Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Skills Recognition Conference 2009

VETAB held the Skills Recognition conference on 25 and 26 May this year - some very interesting discussions around what is RPL and how it should be delivered.
The ultimate aim of placing the focus on RPL is to ensure that the workforce is more innovative and flexible - this is even more important in an economic downturn. World-class skills are needed for building a world-class economy.
In research presented at the conference, it was shown that over 88% of workplaces see informal coaching and in-house training as being the most popular methods of gaining new skills. So - how will we make the link between the reality of informal training and the formality of an external, formal qualifications-style training? This can only happen if informal training is given validity and the process of linking the qualification back to the workplace begins with what is happening in the workplace itself - and NOT with the training package.
It is imperative that we don't allow training to slip onto the back-burner as happened in the previous recession where it took over a decade for training to re-emerge as a vital component of skills development.
Professor Roy Green of UTS spoke about companies who need to build their own momentum for innovation to achieve spectacular growth. He says that Australia has dropped when compared to other OECD countries when it comes to our ability to innovate. He reminded the audience that even in times of depression, great innovations were taking place such as the radio and Hollywood advances. He would like to see a new commitment to a national innovation system that is more than just science and technology - a system driven by collaboration and not silos; a system that includes high and low tech and that is non-linear.
Innovation, he maintains, comes from internal knowledge in the company, interaction with customers, engaged employees, higher productivity and leadership and management skills.
In fact, Green emphasises that good management behaviour is the single most cost-effective way to improve performance in an organisation.
Green wants to see a national forum on the workplace of the future to develop a shared vision and to enable a roadmap for change.
Other speakers emphasised that recognition of skills is a strong business tool. It reduces the time spent on induction and is a faster route to productivity improvements. It helps to identify skills gaps and also provides information for workforce planning. It assists in motivating and retaining staff and also provides the benefits of nationally recognised qualifications.
Interest from companies for RPL remains high where it forms part of normal business practice - you are simply placing an accredited framework around what is being done anyway. It is part and parcel as well of becoming known as an employer of choice.
VET-speak can be a perceived barrier to people taking up RPL and it is really up to the providers to build a more personal approach for candidates.
Margaret Willis, Director of Quality Assurance Services, DET NSW, also spoke about how the uptake of RPL is generally slow as it is seen as inflexible and not well supported by providers. The COAG project now looking at RPL has definitely thrown the spotlight back onto quality recognition. She said that RPL is NOT about tick and flick and not about providing a qualification that is 2nd best.
It should be providing the learner with confidence in life-long learning and there are several models of RPL that need to be investigated for the benefit of the candidate. Nationally, only 4% of candidates have been recognised through RPL and about 10% at Diploma level. RPL is still seen as too costly and too complex.
Brian Spencer in his paper discussed our professional judgement is so important in making assessment decisions. He reminded us that our expectations can shape our outcomes.

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