This document was produced by the author(s) based on their research for the report Continuity and change: Employers’ training practices and partnerships with training providers, and is an added resource for further information. The report is available on NCVER’s Portal: . The views and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government, state and territory governments or NCVER. Any errors and omissions are the responsibility of the author(s).
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There has been a lack of comprehensive research relating to the current state of employer training, with the majority of existing work in this area being between 10 and 20 years old. Since the mid-2000s there have been substantial changes to the Australian economy, including the effects of the Global Financial Crisis, industry restructuring, and increasing globalisation and competition. Concomitantly there have been major changes in the VET system relating to government funding, the reorganisation of State TAFE systems, and incentives for training providers to work more closely with employers. In these changed environments, the nature of employer training and the relationship between providers and employers needs to be re-examined. The lack of research evidence is unfortunate since it is over the past decade that Commonwealth and State governments substantially increased their direct investment in employers’ use of VET.
It is commonly accepted that continued industry and organisational change is producing flatter, more flexible and responsive organisations with work cultures that support employees who need to be more autonomous, innovative and more customer-focused than in the past. Australian workers now require a wider range of capabilities, skills and technical know-how in order to successfully operate in these changed and highly competitive environments. Significantly, as noted by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (2013, 2014), there is a clear link between the provision of quality formal learning and non-certified learning and increased workplace productivity.
Most research attention has focused on formal VET and employers. Numerous reports have commented on the changes that are occurring in the Australian VET sector (Callan et al. 2007; Stanwick 2009; Harris & Simons 2012; Allen Consulting Group 2013; Department of Industry, 2014a). The VET system has undergone a significant and permanent transformation towards being more focused on training for specific employers rather than for the general labour market. This development has created a change in the ways in which institutions are managed and how VET teachers work, including engaging in more marketised and commercially-driven behaviours, and more contextualisation of training. Over the last decade, the quantum of total State government funding for VET has increased, although this is now beginning to reverse. But it is also argued by many, including Burke (2013) that VET is underfunded compared with other sectors of education.
A number of initiatives to promote employer training, specifically using nationally-recognised training, have been implemented over the past decade and are discussed later in this paper. It is important to note that Australia is not alone in implementing new initiatives involving public funding, to promote training by employers. Indeed it could be argued that government-supported apprenticeship systems have been doing this for decades, if not centuries. The role of government in supporting training within companies is a long-lived, but also a contested, area, as will be discussed further later in this paper.
While research in Australia on employer training more generally may have suffered something of a hiatus during recent times, international research has continued apace. Such research has examined the often complex relationships between employers, employees, training providers, Governments and the nature of training. These studies often explore how employers and their workplaces are using training to assist them to respond better to skill gaps, as well as the training and retraining required where industry responses to change and restructuring in response to continued globalisation and increased competition.
Given these reasons, now, more than ever, it is an appropriate time to return to fundamental questions such as what makes employers train their workers, what barriers and facilitators exist, what makes them decide to utilise nationally-recognised training and/or other forms of structured training, or more informal means of work-integrated learning as part of their training strategies.