Regional and metropolitan visits provide opportunities for members to talk face-to-face with stakeholders such as employers and employees; industry, local government and community representatives; training market intermediaries; training providers, public and private; and students, apprentices and trainees.
On the 26 and 27 March 2012, the NSW Board of Vocational Education and Training undertook a visit to the Central Coast and Hunter Regions of New South Wales.
The Board visited a number of sites including a learning centre, workplaces and training facilities, and met with a range of representatives from industry, employers, community groups, training providers, and apprentices and trainees.
The purpose of the visit was to gain knowledge of vocational education and training (VET) successes, challenges and needs in the Central Coast and Hunter Regions. The visit will inform the Board in its role as the primary body providing VET advice to the NSW Minister for Education.
You can read a full report on the visit, with pictures, here: Central Coast Visit Report.
The Board’s visit to the South Coast region took in Merimbula, Bega and Eden and involved a series of consultations at different sites over a two day period from Wednesday 27 July to Thursday 28 July. The visit was aimed at increasing Board members’ knowledge about the region and enabled them to talk face to face with local groups about the region’s skills base and workforce issues. These consultations are invaluable in informing the Board in its important role of advising the NSW Minister for Education about what is happening on the ground.
The visit also provided the opportunity to look at some best practice examples of vocational education and training and investigate more closely the needs of industry in the area. Some initial research had underlined issues such as the problem of distance and access to courses and training delivery.
Board members met and talked with a wide range of representatives including regional and local TAFE NSW, registered training organisations, group training organisation, industry employers of apprentices and trainees, Aboriginal community members, government and non-government organisations, not for profit organisations, as well as a local High school and their community partnerships. In addition there was opportunity to meet and talk with apprentices and trainees in the region.
Places Visited/Consultations Made
Day 1 - 27 July
The program commenced with a community lunch hosted by the TAFE NSW - Bega campus and prepared and served by apprentices from Tourism and Hospitality at TAFE’s Barrack Restaurant. The meal was a testament to the professionalism and high quality of students and staff. Invited guests included a range of groups and individuals from across the local VET sector and Illawarra TAFE Institute.
Lucy Arundell, the Associate Director of Strategy and Development, TAFE NSW - Illawarra Institute, gave a welcome and presentation on the Illawarra Institute’s achievements in vocational education and training. Ms Arundell provided an overview of the region, which is very large with dispersed townships and 14 TAFE campuses. She outlined some of the positive initiatives undertaken by the Illawarra Institute TAFE campuses, including involvement with the Eden Community Training Partnerships, Bega Cheese, Cruise Eden, and Liquor Accord funding (for Responsible Service of Alcohol training for high school students). Illawarra Institute has strong relationships with local industry and has managed to fill all of the BVET funding enrolled nursing scholarships.
Lucy Arundell, Deputy Institute Director, Illawarra Institute, TAFE NSW with Bert Evans, Chair BVET
Key strategies identified included aligning training delivery with employment opportunities, exploring more flexible and work based delivery options, developing articulation pathways and credit arrangements with universities and the development of innovative solutions to meet emerging regional training needs, especially in the Community Services sector.
The Chairman, Bert Evans, responded by indicating that everywhere the Board goes members are inspired by local training activities.
Hospitality Apprentices who prepared and served the meals
After the lunch, the Board had its regular meeting, at the TAFE campus.
A visit to Bega Cheese, the largest employer of apprentices and trainees in the Bega Valley region (227), comprised a tour of the cheese cutting and packing plant led by Estelle Mitchell, who is an employee support officer (ESO), and a presentation by Matthew Fanning, General Manager, Human Resources. Members witnessed the technological revolution that had occurred since the Board last visited in 1998, with robotic technology and laser driven fork lifts. The Board was introduced to the range of Bega Cheese products, the end market, and the various processes which deliver the manufactured product to the loading docks.
