Communique - IRC Chairs meeting
27 September 2018
The chair of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC), Prof John Pollaers OAM, convened the Industry Reference Committee (IRC) Chairs Meeting in Melbourne on Thursday 27 September.
The meeting brought together IRC representatives, as well as representatives of Skills Service Organisations (SSO) and the AISC, to discuss progress in ensuring training packages are aligned to industry needs, addressing implementation issues and achievement against reform priorities.
Prof Pollaers detailed the substantial amount of work that has been done through the industry-led training product development system over the last year, including:
- 26 training package Cases for Endorsement approved
- 65 Skills Forecasts considered resulting in over 80 Cases for Change approved to proceed to training package development
- approval of four cross-sector project Cases for Change to proceed to training package development
- approval of further across industry scoping for three cross-sector projects
- completion of the review and structure of all IRCs
- approval to establish four new specific-purpose IRCs to respond to specific cross-sector skills needs.
In highlighting that the majority of training packages have completed transition to the 2012 Standards for Training Packages, Prof Pollaers noted that 12 training packages still remain to be transitioned and the AISC is working directly with IRCs to identify issues and ensure that these training packages progress through the system.
Prof Pollaers highlighted a number of challenges of the industry-led arrangements, including the need to further streamline the system to ensure timeliness of training package delivery while maintaining quality. While the inclusion of Cases for Change in Industry Skills Forecasts and Proposed Schedules of Work (Skills Forecast) have taken 4.5 to 10 months off the process, more could be done and IRCs were encouraged to raise any points of view in a submission to the AISC.
While acknowledging the increasing quality of Skills Forecasts this year, the meeting heard about opportunities to ensure that training package development gets to the heart of workforce needs. Workforce planning can be examined more systematically to ensure training packages reflect job roles, outcomes, and the pathways being developed by industry.
Prof Pollaers provided an update on the AISC’s engagement of Ithaca Group to gather evidence of IRC views on the efficacy of the training package development arrangements. Members were encouraged to participate in the project as this is an opportunity to highlight what is working within the current system architecture and gives IRC members an opportunity to influence the evolution of the program. IRC members were also asked to advise the AISC Secretariat if they thought members of their technical advisory committees would benefit from being involved in this process. Following the survey Prof Pollaers advised there will then be a series of focus groups to allow a deeper dive into recent industry practice and challenges.
The meeting also explored issues arising from IRC members, including:
- frustration with unduly short courses in some sectors. The results of the pre-meeting survey regarding nominal hours revealed that of the IRCs that responded, 50 per cent support IRC involvement in determining nominal hours.
- entry and work placement requirements. We need to distinguish when they are really necessary to achieving a skills outcome, and if they are creating barriers to entry. We also need to consider the impost of delivering qualifications in rural and remote areas, and requirement to consider this as part of the consultation process.
- standards for consultation and engagement with industry. Prof Pollaers acknowledged that some industries feel well engaged and some feel that engagement is less well developed. If IRCs are consulting with industry at a state-by-state level there could be some efficiencies gained by working more closely with state industry advisory bodies. Cases for Endorsement demonstrate how effective the consultation process has been, and when dissenting views have been raised, how these have been addressed. Engagement with State Training Authorities needs to be included as part of the broader engagement process.
- embedded units of competency. Discussed how the continued use of superseded imported units of competency impacts on teach-out, currency and cross-sector projects.
IRC Chairs noted that they are able to contact their AISC secretariat contact in the department directly at any time to talk about AISC decisions or the industry-led arrangements.
A panel consisting of representatives of IRCs, SSOs and the Department of Education and Training led a discussion on the successes and challenges of cross-sector projects. The panel discussed that cross-sector projects provide the opportunity to leverage expertise and knowledge from across industry to address emerging skills used by industry, and that cross sector projects will improve the transparency of the register of training products available to industry and learners.
Communication processes were also discussed, including what appropriate consultation looks like. This would include a Skill Forecast scan, deep dive on content of training packages, and engagement utilising existing systems. One example of good practice shared was the supply chains cross-sector project reference group who acted as consultants to the IRCs. They focused first on the gaps in the system and developing those units before having conversations on duplication and obsolete products. This approach resulted in continuous conversations and the development of good will.
There was a general consensus from attendees that the planning and execution of cross-sector projects should be developed and embedded before new projects are identified and progressed. It was also agreed that new cross-sector projects would only be undertaken when a genuine need had been identified.
Presentations were provided to attendees on collaborative industry engagement and workforce planning issues. Mr Michael Hartman (CEO, Skills Impact) and Mr Paul MacLeman (Chair, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing IRC) presented on the challenges faced by the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry due to the lack of portability of qualifications across sites/manufacturers and the need for recognising existing qualifications. The presentation proposed the focus of the system should be on competency and industry recognition rather than RTO enrolments.
Andrew Lafontaine from Korn Ferry shared insights from the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce. He discussed the importance of behavioural competencies in this industry and the relevance of these findings to other industries.
IRC members then discussed in groups how IRCs:
- can position themselves to respond to workforce issues now and into the future
- promote VET training packages to their industries
- engage on cross-sector issues
Key points out of these table discussions included:
- Who would undertake the strategic analysis of workforce planning and linking this to priority skills
- Behavioural/leadership and soft skills need to be addressed
- The need to validate key behaviours in relevant skills and units
Responding to workforce issues
- IRCs need to seek feedback from industry regarding gaps and emerging skills needs but this is a ‘best guess approach’
- There is a need to investigate overseas research to identify skills needs and trends
- We also need flexibility in our system to offer ‘just-in-time’ responses, possibly through micro‑credential
Engage on cross-industry issues
- RTOs need to contextualise cross-sector units when teaching them to ensure the issues translate into delivery
- The system needs to be aware of the volume of churn potentially created through cross-sector projects
Promote VET training packages to industry
- Need to engage with industry when initiating projects to ensure product meets industry or sector needs to build buy-in
- There are training products that have been developed and updated, waiting to be used, but stakeholders are not currently aware of them
Work to be progressed and reported back to the next IRC Chairs meeting:
- Convening a working group to look at the issue of superseded, imported units of competency and how this affects teach out, currency and cross-sector projects.
- Developing guidelines for implementing and evaluating future cross-sector projects.
- Developing guidelines for work placement requirements.