Training & assessment, briefings, and workshops

Peter Strempel

Motivation might be the best quality of an employee, but being adequately trained comes at least a close second.

Having the right skills can make the difference in competing effectively, meeting and surpassing customer expectations, and boosting morale through employer and self-recognition of high-achieving individuals and teams.

For most organisations, keeping employee skills up to date means formal and informal training aligned to Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) system.

Since mid-2019 the national training regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has been enforcing the nationally mandated deprecation of previous qualifications for developing, delivering, and assessing VET training courses. To be qualified VET instructors now requires the TAE40116 Certificate IV. I hold that certificate, and the underpinning masters’ degrees to teach business and IT subjects. I do not teach industrial subjects.

On this page I explain what I can do help with–

VET control structure diagram
FIGURE 1: the national control structure of VET standards.

Accredited training

Australia has a regulated, national approach to training and skills formation, governed by a structure that includes Commonwealth and state governments, employer and union representatives, Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), and learners themselves through feedback mechanisms (see Figure 1 on the right).

A regulated system means a lot of acronyms and layers of complexity. This is one of the reasons why training is best designed and delivered by a certified trainer like me. However, the regulatory overhead also means that modules and certifications are portable across all states and territories, and candidates can take their time to complete certifications, even between jobs and across geographical locations.

Qualifications and skills frameworks

The content of accredited training, and the selection of VET modules for sub-accredited programmes, aligns with the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACS) and the Australian Qualifications Framework (see Figure 2 below left left).

These frameworks provide a clear path in skills and professional development for everyone from school-leavers to seasoned specialist.

Training and qualifications frameworks
FIGURE 2: Australia’s training and qualifications frameworks.

It is important for both employers and trainers to pitch training programmes and their delivery at the right target group, so training should be based on a sound understanding of what level of competence already exists among proposed training programme participants.

Each accredited VET module, accessible through the national VET course repository, has guidelines about pre-requisites for modules, so learners participating in a particular module or programme must meet all those prerequisites, which in turn means employers should be able to measure the competency levels of their employees. Alternatively, a trainer like me can audit the competency levels of employees according to VET standards.

Accredited VET modules range between Certificate I and Advanced Diploma level shown in Figure 2 above.

The diagram shows five levels of competence defined under the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework (CSfW) as —

  1. Novice with little or no practical experience, highly reliant on explicit ‘rules’ such as instruction and rules, and requires significant guidance and support.
  2. Advanced beginner, with some practical experience still reliant on rules and assistance, but is beginning to exercise autonomous behaviour in familiar, routine situations.
  3. Capable performer with enough practical experience to identify patterns and organising principles and establish priorities for action, can adopt a systematic, analytical approach to tasks, including in unfamiliar situations.
  4. Proficient performers have considerable practical experience with growing recognition of principles that guide actions. Workers at this level respond to situations in an increasingly intuitive and flexible way, seeking guidance only when making important decisions.
  5. Expert performers have extensive practical experience with an understanding of both big picture issues and fine detail. Such workers operate intuitively and flexibly in highly complex situations, and are capable of innovating by improving on practices for more efficient outcomes.

With a Certificate IV Training & Assessment, I am accredited to teach and assess AQF courses to Certificate IV level. My master’s degrees in business and IT mean I specialise in those areas.

I have prepared more detailed descriptions of the various qualifications on a separate page.

Sub-certification training

Not all necessary training leads to a certification right away. Sometimes workplace-specific training is focused on only one or two areas. For example, a small auto parts business might need warehousing staff to train on using its EFTPO systems, and to use office software to draft and print appropriate invoices. This business could choose existing VET modules on office and retail skills to teach only those two modules.

Employees who successfully complete the chosen modules might then add these to any future, compatible training to head towards or complete a certification.

My qualifications accredit me to consult on your training needs, select appropriate VET modules, tailor these to suit your needs while still maintaining national VET standards integrity, and then to deliver the training modules in your workplace or other suitable venue.

Core skills

One of the requirements in VET training is to meet the per-requisites mandated in some training modules, which can include skills not related directly to the work functions your organisation has in mind.

For example, some modules require literacy and numeracy to a certain level that might be difficult for some employees to achieve, or for an employer to know about without assessing and recording those skills for individual employees.

Skils like literacy and numeracy are part of the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework (CSfW).

My qualification assures you that I know of and meet national standards for training program design, delivery, and assessment, but also that I understand and apply the fundamental principles underlying the CSfW.

Developed collaboratively by industry and government, the CSfW was brought together into a single framework by the Commonwealth Government in 2013 to make more clear and explicit a set of non-technical skills and knowledge that underpin successful participation in work.  These non-technical skills were identified by employers, consolidated in the framework, and expressed in a number of training modules embedded into accredited courses.

The scope of the framework, applied to vocational education and training is illustrated in Figure 3 below.

CSfW diagram
FIGURE 3: interlinking priorities of the CSfW.

Key to the framework is recognising a number of contexts for learning and skills development, shown in Figure 3 as the outer ring of situations in which such skills are necessary and exercised.

The content of Figure 3 is based on a diagram in the original CSfW document, and shows the core goal of highly skilled workplace competence being comprised of three interrelated areas: basic management and coping skills necessary for work; literacy, language, and numeracy (LLN) competence; and the specific technical skills required by job rôles.

Facilitation strategies and learning styles

Another, equally important set of principles applying to VET concern training delivery itself—the way trainers relate to learners.

These include–

  • Trainers understand they are dealing with adults.
  • Trainers are more facilitators than teachers.
  • VET training is not asessed competitively, with percentage scores comparing students against a statistical curve and each other. Instead, the VET system uses the simple distinction between competent and not yet competent.
  • Trainers know that adults have different learning styles, and try to embed a mix of them in programmes they deliver.

A common range of learning styles was described by Ken Pawlak and William Bergquist in their article for the Professional School of Psychology —

Andragogic, from Greek words meaning ‘leading man’ (as opposed to pedagogic ‘leading children’).  This method focuses on adult learners with existing knowledge and experience, but with a need for further training, possibly for career advancement or taking on a new rôle.  It is the preferred model for VET programmes, assuming adult learners to be largely self-motivated and self-directed, independent, and want to manage their own learning processes.

Appreciative.  The assumption here is that participants are already well educated and trained, and come to a workshop or seminar to collaborate for extended and new understandings.  A good model for moderator-led workplace briefings and workshops.

Pedagogical.  As already noted, this style adopts an authoritarian ‘telling’ approach most familiar from school classrooms, assuming learners to lack knowledge and skills, and to require a high degree of imposed discipline.

Transformative learning and teaching seeks to pack the punch of a major new life experience, such as those usually associated with marriage, the birth of children, the death of parents or other loved ones.  It is probably best suited to personal development and team building programmes.

I keep all these approaches in mind when developing and delivering training, matching the appropriate styles to collateral like presentation slides, hand-outs, and participative content, like role plays or other group activities.

Briefings and workshops

Organisations often have a need to conduct staff briefings or workshops as part of change management processes or other organisational needs. The services of an experienced facilitator like me can be beneficial in delivering content in a manner aligned to adult training principles as described above.

Using a facilitator rather than an internal manager can help to break the ice, reduce barriers to participation and honesty, and draw out information insiders might regard as obvious or understood when it really isn’t.

I can help you in those circumstances, by applying my skills and experience in designing and delivering outcome-directed training to formal courses and less formal information briefings and workshop sessions. Moreover, I can apply the full portfolio of management and IT skills to the content area of briefings or workshops.

Contact me to discuss your needs.