The information session by Mr Fanning gave a broad overview of the scale of Bega Cheese’s operations which provides 40 to 50 percent of all cheese sold in Australian supermarkets. The enterprise comprises a total of 1400 employees across five sites. It is supplied by 250 farmers and has grown considerably since the early 1990s. The Bega site currently employs 680 people. The discussion of training and development proved most insightful. All food production staff are offered Certificate I to III training in Food Processing, and qualifications are also offered in transport/distribution, frontline management and for laboratory technicians. The company has invested considerably in the workforce over the last four to five years with a commitment to a skilled workforce and mechanisms designed to facilitate retention.
There are now 10-11 employment support officers (ESO) overall after an initial, positive trial. They play a vital role in induction, staff retention and training on-the-job, as “buddy trainers” with HR support. In their role, the ESOs also deliver the requisite skill and knowledge for employees to be assessed by TAFE. All have been trained in the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. Recruitment in the food production area is mostly by internal promotion, building on the skills and knowledge developed internally in partnership with TAFE NSW. A number of Bega employees are also funded by the company to undertake the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment at Bega TAFE. The company acknowledged the importance of a skilled and professional workforce to their major customers in a competitive market. It is also a gold sponsor of the local regional training awards.
Board members and DEC/STS staff on site
A number of people attended a dinner hosted by BVET in Merimbula in one of the local restaurants. These included Tony Allen - the Mayor of Bega, Paul Morris - Principal of Eden Marine Technology High School, Kevin Stephens - CEO of Auswide Projects, and key representatives from TAFE NSW – Illawarra Institute.
Day 2 - 28 July
Public Forum, Merimbula
The Board held a public forum on the morning of 28 July, with representatives from across the local vocational education and training sector. The number who attended the two hour forum was impressive, with 27 representatives from employers and businesses, RTOs, not-for-profits, adult and community education, school education, and employment services providers. Organisations represented included: Mission Australia, Auswide Projects, Adult and Community Education, Workability, Skills Training Employment Program Inc, Workways, Deanes Travel Pty Ltd, Australian Business Limited, MEGT, Lumen Christie College, Eden Marine Technology High School, Bega Cheese Ltd, and various representatives from TAFE NSW and DEC.
David Collins, General Manager, State Training Services, chaired the forum. the Chairman gave a short presentation outlining the history and achievements of the Board, including its championing of VET in Schools; its role in overseeing the training market and ensuring quality in training provision; its ongoing interest in traditional trade apprenticeships and sponsorship of major research on apprenticeships; and its involvement over many years in regional skills development, sustainability, support for less advantaged learners, and more recently, VET-higher education pathways.
The assembled representatives were asked to provide feedback to the Board on what training and education activities they do really well in the South Coast Region and what are their biggest challenges. This provided the Board members with a unique opportunity to drill down into the detail of the local issues on the ground in an interactive way. Representatives met in small groups, and at the end, the convenor of each group briefly summarised the issues raised in each table discussion.
Linda Simon, Board member, convening discussion at the forum
Bert Evans, Chair, giving the welcome presentation
Positive aspects included: hospitality and tourism training, which is well catered for in the region; VET in Schools programs, which are doing well and have excellent industry support; and the use of traineeships, which are a good way to upskill workers, enable training delivery on the job and are also working very well for school students; opportunities that are being developed in Community Services (e.g. children’s services, aged care); VET- higher education articulation with the University of Canberra; and the Eden Community Partnerships projects.
Challenges included: distances that need to be travelled for off-the-job training in traditional trades; block training arrangements that don’t mesh well with work requirements; the difficulty of getting young people into apprenticeships; the danger of “clustered doorknocking” (lack of coordination among people approaching employers for work placements and training places); the need for more employers to take on VET in Schools students; the need for more support for young people aged 21-25 and for mentors to provide training support; and ad hoc changes in government policy (e.g. Certificate II traineeship funding). It was also suggested that given the regional demographics there needed to be more flexible training delivery models, and that the future roll out of the NBN might assist in this.
