The glass and glazing industry has faced serious workforce training issues in recent years. Not only was the gap between apprentice recruitment rates and industry needs widening, but the available training was inflexible and, in the case of glass processing in particular, significantly out of touch with the technology in use. The sector’s chief industry body, the Australian Glass and Glazing Association (AGGA), decided to tackle the problems head on.
“The industry made a commitment about two years ago that if we wanted a better quality and more skilled workforce as an industry we had to take responsibility for it,” Patrick Gavaghan explains.
Gavaghan was recruited by AGGA as the National Training Manager of its newly created Learning and Education Department. He introduced Preferred Supplier Agreements (PSAs) to leverage better training outcomes for the industry from the training market. He has had substantial success with PSAs in his work for other industry sectors.
“The first step is to say to a training provider: you are a supplier of a product to industry like every other supplier to our industry, and you need to make that same sort of agreement in regard to the right product, the right quality, the right time and the right price,” Gavaghan explains.
Underpinning these agreements is the knowledge that, in a market-driven system, an industry body can take its market share of business elsewhere if it’s not happy with a provider’s offerings.
In return for the provider’s commitments, Gavaghan says, the industry body has a responsibility to acknowledge that changes will take time and to support the provider through the process. AGGA also offers providers professional development for teaching staff and puts industry people into the teaching environment where needed to supplement the teaching shortfalls.
Holmesglen TAFE was the first provider to sign a PSA with AGGA.
“It has worked quite well and Holmesglen has been quite responsive,” Gavaghan says. “The Director and the Head of Department have been very forward-thinking and wanting to get things done.”
In order to get training in glass processing, which has to be done on-site given the cost and scale of the machinery, AGGA committed to supporting Holmesglen and now has three projects providing on-the-job training.
Holmesglen and AGGA are also working on a pilot program to overcome regional training shortfalls, using online learning and safety glasses fitted with cameras, which record workers skills for RPL assessment purposes.
“There are teething problems - the traditional teaching award is not ideally set up to work totally on-site - but everyone’s very positive about it and it’s working well,” says Holmesglen’s Head of Department for Carpentry and Glazing, Roger Mason. “Patrick’s been quick to say when there’s an issue and we work through it. It’s just a matter of fixing things as they occur.”
Increased flexibility of delivery for industry has also led to increased enrolments for Holmesglen.
“It shows that working with industry also has a positive outcome for providers,” Gavaghan says. “They’re getting more apprentices, more focused apprentices - and cancellation rates are beginning to drop as well.”
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