Valued TAFE / industry partnerships – case studies and practical research outcomes

TAFE partnership

The industry partners say they are experiencing a range of immediate and longer term benefits from their workforce development partnerships with TAFE NSW such as improved employee productivity, improved work practices and development of innovative products and services, to name just a few.

A major finding of the research is that partnerships between TAFE and industry are the key to providing enterprises with desired outcomes, such as increased productivity and improved performance. The pivotal place of partnerships is at the heart of the emerging framework or model which underpins the successful service and practice being provided by TAFE NSW Institutes.

by Dr John Mitchell John Mitchell & Associates, Improving the bottom line, September 2008 http://bit.ly/1PYiQi6 The case studies show that NSW-TAFE is successfully: • designing whole-of-enterprise workforce development initiatives in consultation with industry • customising training products and services that represent whole-of-industry requirements and local or regional variations extending the availability of education and training beyond traditional delivery, especially in the workplace • negotiating the training plans for apprentices and trainees with individual employers, so that students learn the skills the employer needs, and • identifying sources of Commonwealth and State funding that employers can access to offset the cost of training for new or existing workers. The industry partners say they are experiencing a range of immediate and longer term benefits from their workforce development partnerships with TAFE NSW such as improved employee productivity, improved work practices and development of innovative products and services, to name just a few. The ten case studies in the publication and their workforce development foci are set out in the following table.

The shorter snapshots in the publication and their workforce development foci are set out in the following table.

This research enables a start to be made on describing, in words and diagrammatically, an emerging framework or model which underpins the successful service and practice being provided to industry by the relevant TAFE NSW Institutes and staff members.

Major finding

A major finding of this research is that effective partnerships between TAFE and industry are the key to providing enterprises with desired outcomes, such as increased workforce productivity and improved organisational performance. This case study research reveals the critical elements of effective TAFE-Industry partnerships, including trust, mutual respect, a willingness to be flexible, and a commitment to work towards common goals, often over extended periods of time. Another feature of these demonstrably effective partnerships is that all parties contribute ideas, specialist expertise, strategies and energy, to ensure the participants obtain full benefits from their involvement. Relationships underpin and are critical to the formation, continuation and achievements of these partnerships. However, the concept of relationships does not cover the full range of interactions, understandings and activities that happen between TAFE and industry, as described in the cases set out in this publication. The term partnerships is needed to cover the dynamic dimensions of effective TAFE-industry collaboration such as interpersonal interactions, multiple relationships, joint planning and goal setting, ongoing negotiation and problem solving, and active monitoring, review and continual improvement.

Benefits

The snapshots and case studies in this publication provide specific examples of the benefits of collaborative partnerships between TAFE and industry. Depending on the situation, the benefits can range from the up-skilling of new employees, to providing longterm career pathways, to enhancing organisational performance and improving profit margins. The case studies highlight the following benefits identified by the enterprises concerned, of the workforce development services being provided by TAFE NSW.

• Productivity benefits.

Many of the snapshots and case studies include comments from industry about the productivity improvements gained from the partnership with TAFE. These range from managers at Franklins developing “a strategic way of thinking but they’re also very aware of the requirement to build a team and to work with teams” (case study No.2), to manufacturing personnel at BlueScope developing “tangible skills that they can relate straight to the line around continuous improvement, process control, reliability processes, trade skills and also the core manufacturing skills” (case study No.4). TAFE has also helped cattle feedlots to increase their productivity through developing greater awareness of quality assurance requirements, animal health management and occupational health and safety (case study No.9).

• Organisational benefits.

Many of the industry interviewees in this publication comment on the benefits to their organisations of partnering TAFE. For instance, Baker and Provan is looking to TAFE to assist with the development of specialist skills for its engineering plant so that it can continue to service specialist technical markets (snapshot No.7). Northparkes Mines, like all mines, requires rapid and effective skilling of new staff, and is pleased it now has “a structured, accredited training system in place where people can walk straight in and up-skill in their job a lot quicker than just by osmosis” (case study No.6).

• Market benefits.

Some industry interviewees gave examples of how their partnership with TAFE enabled them to compete better in markets or win new markets. Some benefits for Norco from its partnership with North Coast Institute are its increased ability to maintain competitiveness in international markets and to improve market share across its business divisions (case study No.7). Bega Cheese finds that, as a result of partnering TAFE, it is better able “to meet local and international audit standards from our customers and suppliers and we’re able to demonstrate that we have a well-trained workforce qualified to an agreed level” (case study No.10).

• Community development benefits.

Many industry interviewees were passionate about providing jobs for people locally, leading to the strengthening of those communities. For example, Country Energy has staff in communities spread around the state, and one of the benefits it finds from working with TAFE is that its staff mostly do not need to travel away from their families and communities to undertake training, due to TAFE’s reach across NSW (case study No.1). Similarly, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (NSW Branch) is conscious of the need to win and maintain community support for many hundreds of community pharmacies located in NSW (snapshot No.2). Its partnership with TAFE enables it to service the learning needs of this widely distributed group of employers and employees.