Eden Marine Technology High School
The Principal of the School, Mr Paul Morris gave a presentation which detailed many of the school’s initiatives, including participation in the Eden Community Training Partnerships, close engagement with the Aboriginal community, a Trades Training Centre at the school, and participation in the Sapphire Coast Learning Community with Bega High School. The Principal said the school had 700 students, five percent of whom are Aboriginal, and an emphasis on a marine studies curriculum in the vocational area. Many of the initiatives involved developing community partnerships and pooling resources in a context of a population that is dispersed and where poor public transport and infrastructure is a problem and long distances have to be travelled.
There was an outline given of the Eden Community Training Partnerships whose purpose is to strengthen community, school, TAFE and university networks to develop real world education, training and employment opportunities across the Eden community. The aim is to identify local industry training needs and to have them inform the delivery of training programs for young people (to grow local industries), and to create vocational pathways between school/ TAFE/ university and industry. It is ultimately about creating a skilled workforce for the region through capacity building.
Board members and DEC staff at Eden Marine High School (Principal, Paul Morris at left centre)
The Board was then taken on a tour of the major school facilities including the TAFE TVET classroom where a Certificate III in Health Services class was underway. There followed an inspection of the Sapphire Coast Trades Training Centre Metalwork Facility where a modern workshop and equipment will support marine studies (Marine Operations Certificate II) and boat building. Apart from health/allied health and marine/metal/engineering, the third pathway which is under consideration is tourism, including eco and cultural tourism, with the potential of the Bundian Way, a traditional Aboriginal heritage walking track.
The Board met Pastor Ossie Cruse, the Chairman of the Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council, in addition to a number of representatives from the Aboriginal community, at the Jigamy Farm Cultural Centre. Three programs were outlined including Tourism and the Bundian Way, a partnership with Eden High School providing Cultural Awareness training for school groups, and Eco Tourism with Auswide.
Guided tour of the Cultural Centre
There was much discussion of some of the problems Jigamy had encountered since 1998. These included concerns about the scrapping of the Community Development Employment Program which removed a large amount of funding and diminished the capacity for self management. There were also problems with the access road into the farm. The major issue was going to be how Jigamy’s capacity to offer training can operate post CDEP. As to the future, they were looking at offering more training in tourism in partnership with Auswide, TAFE NSW, the NPWS, Forestry and Local Government, focusing on the Bundian Way.
Kevin Stevens, the CEO of Auswide gave a brief introduction about the organisation’s funding and staff/student profile. Auswide embraces a number of entities including an RTO, GTO and employment service provider. It operates up and down the coast and is a not-for-profit organisation. It employs approximately 90 EFT staff, with 60 apprentices/trainees, 15 labour hire and 40 contractors, and deals with about 45 host employers. As an RTO it provides a number of courses in retail, hospitality and construction. A number of employers of apprentices and their apprentices were assembled and gave the Board an opportunity to find out first hand what the challenges are in this regional context. Some were quite frank in their views about arduous travelling because of the distance between their employment location and training providers, where off-the-job training in areas such as plumbing is not available locally. Carpentry is also a problem in terms of access.
Observing and interaction with a Train the Trainer class at Auswide
The most commonly acknowledged challenge to the region was the distance required to be travelled by young people to access course delivery in a region where the population was small and dispersed and there was limited transport and infrastructure. There was acknowledgement of the limited range of courses on offer locally, which may exacerbate skills shortages in some trade areas and undermine the region’s economic viability.
It was recognised that a range of solutions and initiatives were either in existing models, under way or could be as basic as better utilisation of existing resources such as VET in schools/school based apprenticeships and traineeships, and better coordination of work placements. Some argued for better utilisation of Bega campus such as access to traditional trades courses rather than reliance on distant Canberra.
Meeting with the Greater Northern Skills Development Group
On 8 and 9 March 2011, members of the Board visited the New England region to consult with local business people, employers, training providers and vocational education and training students about skills needs in the region.
On the morning of 8 March, the Board joined members of the Greater Northern Skills Development Group (GNSDG) in Tamworth. Following a networking morning tea, welcome to country and launch of the New England Training Awards, the Board’s Chairman, Bert Evans AO, made a presentation to the GNSDG.
