Skills & training – the old, the new and the future

TAFE Queensland SkillsTech has a wide-angle view on Australia’s skills, training and recruitment landscape: clients range from single subscribers to multinational conglomerates, while courses and programs are equally diverse.

Everything old is new

Growth in traditional trade training continues apace at TAFE Queensland SkillsTech, with its light and heavy automotive schools undergoing something of a renaissance, leading to the development of heavy/large engine reconditioning capability and auto mechanical/electrical dual trade qualifications.

Stonemasonry is another trade poised to flourish. Originally based at Eagle Farm, the school recently relocated to TAFE Queensland SkillsTech’s flagship Acacia Ridge Training Centre, occupying a custom-built workshop space featuring new equipment and tools.

As at 8 August 2014, stonemasonry was listed by the Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE) on its Skills Shortage List and this is also reflected nationally. According to stonemasonry teacher Steve Sullivan, the new workshop will be one of the most advanced training facilities globally when it officially opens in November.

“It’s a big call I know, but the scale and scope of our capability will be unparalleled. For training, it means we will be able to take a more hands-on approach for masonry applications used in manufacturing, such as kitchen bench tops, to monumental and heritage restoration work,” Mr Sullivan Said.

Developing existing workers

The recently launched Registered Trade Skills Pathway (RTSP) program is a fully-funded program giving existing workers in manufacturing and engineering industries an alternative to traditional apprenticeship, Certificate III qualifications and formal recognition as a tradesperson.

Stephen Gates, recognition services assessor at TAFE Queensland SkillsTech, said it’s important to create pathways to trade qualifications for workers that build on a worker’s existing trade-based skills, knowledge and experience.

“The nature of employment in the manufacturing, engineering and heavy auto industries can make it difficult for unqualified workers such as labourers and trades assistants to formalise their skills and experience and access extra training where needed,” Mr Gates said.

“Those who are currently employed and for a variety of personal or employment reasons may not be able to access the traditional apprenticeship way. This pilot program recognises a broad range of work and life experiences, with the availability of training for persons who may have small ‘gaps’ in the skills and knowledge required at a trade level.”

Delivered in partnership with DETE, more than $1 million is being invested to subsidise 100 training places for those with existing skills and experience in the manufacturing and engineering industries.

“The manufacturing and engineering RTSP pilot has only just been launched and we’ve already filled 10 out of 100 positions. I’m confident we won’t have any trouble filling the 100 positions available,” Mr Gates said.

Increasing organisational capability, enhancing skills

While talk around town dwells on the changing nature of skills, training and recruitment in the mineral and resource sectors, TAFE Queensland SkillsTech is already experiencing a ramp-up in demand for niche, highly specialised training options to ensure Australian resource companies stay ahead of the skills game.

High density polyethylene (HDPE) welding is a prime example. Developed through collaboration with key partners Queensland Gas Company (QGC), Iplex Pipelines and GF Piping Systems, TAFE Queensland SkillsTech’s development of HDPE welding courses addressed a twofold problem: challenges faced by QGC in terms of HDPE pipe infrastructure and critical skill shortages in Queensland’s natural gas sector more broadly.

As result of the collaboration, TAFE Queensland SkillsTech wrote resources to align to the national training framework, including industry centric resources such as:

  • Butt weld polyethylene plastic pipelines (PMBWELD301B)
  • Electro fusion weld polyethylene pipelines (PMBWELD302B)
  • Non-accredited: Hot tapping and squeeze off – Statement of Participation contextualised under electrofusion welding (a national competency).

This delivery of nationally recognised qualifications/statements of attainment gives graduates transferable competencies – a training first for Queensland’s energy sector – and consistency in training.

The HDPE welding training and delivery model, established by TAFE Queensland SkillsTech, has been eagerly adopted by other key players, including Murphy Pipe and Civil and Origin Energy, and leading vocational teacher Danny Platt hasn’t been busier.

Delivered in the field and in a simulated workshop environment at TAFE Queensland SkillsTech’s HDPE PE100 Centre of Excellence at the Acacia Ridge Training Centre in Brisbane, Mr Platt is regularly engaged to train, assess and verify HDPE competencies all over Australia.

“Last week I was at Miles and Roma, then it was down to Tasmania, and next week I’m at Dalby and Chinchilla,” Mr Platt said.

With applications beyond oil, gas and natural resources (think water and other infrastructure) Mr Platt attributes TAFE Queensland SkillsTech’s success at HDPE welding to continued partnerships with co-providers like Iplex and GF Piping Systems.

“Hot tapping and squeeze off has certainly generated the biggest industry response and this means we have access to the latest technology and equipment and plenty of it, with our industry co providers sharing the latest trends and strategies. I believe we are also one of the very few offering training in hot tapping and squeeze off of HDPE,” Mr Platt said.