however like to add here that there needs to be some focus on how funding is handled.  I have made the point before that a model focussing on Units of Competency rather than full qualifications may in some areas by incredibly useful from both an employee and employer perspective.   In order to obtain the best results in terms of completion rates and employment outcomes, more of the funding needs to be funnelled to organisations (employers) and less to individuals.  This gives employers the ability to recruit, train and retain staff, at levels that will be achieved without tight employer involvement.  I say this because when you consider completion rates from Enterprise RTO’s (that is employers who have their own internal RTO to train primarily their own staff) they are in the area of 90+%, because it is in the interest of the employer to ensure that they recruit  the right people and give them all of the assistance necessary in order to complete.  This is simply not the case with external providers who are training individuals who are hoping that on completion they will be able to gain employment.

VET in Schools and Links with Higher Education (recommendations 2.9-2.12)

I think recommendation 2.9 definately sets the scene here “There is a clear role for VETiS into the future, within a strictly applied framework that supports achievement of the Government’s economic goals, however, Government’s VRG investment in VETiS needs to be focused on employment outcomes and aligned to the skill needs of industry,” and is on the money.  The need for stronger links between the vocational course offered to and taken by high school students become abundantly clear when you see that the biggest increases (between 300 & 800+%) in course has been in entertainment and fitness qualifications.  However again (and I know I am banging on about this a little) just going back to offering trade qualifications without reference to other industries with equal or more demand for workers would be a definite mistake.

The need for better dialogue between the VET and Higher Education Sectors (recommendation 2.12) is something that almost self-evident and needs to be improved.

So there you have my thoughts on specifics of the recommendations in section 2 of the report.  Tomorrow I am going to have a closer look at the recommendations around TAFE.

As always happy to hear what you have to think on any of these subjects.

Does our Government Funding Model effect Training Delivery

I have touched on the effects of government funding of Training within Australia and the effect that this has or might have on both the kinds and types of training that is being delivered and what might happen if there was a change in the government models of funding.  I wanted today to start to talk about this in a little more depth and look at what might happen under different funding models.

As I have said previously the Australian governments focus on full qualifications stifles delivery options, and even when formal skill sets are dropped into the mix it really doesn’t make for the ability to deliver VET training (at least funded VET training) in ways that are interesting or in a lot of cases useful in terms of what organisations need.  So I have been thinking, and thank you some of my associates on Linkedin who have also talked around this subject with me, what other options or funding models might be available.

  1. What if the Government stopped funding training all together;  This is one that I kick around in my head quite a lot.  It  raised its head for me a little while ago when I was at the AWPA future of work consultation and someone suggested that most organisations would still do the same amount of training that they currently do, it would just be done very, very differently.  I was really challenged by this initially as my initial thoughts were no that is not what would happen, what would happen is that we would go back to doing nothing but legislated training.  Then I realised it wouldn’t actually change a lot for us, sure we would less training that was outside the scope of our internal RTO, but then we would probably increase the scope of our RTO so we could deliver more.  We would just ensure that all of the training we currently have to do for legislative and audit purposes was mapped to Units of Competency, run them as separate programs and if people eventually got to the point of being able to gain a full qualification we would issue the full Qual otherwise they would just have a whole pile of Statements of Attainment for a range of Units.  It certainly wouldn’t cost us anymore than training currently does and there definitely wouldn’t be large groups of people going through programs like the Diploma of Management or Cert IV in FLM, or really anything that was non-core business.  I probably would also have a smaller team, but as I think about it probably not as most of our generated income comes from our specialist non-accredited courses.  Now I do understand that there is a lot more going on with government-funded training than just skilling up people who are already employed, there is workforce participation rates and equity issues as well to mention just two so I don’t actually think no more government funded training is ever going to happen.  So is there another model that might work
  2. Something that I have been thinking about recently is would happen if the government-funded Units of Competency, rather than full qualifications and formal skill sets.  When I think about it this seems like not a bad idea, but what would it mean.  It would mean much more flexibility in the way in which courses could be packaged delivered, assessed and funded.  Units of Competency could be bundled together in various ways offering people choices about how they approached their training.  As currently under the Traineeship model there would be an amount of money allocated to a person in terms of funding that they could then be drawn down on as they completed various UOC’s building up to a full Qualification if that was what they want and if not a series of UOC’s that match what they wanted to do in terms of career progression.  RTO’s and organisations would still only ge the funds on completion of the specific units according to the funds allocated to the units.  This would certainly make it more efficient for organisations where the person leaves before they have completed their Qualification or for what ever other reason doesn’t complete (which currently leaves the organisation out-of-pocket).  Yes it would probably be harder to administer, but then again with the introduction of the Universal Student Identifier maybe not.

I would be really interested in knowing what everyone else thinks about this and also if there are any other models out there that people have been kicking around in terms of ways to fund or not fund training.

Units of Competency, Skill Sets, and Qualifications

I have been talking a lot recently about accredited and non-accredited training, skill sets and units of competency. One of the things that concerns me is the focus on full qualifications and how they are delivered.