Mr Evans highlighted the importance to the Board of visiting different parts of the State, and congratulated the Greater Northern Skills Development Group as a great example of people from different sectors working together to improve skills development in the region. He indicated that the Board wanted to learn from those present about skills and workforce issues affecting the Greater Northern Region.
Bert Evans AO addressing the Greater Northern Skills Development Group, Tamworth, NSW, 8 March 2011
Mr Evans briefly outlined the Board’s functions and history, including the Board’s championing of Vocational Education and Training in Schools, where he congratulated the region on its high take up of school based apprenticeships and traineeships. He also summarised the Board’s involvement in oversighting the NSW Training Market to ensure the highest quality of training, and its work on traditional trade apprenticeships, where the Board is undertaking a groundbreaking survey of apprentices and employers to advise on possible reforms. Mr Evans also talked about the Board’s fostering of regional development initiatives, including learning regions which involve all relevant sectors, and the Board’s demonstration and innovation projects that have focused on Aboriginal learners.
Board member Bill Wooldridge discusses skills issues with Melissa Wortman from the Agrifoods Industry Training Advisory Body.
Leslie Loble, Deputy Director-General, Strategic Planning and Regulation, followed with a summary of national developments in vocational education and training. This included an outline of moves to a national VET regulator, the review of the Australian Qualifications Framework, the development of a unique student identifier for VET students, and implementation of the Productivity Places Program, where in NSW there has been very strong take-up.
Later in the morning, the Board heard from groups seated at different tables about training and education activities that Greater Northern region does really well. These include: networking and industry connections (such as through the Greater Northern Skills Development Group); school based apprenticeships and traineeships; work placements; training awards; and the Way Ahead mentoring program and other Aboriginal programs. The region is also blessed with a strong local economy.
Challenges included: distance (impacting on training providers, learners who have to travel to courses, and block release arrangements); school students missing out on VET opportunities; logistical problems with VET in Schools; getting employers to take on unskilled people; the need for more emphasis on job readiness and lower level AQF skills; lack of cultural competence with Aboriginal learners; cost of compliance training; meeting the needs of disengaged learners and those seeking higher level skills; and gaps in training availability and lack of user choice of training providers.
David Collins, General Manager, State Training Services, talks with people attending the GNSDG Forum
Additional needs included: better pathways to higher level qualifications; programs for disengaged school students; retention of apprentices and trade skills in local towns; more flexible delivery of VET in Schools; more resources for TAFE; more funding flexibility; more access to trainers and assessors and more professional development; more opportunities for practical skills development (e.g. with agricultural machinery); access to appropriate training and support services; and ways to address cross-border issues.
The Board also heard a presentation from former Board member, Cathy Duncan, about her very successful work within ANZ to increase the number of Aboriginal trainees and employees.
Visit to Peel Valley Machinery
Following a Board meeting in the afternoon, Board members joined State Training Services staff for a site visit to Peel Valley Group Pty Ltd, an agricultural machinery, trucks and car dealership in Tamworth.
Peel Valley has an excellent reputation as an employer of school based trainees, who if successful, are taken on as apprentices on the completion of their HSC. Board members met with a number of school based trainees and apprentices, who were very positive about their experience at the company.
Kevin Power and Leslie Loble, Board members, meet trainees at Peel Valley
The Board also listened to a presentation by key Peel Valley staff, including Steve John, Sales and Marketing Manager, Martin Gillies, Compliance and Training Manager, and Ross Thomas, Tamworth Branch Manager. The presentation explained Peel Valley’s philosophy in encouraging school based traineeships (SBTs), which includes recognition of the shortage of technicians since the 1990s, and a desire to offer long term career opportunities to local residents and to keep skilled people in Tamworth. Peel Valley advertises its SBT program widely, and insists that students who are interested attend a briefing session with their parents and also come to Peel Valley for their Year 10 work experience.
