Accept Training or Perish

By on February 7, 2018

RON KERR, Honorary CEO of CMPA and Managing Director of Conundrum Holdings Pty Ltd.

In this day and age, our industry must reinvigorate the investment into the training area of our Management Systems. This view must be shared by the Owners, Managers, Employees and Suppliers. Collectively, the character and capabilities of our workforce will be secured and the industry’s profitability enhanced.

As a result of the current immigration numbers entering Victoria (see Figure 1) and its Major Projects Program, we are witnessing an unprecedented increase in demand for quarry materials which is triggering a supply shortage in specific product runs and market areas. It is my belief that the only way we will address this issue in the short-medium term will be through freeing up the protocols for accessing resource and the prioritising of private investment into both its capital assets and workforce.

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The majority of businesses I communicate with in the industry are currently experiencing increasing difficulty in acquiring and holding appropriate personnel to meet the business’ needs. There is also clear evidence that many of the industry’s suppliers have either moved their manufacturing bases out of Australia or have businesses they cannot sell as there are no willing buyers in the marketplace. This is resulting in the collapse of apprenticeships and our industry’s ability to create a sustainable labour pool. It is also having an impact upon the maintenance and capital rebuild programs, as the skill levels required are being lost.

These observations are indicators of impending labour skill and supply shortages, necessitating a review of the way in which we retain our workforce, the principle areas of review should cover: Strengthening individual training programs, upgrading our workforce’s remuneration packages, continued investment into automation, modernisation of our workplace working environment, more flexible working hours, improvements in gender equality, and targeted immigration.

Those that are drawn to make a vocation in our industry often have a personal or family associations. The artisan’s skills required to convert our natural resources which forms the foundations of our society are learnt from real-time experience over many years. To the future this is not a sustainable approach to meeting the market’s needs.

For training to be accepted and successful it must be a key tenet within the business’ Management System. It must be job specific of the highest quality, have consistency in outcomes, proof of completion and input assessments and reviews. To work, both the manager and employee must have input and ownership. The provider/s of training must be embedded into the company’s Management Systems, delivering the highest of standard of outcome.

It is critical that training resources stay focused on the fact that we are a primary industry with unpredictable source rock, clay seams, variable depths of overburden, weather, plant settings, life of consumables and market demands. They must also have a total perspective of the jobs being undertaken and that there is a collective ownership in the objectives and outcomes. This resource must also recognise those associated with the business, past history and incidents from like working environments.

Training outcomes must;

  1. Focus on creating a safer and more efficient undertaking of the tasks at hand.
  2. Develop an employee’s ability to question and challenge the logics associated with their work.
  3. Identify and enhance each employee’s personal skills and attributes ensuring compatibility to the required job.
  4. Develop an employee’s personal initiative in creating outcomes.

To enrich these outcomes, there a number of areas within a Management System that will need to be re-visited:

All jobs being undertaken in the workplace must be identified, that each has a coverage of the full range of primary activities and the tasks and obligations are documented. This is singularly the most critical tool for management, training providers and employees in establishing purpose, need and outcome.

We must ensure that training is recognised and prioritised within the company’s Management Systems. Employee’s training programs and documented evidence must be linked through Mentors, Managers and RTO’s support and review. Employee’s training evidence must be archived and made accessible to employees at all times.

In the area of the training facilities, resources and RTO’s, the standard to be aspired to must be equal to or of a higher standard than any other components within your Management Systems. The trainees must be comfortable and separated from day-to-day business activities and resourced at a level ensuring industry-best practice outcomes are achievable. The training curriculum must retain relevance at all times, collaborating with and seeking the support of RTO’s, manufacturers, industry associations and IQA services alongside both in-house and off-site training/visits. This results in all employees receiving a well-rounded vocational training program.

The business must build into its chart of accounts a cost allocation centre dedicated to training so that it can budget and track investment into this area. It is my belief, there are many businesses which either have limited expenditure or do not track the expenditure associated with the training. Until the training expenditure is linked to productive outcomes, one can never identify the benefits or liabilities.

The last of these areas, arguably the most critical centres around the employee being financially remunerated commensurate with the established training outcomes and productivity gains. Furthermore, they must have ownership of the process, management support and be recognised when training outcomes are achieved.

In summary, for a business to have training prioritised, the key disciplines required at a site level to underpin it are:

  • Identify all jobs, their activities and applicable tasks/obligations within each
  • Embedding of training into the company’s Management Systems
  • Providing training with appropriate administrative and financial resources
  • Tracking training expenditure and outcome
  • Personal and financial recognition

My personal experience, is that in addressing the above disciplines, there is clear evidence of improvement in the working environment, the technical skills of the employees, enhanced quality outcomes and a more focused, safer and productive business entity. I have personally witnessed how training is an enabler of our workforce in that careers advance both within and outside of this industry.

About Gavin Moreira

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