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Skills formation: A planned approach

Ross Goodlet

Some of us are fortunate enough to have been at the leading edge of some government policy changes over the past decade. I refer in particular to those policies directed at addressing the "just in time" skills formation needs that will be required to place Australia in a stronger position of international competitiveness in line with our OECD partners. During this period there has been growing concern over the persistence among industry managers, academics, educationalists and vocational trainers of a mindset which hinders the implementation of skills formation policies.

This mindset will need to become mindsight very rapidly, if we are to arrest the decline Australia is experiencing in the skilling of its workforce.

We should no longer regard the skills formation of people as the stratified educational process that has tended to dominate our education and training systems in the past. If we are to improve the quality and productive outcomes being demanded of us in the world market place, education, training and economic development must be planned as integral components within a progressive, relevant and performance objective led culture. I believe the foundation for this new approach has been put in place by Federal and State governments and we owe it to ourselves to get on with the job, forgetting the politics and interstate rivalries which blinker our vision and hinder the skilling of our workforce which is so vital to the maintenance of the Australian way of life.

To reinforce this point I would like to quote from the Skills for Australia paper put out by the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, John Dawkins, in 1987.

The Government is determined that our education and training systems should play an active role in responding to the major economic challenges now facing Australia.

The adjustments required in the structure of the economy, and improvements in Australia's international competitiveness, will make heavy demands on our human resources and labour force skills. Our skills formation and training arrangements are not yet adequate to meet those demands.

The world's most successful economies over the past two decades have given high priority to education, skills and competence at work as vital factors in economic performance, and have supported their skills development policies accordingly. Now we must do likewise.

Specifically, action is required to:

The Government has already signalled its strong commitment to these objectives by creating a new portfolio to coordinate all Commonwealth policies in the fields of employment, education and training. The decisions announced in this 1987-88 Budget represent the first steps towards an integrated set of programs which ultimate will embrace all Commonwealth activity in these fields. (Dawkins and Holding, 1987).
To my mind, the most significant initiative to emerge over the past decade as a model for the training of our future workforce is the Australian Traineeship System (ATS). The ATS encompasses all of the elements necessary to bring about the changes necessary for the better management of the skills formation processes in the future. These elements are The ATS development process is outlined in Figure 1. The traineeship process is summarised in Figure 2.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Australian Traineeship System: traineeship development

Figure 2

Figure 2: What the traineeships provide

It would be true to say that as a result of the operation of the Australian Traineeship System over the last four years there has been a tremendous learning curve demanded of all tripartite sectors, that is, employees, employers and government, with the result that the model has begun to influence other well established practices and productivity measures that have been the very basis of our economic and industrial history.


Dawkins, J. S. & Holding, A. C. (1987). Skills for Australia. Canberra: AGPS.

Author: Ross Goodlet is Head of Industry Division, Vocational Entry Level Training, in TAFE WA's Central Office, 151 Royal Street, East Perth.

Please cite as: Goodlet, R. (1990). Skills formation: A planned approach. In R. Atkinson and C. McBeath (Eds.), Open Learning and New Technology: Conference proceedings, 157-161. Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology WA Chapter.

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