Board member Ben Bardon meets staff and trainees at Peel Valley Machinery
On completion of a school based traineeship and their HSC, successful students are then offered apprenticeships, commencing in Year 2 of the apprenticeship. Peel Valley chooses its SBTs based on motivation and the capacity to be a team player, rather than on whether or not they possess mechanical skills. The company prefers to offer SBTs rather than school based apprenticeships because it’s a two year commitment for both parties, and they believe it is critical for their employees to finish the HSC. The size of the firm is a particular advantage because trainees and apprentices can network and learn from one another.
Peel Valley Group’s Ross Thomas, school based trainees, and Marie Minslow from State Training Services, NSW Office of Education
Since 1995, Peel Valley Machinery has had 75 apprenticeships, of whom 10 are current, and 46 of the remaining 65 have completed (a 71% completion rate). Of these, 10 are still employed with the company. Prior to the introduction of SBTs, Peel Valley found that they only retained 11% of apprentices who completed. Since the introduction of SBTs that figure has increased to 63%.
Dinner at TAFE NSW – New England Institute
Board members joined local dignitaries, business and training representatives at a dinner held at the TAFE NSW Hospitality Restaurant, Futures. The dinner provided a relaxed opportunity for Board members to discuss issues with major stakeholders in regional skills and training. Speeches - covering the work of the Greater Northern Skills Development Group, Australian Training and Consulting, and TAFE NSW – New England Institute - inspired great confidence in those managing skills development in the region.
The Board was impressed with the exceptional quality of the meal and the welcoming ambience. The Board particularly enjoyed the opportunity to observe the dedicated hospitality students who prepared and served the dinner so professionally.
Bert Evans AO, Chairman of BVET, addressing the dinner held at TAFE NSW New England Institute’s Futures Restaurant, 8 March
Visit to Blush Premium Tomatoes, Guyra, 9 March
On Wednesday 9 March the Board travelled to Guyra to visit the Blush Premium Tomato Hydroponic Farm and to discuss the company’s training program. The Blush Tomato glass houses span 20 hectares and produce over 19 million tomatoes annually, making them an extremely impressive production site. The truss tomatoes are grown in a recyclable medium and the company also recycles water and other materials.
Blush Tomatoes prides itself on having brought significant local employment to Guyra, with about 260 jobs already created. This has had a very significant impact on the town. Blush Tomatoes takes its responsibility to its employees and the town very seriously. It takes a “People First” approach. This includes hiring people for their character and then training for skills, and actively offering employment to the spouses of current employees.
Greg Poetscha (front), Regional Manger, North Coast and New England State Training Services and Linda Simon, Board member, prepare for the visit
In terms of the work performed at the plant, the aim is for workers to know the whole plant and all stages involved in tomato growing, including pollination, chipping, picking and packing. There is also a strong high tech element to work in the hydroponic farm, including the need to understand robotics and computer controlled machinery such as picking trolleys, which requires engineering, computing and maintenance skills. The firm’s holistic approach to training increases employees’ commitment to their work, and enables those who are interested to progress with the company and to enter management positions.
Board members Ben Bardon and Kevin Power hear about the management of truss tomatoes at the Hydroponic Farm
Overseas workers make up part of the workforce, and the company supports a significant training program. This includes having about 90 Certificate III and IV trainees on staff, who receive on-the-job experience and training on site through a registered training provider. Board members heard from one successful trainee, Andrew Danieletto, who explained how he had found the training challenging but very satisfying. He indicated that he had learned a great deal about glasshouses, how plants are propagated, and mediums for growing. With the challenges had come increased confidence.
Chairman, Bert Evans, and other Board members learn about tomato
growing in one of the enormous glasshouses at Blush Tomatoes
The BVET visit to New England confirmed the importance of strong links between local businesses, training providers and government to maximise the chance that young people will stay in rural areas. It also demonstrated how two very successful companies in the region have built significant workforces, embraced a strong philosophy of training and been commercially successful.
The Board’s February meeting at the National Indigenous Excellence Centre (NCIE) in Redfern provided the Board with an opportunity to learn about this most recent and very positive development. The Board was fortunate to meet and be taken on a guided tour of the facility and to learn first hand from its CEO, Mr Jason Glanville, about its mission and achievements.
