WTF? (Workplace training’s flexible?)

WTF? (Workplace training’s flexible?)

Since my last article regarding apprentice Workplace training’s flexible, I have been overwhelmed by the level of support and written feedback I have received in relation to the topic. That feedback is extremely valuable and has already made a difference, with a business case study being put forward to hopefully achieve funding to do an update of the present training package. Thank you to everyone that responded – I really appreciate all your comments and support.

It has inspired me to go a little further, to bring to light and address something I consider a very big part of the issue, not just from the skill loss perspective, but the dropout rate and learning engagement component as well.

I’ll start with these questions:

Are you using flexible delivery Workplace training’s flexible for apprentices because you think it’s easier for your business?

Do you feel your registered training organization (RTO) isn’t delivering a lot of training under this model?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, there is a high probability you don’t understand your requirements and responsibilities under this training model.

If you are using the workplace training’s flexible delivery model and believe your RTO is responsible for the delivery of training to your apprentices, equivalent to that delivered at a TAFE or simulated bakery environment, you are 100 percent wrong.

Flexible delivery training of apprentices in baking started in Queensland in the late 1990s to early 2000s and was brought in as an option after the ‘industry’ wanted to stop having to send apprentices to TAFE for weeks at a time to complete the formal component of theory and practical training. Sounds great right? In theory, it would be a fantastic idea, but we have all been duped. There were some very critical elements around the delivery aspect that was, well, not ‘explained’.

Since then, it has spread across the country and is utilized by the vast majority of RTOs. Some private RTOs use this method exclusively. Its take up rate has been so high in fact, some RTOs cannot deliver classroom training now even if they wanted to, as the reduced numbers don’t justify the cost.

It is now very clear that flexible delivery’s use as the preferred method of training delivery has been detrimental to the training and learning process, and in conjunction with the Workplace training’s flexible package issues as previously stated, has contributed heavily to the decline of skill and knowledge, comparatively to the period prior to its inception. Does this mean that it can’t be delivered successfully? No, there are employers who do understand their responsibilities and put in the required work to ensure that training happens effectively. However, they are the minority, and they will tell you the level of work required is phenomenal, and it would actually be easier to send apprentices to a classroom environment.

This is a very misunderstood area in training and hasn’t ever been addressed. It has always been sold as the answer to problems of block release, but failure to properly educate and explain the employers role and responsibility under the flexible delivery model has led to a belief that training is not being properly delivered at the RTO level, when in fact, it’s happening exactly as it should be under the rules and requirements of the training package, and the government.

Once an employer chooses the flexible delivery model, they are responsible for the delivery of all components of the formal training process; the RTO simply takes on the role of monitor and assessor only. The better RTOs out there will, when available, offer additional training. But, this is something they choose to do – they are not obliged to do it.

All the work normally undertaken in-house at a TAFE or private training facility must then be delivered by the employer. The RTO will deliver workbooks and check those books, and when ready, arrange for the assessment of the apprentice, but the support, study, and completion of those workbooks must be done in work time and managed and monitored by those people charged with the responsibility of teaching the apprentices. In most states, there is a legal requirement for paid study release time to allow for these workbooks to be completed, but feedback from many RTOs suggests this rarely happens.

I think for many bakeries, the use of flexible delivery training has become an easier option for sure, but this lack of understanding of its requirements, combined with the weak and outdated training package we have, means it actually turns into apprentices not being trained. While sending apprentices to an RTO may take them out of the business and production roster for a period of time, it has, in many cases, a better chance of delivering training than a poorly understood and delivered workplace model. There are requirements under the training package that struggle to be delivered effectively in a workplace so are being swapped out for easier to delivery options that don’t contribute to the basic skill requirements for bakers and pastry cooks in the industry.

Of great concern is the longer-term financial sustainability side of this training method for RTOs. It is very easy to work out that one good teacher in a classroom with 15 to 20 apprentices, delivering practical and theory components simultaneously, is generally not only more successful but also financially sensible by comparison to the same teacher driving hundreds of kilometers to find the apprentices they were supposed to meet with didn’t bother to show up or are falling asleep as they have just worked a 13-hour shift. So, the teacher turns around and drives hundreds of kilometers back. At the end of the day, it is our tax dollars that pay for this to happen, and as a profitable, sustainable business model, it just doesn’t stack up. We are spending more and getting much, much less.

It is generally accepted by most RTOs that with the flexible delivery workplace model, dropout rates are higher and progression is considerably slower than when delivered in the classroom environment. There are many reported cases of apprentices that have not completed workbooks for more than a year, or they lose them and then they have to be re-issued. These are all additional costs to the process that are ultimately paid for again with our tax dollars.

The foundation of all apprenticeships is the imparting of knowledge, from the experienced to the inexperienced. In many cases, as an industry, we have lost sight of this fact. It’s the wrong value placement. We’re looking for value in time-saving and ease of use, rather than understanding that apprentices who become bakers can only be of real value if they can deliver the required minimum performance that industry requires. If they can’t, they don’t deliver value at all. Workplace training’s flexible for end value takes time and is very much a delayed gratification process. In a lot of cases, the business that trains an apprentice well won’t always get to see or experience their real value, that may go to someone else. But, as an industry, we win in the long term as it becomes easier to find the right people with the right skills to help support and grow your business vision.

I urge you to consider this information when considering the training model for your current and future apprentices. Identify your capabilities and try to understand that what is good for the apprentice can ultimately be good for the business, and the baking industry. Better training does drive better skills and ultimately delivers greater value.

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