Now I understand that a RTO’s and TAFE market full qualifications and market them in the way that they do is driven almost entirely by the way in which the Australian Governments funds training. For the most part funding only applies to full qualifications. The unfortunate thing about this is that it constricts the way a lot of training providers think about delivery.

I want to put forward an idea today about an alternative and what I think is ultimately more effective method of delivery. Those of you who have heard me speak over the last few months may already have heard outlines of this idea and of how it works for our organisation.

Think about undertaking an undergraduate Arts degree at university. You choose from a wide range of different subjects spread over a number of semesters, which gradually build towards a major or maybe two. This is not necessarily how VET training works and I wonder if there is not some value in thinking about delivery differently.

Rather than (and I will give examples from the community services package because I know it well) enrolling someone into a cert IV in community services work why not let them choose from a range of courses say ‘effective communication’ ‘maintain quality service delivery’ ‘cultural competence’ ‘work effectively with young people’ ‘advocate for clients’ etc. Let the participant choose their path, develop the areas they want, get a feel for different sectors of work and decide where they might want to go.

Given this idea a participant may start off thinking they want a qualification in social work, but may end up realising that they realise and want to do youth work or maybe they might decide they want to do both.

Of course funding this form of training delivery from a government point of view is going to be much more difficult than just funding a place in a cert IV in disability work, which may not be what the participant really ends up wanting to do. It would also make it more difficult for RTO’s and TAFE’s to market and administer. However it seems at least in my mind a model of training delivery that has a much more congruent outcome for the learner.

Is Accredited (RTO) training better than non-accredited training

Continuing on from some of the thoughts and ideas I posted yesterday an interesting question was posed to around accredited (RTO) and non-accredited training. It was do we simply assume that accredited (RTO) training is better than non-accredited training.

I sometimes think that there is misunderstanding about the importance of Accredited training in Australia and its relationship to what could be called non-accredited training (though I really hate that term, becuse in and of itself it seems to lessen its importance an value). We as an organisation do far more non-accredited training than accredited, why? Well primarily because there are isnt accredited training that provides us with what we require as an organisation and what our staff want as professional development, and unfortunately in a lot of cases it is far better, more engaging and more erelevant than accredited training that we might undertake.

This is not to say that the accredited training isnt good, it is, and it provides us with very specifc outcomes, neither is it to suggest that the trainers are not good. It is just that providers of non-accredited training cant rely on the training being free or almost free as a selling point they have to rely on the fact that their training and trainers are excellent and provide solid tangilble outcomes. If they dont, they go out of business. If your business model relies on being able to sell training becuase it is free, rather than because it is has fantasitc outcomes and learning and produces a significant ROI for participants and organisations then your busniess model sucks in my opinion.

If training is of high quality, delivered by exceptional trainers, with great learning outcomes and is engaging then people will pay money for it. Sometimes I think the only reason the government has to support and fund accredited (RTO) training is because the content and outcomes behind it arent that great and that if people and organisations had to pay for it they simply wouldnt.

Skill Sets, Specialised Training or Full Qualifications

I have been having a really interesting discussion on linkedin with a number of my collegues around competency based training. So I thought that I would share a few of my thoughts about the whole qualifications, skill sets, non-accredited specilist training mish mash.

From an organisational point of view, what I want from training is value for money (a good solid ‘real’ ROI), an increase in the skills of the staff memebers who attend the training, to have this acieved in the most efficient and effective manner and to have both particpants and managers happy with the outcomes of the training they received. I would rather send staff on a two day sales training course for which I will get a real ROI on in terms of increased sales, better customer service etc than a full qualificiaitons. I want staff who can do their jobs and do them well, not just staff with pieces of paper and will utilise the best training to get that result, whether it be a non-accredited course, a skill set or a full qualification.

One of my biggest complaints in terms of the way some RTO’s seem to run is this; I get 3-5 calls a week from BDM’s at various RTO wanting to offer me all of this wonderful training that they can deliver to staff for no cost to the organisation. However it is clear that they neither have any understanding of our business or in a lot of cases have even bothered to look at our website. The training is also not what we need and they dont in a lot of cases even bother to ask what it is that we might be looking for. Where they do bother to ask the quesiton they take the response they are given and try and squeeze what it is I want into some qualificiation which is not actually what is needed, which staff will not be happy with because they neither need not want segments of its all because there is government funding and we can give it to you for free.

Why does it make sense to go down the qualificiation route. More often than not qualificiations do not have the same content in them as sepcialist course because specialist courses are not tied to having to deliver and assess UOC’s, in fact most of the non-accredited courses we send staff on are not part of any training package but short specialist courses designed to upskill a staff member in specific skills they require. Alternatively it could be a short course with one or two UOC attached to it which the staff member could then use towards a qualificiation that they might wish to achieve. Too many people in this industry focus soley on full qualifications (probably because they are governement funded) and not enough on what it is that both organisations and staff want. It is not just organisations that want to have their staff do skill sets and non-accredited training, in fact the vast majority of requests I have from staff are not for full quals, but rather for with skill sets or specialist training that will make them better at their jobs.

Too many providers rely on selling government funded training rather than training that people and organisations need. If an RTO’s business model relies on selling governement funded programs to people and organisations without truly understanding what the person or organisation actually needs then I think that is seriously flawed.

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