Building skills for Australia

Established in 2016, PwC’s Skills for Australia is one of six organisations selected by the Federal Government as a Skills Service Organisation to work with Industry Reference Committees (IRC) to develop and review training packages. They also act as a liaison between industry and government.

PwC’s Skills for Australia is responsible for working with a range of industries to look at their skills needs now and in the future and ensure that Australia’s vocational qualifications and units meet their training needs. These industries include Financial Services, ICT, Automotive, Mining Drilling and Civil Infrastructure, Culture and Related Industries, Printing and Graphic Arts, Education and Business Services.

Currently, PwC’s Skills for Australia is managing the review of four WHS qualifications from the Business Services Training Package.

In an exclusive interview with, PwC’s Skills for Australia chief executive officer Sara Caplan discusses the national trends that have emerged from their research and how they are working with government and industry to address long-term skill requirements rather than the short.

OHS: What are the latest trends in WHS training?

Caplan: As a Skills Service Organisation, PwC’s Skills for Australia is responsible for working with a range of industries to look at their skills needs now and in the future and ensure that Australia’s vocational qualifications and units meet their training needs. This process starts with a review of current WHS trends both nationally and internationally;, what disruption is occurring in the industry and how new legislation or regulation is affecting it. Over the course of the past 10 months, PwC's Skills for Australia has gained considerable insight into the WHS trends and disruptors shaping the sector.

Firstly, the sector is moving away from the 'process' driven approach towards embedding WHS knowledge and awareness within organisation culture. By embedding this knowledge throughout organisations, there has been a noticeable increase in WHS roles moving towards part-time capacity, with managers and team members performing WHS functions as an ad-hoc role in addition to their day to day job responsibilities.

Secondly, there is a requirement for training to reflect the different levels of knowledge for junior to senior WHS workers. For example, the current Certificate IV and Diploma in WHS offer limited differentiation between the levels of learning. This is a major concern for employers as learners are assuming job roles with limited practical skills for their role. Therefore, in this review we will look to address these issues through increasing the levels of differentiation and aligning them to more relevant job descriptions. The development of the OHS Global Capability Framework from the International Network of Safety & Health Practitioner Organisations is a useful tool to benchmark position profiles for WHS and understand the knowledge required for WHS practitioners.

Finally, a large driving factor behind this review is to ensure learners are equipped with adequate soft skills to carry out their roles. National consultation has highlighted a large deficiency in the soft skills WHS workers possess. This has often resulted in the 'policing' approach, whereby employers 'tick a box' for compliance purposes and subsequently disregard the impact this has on others. To counteract this trend, we will be looking to explore the consultation processes for WHS and analyse some methods which encourage a collaborative and informed approach to assist in solidifying WHS practices within organisations.

OHS: How important is WHS in the workplace?

Caplan: WHS is embedded in a range of different industries and cultures, so our role is to think about how we contextualise it to those specific industries through training packages. What we are trying to do with WHS is look at how we can build generic foundational skills that can go into a wide range of different organisations and understand how those processes can be applied into that organisation. Whether it is in mining or environmental management, as long as you have those foundational skills in WHS, you can contextualise them to each industry.

As an example of the importance of WHS in the workplace, take one of the major challenges facing the Australian workforce which is the issue of mental health within organisations. These challenges need to be addressed in WHS training, through providing learners the means to identify mental health issues and raise concerns to necessary avenues of support. The purpose of the WHS worker in this space is to identify mental health concerns. Mental health issues are responsible for approximately 6 per cent of workers compensation claims nationally. PwC's Skills for Australia will look to address these challenges to ensure that WHS workers are competently skilled to place the right measures in place to lower the presence of workplace induced mental disorders.

OHS: How closely do you work with government?

Caplan: PwC's Skills for Australia operates as a Skills Service Organisation (SSO) on behalf of, and supported by, the Federal Department of Education and Training (DET).

We are an independent, professional service organization and under the direction of relevant Industry Reference Committees, we undertake work commissioned by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) on the review and development of training products.

We adhere to the training product development processes mandated by DET, with an aim to refocus the discussion of skills and training to ensure that training design is centred on what will equip learners with the right knowledge and know-how to pursue fulfilling careers.

PwC’s Skills for Australia also seeks to achieve, where applicable, our objectives to meet the following Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Industry Skills Council principles for reforms to Training Packages:

  • Remove obsolete qualifications from the system.
  • Ensure that more information about industry’s expectations of training delivery is available to training providers to improve their delivery and to consumers to enable more informed course choices.
  • Ensure that the system better supports individuals to move easily from one related occupation to another.
  • Improve the efficiency of the system by creating units that can be owned and used by multiple industry sectors.
  • Foster greater recognition of skill sets.

 OHS: What are the global trends in WHS training?

Caplan: As part of its review PwC’s Skills for Australia is actively considering the global Occupational Health and Safety Professional Capability Framework established by the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organisations (INSHPO). While we have undertaken research on a national scale, we will look to broaden this to a global level in the coming months.

Note: PwC’s Skills for Australia is a subsidiary of PwC ASEANZ Consulting Pty Ltd, operating as a Skills Service Organisation on behalf of, and supported by, the Federal Department of Education and Training


Image sourced from Flickr cc: Mark Pegrum


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