The Centre was officially launched in February 2010 by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Federal and State politicians and other dignitaries. In all, the facilities and services provided to the community by the Centre include fully equipped gyms, industrial-sized kitchen, dining hall, 25 metre swimming pool, other sporting facilities, a computer room, classrooms, conference rooms and a 120 bed accommodation wing. The Centre, which is on the site of the old Redfern Public School, is large and central to the Indigenous and local community which it is designed to serve.
left picture: Board Chairman, Bert Evans AO and Mr Glanville, CEO of NCIE
right picture: BVET member Ben Bardon with Mr Glanville, CEO of NCIE and BVET Chairman Bert Evans AO
Mr Glanville explained to the Board that the Centre offers four major developmental pathways: Sport, Health and Wellbeing, Arts and Culture, and Learning and Innovation. The approach taken is holistic and aims to improve opportunities for Indigenous people of all ages and to focus on excellence. Now entering its second year of operation, Mr Glanville is proud of the more than 40 partnerships entered into with other organisations, including the Aboriginal Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) and the National Institute for Dramatic Art (NIDA). The impressive training kitchen, he said, was supported via partnerships with restaurants.
picture: CEO Jason Glanville (left of pic) with BVET members
The Centre’s computer lab, Mr Glanville said, hosted the first Indigenous CISCO IT training academy offering accredited qualifications. The Centre also provides Indigenous school children with the opportunity for intensive learning visits which have had a notable impact on individual self esteem. It hosts and provides accommodation and training facilities for indigenous and overseas football teams including the Fijian National Rugby Union and Tongan and Samoan Teams. The Centre operates two commercial gyms with subsidised Indigenous membership. Out of a total of 1700 gym members there are 1000 Aboriginal members working to improve their health and fitness. The Centre also runs a swim program for Aboriginal school children.
Mr Glanville emphasised that the Centre is a positive approach to tackling social exclusion, to raising the expectations of Indigenous people and to encouraging them to strive for their dreams and to work hard. The Board was impressed by this innovative facility that supports capacity building for Indigenous people and the community in multiple ways.
picture: CEO of NCIE Mr Jason Glanville (left of pic) with Board members and David Collins General Manager State Training Services (far right of pic)
picture: View of the NCIE grounds and buildings
Chairman Bert Evans and board members Leslie Loble, Kevin Power, Ben Bardon visited the John Morony and Dillwynia Correctional Centres. Members were welcomed at the centres by Luke Grant, Assistant Commissioner, who provided an overview of the current work being undertaken to give inmates a wide range of skills and VET-related training to help them gain meaningful employment after release and to lessen the likelihood of re-offending.
The Board was impressed with what they saw in the prison workshops, with inmates engaged in meaningful training and work, learning valuable skills. The Board was very interested in seeing what could be done to help inmate trainees transition into another employer and/or training organisation once they are released. Facilitating the completion of their traineeships is a key to giving inmates a successful start in the community, with the goal of lowering the rates of recidivism. The Board will continue to assist ongoing negotiations with training organisations to help facilitate inmate training.
The board has visited 70 locations between 1997 and 2011 including;
- Tamworth - Peel Valley Machinery and Guyra - Blush Tomatoes (2011)
- Windsor - John Marony and Dillwynia Correctional Centres (2010)
- Sydney – COAG Recognition of Prior Learning Projects (2009)
- Maitland – Try a Trade event (2009)
- Sydney – Worldskills Australia (2009)
- Western Sydney – Structured Workplace Learning Refugee Forum (2008)
- Parkes and Condobolin – The Way Ahead (2008)
- Richmond – Qantas Defence services (2008)
- Western Sydney – Evans High School and Delany College (2007)
- Penrith and Blue Mountains – Corporate Partners for Change program, Skillswest Training Centre, O-I Glass, Blue Mountains Hotel School, Delfin Lend Lease Ropes Crossing Skilling and Employment Centre (2007)
- Bankstown – Birrong Boys’ High School (2007)
- Campbelltown – TAFE NSW – South Western Sydney Institute, Sarah Redfern High School (2007)
- Rhodes – Electro Skills Centre (2007)