• Social inclusion benefits.

A number of interviewees, such as those from NSW Rural Fire Service, focused on how the TAFE partnership has enabled more female staff to acquire confidence and develop career development options (case study No.8). Other organisations like Bemax (snapshot No. 3) and Armidale Dumaresq Council (snapshot No.8) are committed to employing indigenous staff, and giving them sufficient training – in partnership with TAFE – to enable them to succeed in their work roles. Cochlear’s partnership with TAFE has enabled it to assist many staff from non-English speaking backgrounds to improve their English, hence increasing their confidence in discussing work issues (case study No.5).

• Other benefits.

Interviewees cite a range of additional benefits from partnering TAFE, such as the building of skills by more staff to compensate for the impending retirement of other staff at Sydney Water (case study No.3) and the Department of Lands (snapshot No.6). Other types of benefits from a TAFE partnership include providing assistance to RAAF staff affected by an outsourcing arrangement to gain qualifications that will open up new career paths (snapshot No.5). Smallmedium sized businesses in the Hunter region benefit from the capacity of TAFE to engage in research or to customise and deliver training for multiple or specialist enterprises (snapshot No.1). Strategies The snapshots and case studies in this publication highlight the approaches, strategies and capabilities of the teaching and other TAFE NSW staff involved in providing workforce development services, some examples of which are noted below.

• Approaches.

TAFE NSW has developed and implemented effective approaches for servicing large corporate clients such as Country Energy and the NSW Rural Fire Service that have staff spread around the state. Equally, TAFE NSW has developed approaches for servicing large numbers of small businesses such as community pharmacies who are members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia or the manufacturing businesses that are members of the HunterNet cooperative in the Hunter region or the cattle farmers with feedlots around rural NSW and Queensland. On an educational level, these approaches involve high level skills for analysing client needs, customising programs and flexibly delivering them. On a business level, these approaches include sophisticated techniques for project and relationship management. On an administrative level, these approaches often involve extensive TAFE systems for maintaining records, administering enrolments, collecting monies and issuing certificates.

• Strategies.

Many of the strategies developed by TAFE personnel over the years continue to be relevant, including conducting training needs analyses, mapping job functions to Training Package competencies, identifying employees who may be likely candidates for recognition of prior learning, providing RPL services, customising training to suit individuals, and using flexible delivery and assessment methods. Just some of the more recently developed and innovative strategies exhibited by TAFE in these eighteen cases include assisting clients with the following activities: increasing innovation levels, enhancing entrepreneurial initiatives, changing cultures, managing change, expanding markets, improving product quality and increasing workplace safety. Many of these strategies require TAFE staff to draw on their expert knowledge about niche areas within an industry. Some also require TAFE staff to apply knowledge from other disciplines such as marketing, human resources, project management, business improvement or operations management, when working with their industry partners.

• Capabilities.

The TAFE NSW staff portrayed in these eighteen cases meet and exceed all the features of the advanced VET practitioner described in my paper to a national research conference in early 2008 (Mitchell, J.G., “Capabilities of the emerging ‘advanced VET practitioner’”, AVETRA Conference, Adelaide, April 2008). These capabilities include a breadth of experience in industry, refreshed by ongoing research and networking; a deep knowledge of niche areas within their industry;

  • the ability to offer services both as a consultant and as a training provider;
  • the capacity to design, deliver and improve the use of flexible learning strategies;
  • a focus on linking training to an enterprise’s strategic planning and innovation;
  • the ability to design training that benefits both the individual and their employer;
  • a skill for positioning enterprise training so that it supports workforce development;
  • a track record of personalising training for each and every client;
  • a personal commitment to extensive and ongoing professional development; a commitment to continuous improvement of their TAFE Institute;
  • an ability to develop a sustainable training business despite thin markets;
  • and a positive focus on the bountiful opportunities in the VET market.

Advanced TAFE practitioners not only bring exceptional capabilities to their partnerships with enterprises, they also tap into the knowledge and expertise of TAFE work teams and networks, ensuring that the enterprise client has access to the capabilities of the wider TAFE system, not just to occasional, exceptional individual TAFE practitioners.

Emerging model

As noted above, a major finding of the research is that partnerships between TAFE and industry are the key to providing enterprises with desired outcomes, such as increased productivity and improved performance. The pivotal place of partnerships is at the heart of the emerging framework or model which underpins the successful service and practice being provided by TAFE NSW Institutes. The following diagram of the model incorporates the above elements and organises them into a synergistic relationship, as follows: • The model begins with the identification of industry and enterprise needs and challenges with regard to workforce planning and development. • In response to these needs and challenges, both TAFE and the enterprise employ strategies to deliver outcomes for the enterprise. • However, the strategies are of most value when a relationship exists between the parties and the strategies are implemented as part of a partnership. • This partnership creates synergies between the two sets of strategies. • The overall outcomes of the partnership for the enterprise are improved productivity of staff and increased organisational performance.

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