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Mid-Term Review of the

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									        Mid-Term Review of the


 Productivity Places Program (PPP)


                Submission from


     Group Training Australia Ltd




February 2010
Introduction
Group Training Australia Ltd (GTA) welcomes the opportunity to respond to
this review of the Productivity Places Program (PPP).

In April 2008 GTA responded to the discussion paper Skilling Australia for
the Future released by Skills Australia. The issues and questions canvassed
in this discussion paper afforded GTA the opportunity to make comment on
various aspects of the PPP as it was understood by us at the time. Our
submission to that inquiry can be found at
www.grouptraining.com.au>National>Promotion>Reports and Speeches

To assist us in responding to the current review of the PPP GTA conducted a
survey of the group training network to ascertain the views of group training
organisations (GTOs) about the impact and effectiveness of the program from
their perspective. Not surprisingly, only GTOs that are also Registered
Training Organisations (RTOs) have been directly involved in the delivery of
PPP courses although a number that do not deliver PPP courses also took
the opportunity to express views about the program.

This submission builds on the views expressed by GTA to Skills Australia
taking account of new information since that time, including the views
expressed in our recent survey. We have not followed the strict order of the
questions posed in the mid-term review issues paper.

The Issues

Adequacy of Funding
Our members have been firmly of the view that the funding available under
the PPP is only adequate to deliver courses which are not capital intensive
and consequently relatively cheap to run. It is not a new observation however
to suggest that more the training dollar is squeezed the more likely the quality
of that training will suffer.

The inadequacy of funding also means that trade training delivered to existing
workers who are not under a contract of training is simply not viable, at least
not to an organisation that will not sacrifice quality of training or risk the
viability of a business. Job seekers and new entrants to the workforce
undertaking a traditional trade should, so far as we can tell, not be affected by
whether the training is being funded under User Choice or PPP. As the
provision of training to apprentices and trainees is uncapped and delivered at
a standard rate it should in theory make no difference from which bucket that
training is funded. No GTO has suggested otherwise.




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Relevance of the Training Programs

Are the courses meeting the needs of the labour market?

We still have a number of GTOs running RTOs who have argued, as we did in
our earlier submission, that the training programs that they are being invited to
deliver are not necessarily well aligned with the needs of their local labour
market. This is more likely to be true of existing workers although there is
some evidence that this also applies to job seekers and new entrants. We are
confident that most GTOs can be expected to be reasonably knowledgeable
about the needs of their host employers and the conditions of their local
labour market as their businesses depend up such intelligence. The complaint
has been, as it often is, that manpower planning at State and national levels is
often out of date or at too high a level and that this shortcoming is currently
being reflected in the centralist approach that is being taken to the
procurement of training under PPP.

In the case of job seekers or new entrants, why not simply pay organisations
like GTOs/RTOs to deliver training they have ascertained is in demand and
link payment to an employment outcome? Of course a different kind of
outcome would have to be found for an existing worker who is undergoing
PPP training that has been determined by all the parties at the local level to
be of most use to the employer and the worker. Examples might include
evidence of promotion, the ability to use new machinery or new skills that
have some other demonstrable outcome.

Are the courses pitched at the right level?

As GTA indicated in its earlier submission there has always been some
concern that many job seekers or even existing workers referred to PPP-
funded courses might not have sufficient foundational skills, such as literacy
and numeracy to be able to undertake the training required of them. Evidence
from the field suggest that many people do not have the wherewithal to
undertake training at Certificate III and some even struggle at level II without
support.

This has implications for referral agencies such as Job Services Australia and
the calibre of the candidates being referred for training for which they are ill-
equipped as well as for the purchasing agencies who have not allowed for the
fact that additional support is often necessary to ensure some success. There
are a range of enabling courses like those available under the Australian
Apprenticeships Access Program (ACCESS) and the Commonwealth literacy
and numeracy program that could be made to connect more effectively with
the PPP.

Institutional vs employment based training

Another issue that has been raised in relation to the PPP courses for job
seekers is the relative merits between institutional and employment-based


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training programs. Some GTOs report that some employers are reluctant to
take on graduates of these institutional courses because there is no evidence
that they have any ‘real’ experience of the workplace. We do not know to what
extent, if any, work placements are part of the PPP courses but the
indications are that as far as some employers are concerned it isn’t enough. A
few GTOs have contemplated offering a traineeship to PPP graduates who
cannot find work for this reason but the rule that precludes them from claiming
Commonwealth employer incentives on the basis that the employee has a
prior qualification at the same level is a marked disincentive.

This is a vexed issue despite the fact that in a competency based system
there should, in theory, be no distinction in how the qualification was obtained
– one is either competent or one is not. However the issue for employers will
always be one of how proficient or productive the worker is likely to be for the
wage payable and on-the-job training is seen as something of a marker of this
quality.

The training system has had to deal with this issue in the context of responses
to skills shortages and the debate still has a long way to run.


Conclusion
GTA believes that the program can make significant contribution to the
development of the Australian workforce if it is improved to take account of
the issues we have raised. We are sure that some of the concerns we have
outlined are commonly held by other stakeholders involved with the program.

We are convinced that that the interests of skills formation could be better
served if the amount of money that is budgeted for this program were used to
fund fewer but more skills intensive, high quality courses more closely aligned
to the needs of the labour market.

END




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