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The role of integrated training in promoting open learning in industry

Jeff Gunningham
Director, Karratha College
Alan Fletcher
Principal Training Adviser
Hamersley Iron Pty Limited


For some time, Karratha College has been establishing meaningful partnerships with industry in the areas of curriculum development, course delivery, and the sharing of training resources. This paper tells part of this story through the eyes of an "academic" and an "industry trainer".

On this occasion, an industry and college partnership has been developed via the process of integrated training, and using this approach, the partners have been successful in establishing the innovative (and possibly unique) Certificate in Supervision for the mining and energy industries of Western Australia.

Thus, if open learning is about a different educational approach or an attitude to education and training which promotes equity and cost effectiveness, then open learning is certainly well established in the north west of Western Australia. This assertion becomes apparent in the paper, particularly when one considers the concept of integrated training within the framework of industry and college partnerships.

Industry and college partnerships

From the opening remarks it is obvious that this paper is not about open learning techniques or using new technology for open learning purposes. Instead, it indicates the significant role partnerships with industry (Gunningham and Davy, 1989) can play in providing relevant and effective training in a flexible and cost effective manner. However, before proceeding to outline some examples of this collaboration, it is important to provide a brief overview of the operating environment in the Pilbara.

Industrial setting

There is no doubt whatsoever that the success of joint venture initiatives at Karratha College is largely due to the value major organisations place on the provision of structured training for their work force. For these companies, training is not seen as a cost, but as a vital part of human resource planning and a key feature of their corporate business strategy. This is why it is necessary to describe the industrial setting in which the College operates.

The Pilbara region of Western Australia is dominated by the presence of large resource companies involved in the extraction of iron ore, natural gas, oil, and salt. These companies, by far the major employers in the region, play a crucial role in assisting the College with its forward planning activities.

In 1987/88, the value of mining production in Western Australia amounted to almost $7 billion, some 60% of the state's external earnings (Karratha College, 1989). Iron ore mining is by far the largest sector of the minerals industry, contributing 27% of the total value of production. In the western Pilbara, iron ore mining is carried out by Hamersley Iron Pty Limited and Robe River Iron Associates.

Woodside Offshore Petroleum Pty Ltd is the major participant in and operator of the North West Shelf Gas Project, which is being developed both onshore at the Burrup Peninsula (LNG conversion facilities) and 130 kilometres offshore at the North Rankin A Platform (drilling and transfer of natural gas to the mainland). Construction of the onshore facilities was completed in 1989 at a total cost of $3 billion and will supply approximately 10.9 million cubic metres of natural gas to SECWA to service Perth's residential and industrial precincts. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to Japan commenced in September 1989 and will be equivalent to 140,000 barrels of oil per day.

Dampier Salt (Operations) Pty Ltd is another subsidiary of CRA Limited, playing a vital role in the minerals export market of the western Pilbara. The company is the second largest solar salt producer in the world, exporting 5.299 million tonnes in 1987, primarily to Japan (62%), Korea (15%) and Taiwan (15%).

Government policy

The concept of industry and college partnerships is a well established operating principle in the Pilbara. There are examples of successful partnerships which predate current government policy by over three years. This fact then leads us to the obvious question - how have such initiatives occurred without the impetus of the radical reforms being promoted now across Australia?

The answer to this complex question probably has something to do with the remoteness of the Pilbara and the unique socioeconomic environment caused by its isolation. Even before Karratha College was set up, the major resource companies were investing heavily in vocational training, with most companies establishing elaborate training departments to service their needs. In the early days of the Pilbara minerals boom, these companies found it necessary to develop training departments with a high degree of self reliance and systems with minimum dependence on some far removed bureaucracy. Indeed, it was this quest for autonomy, from the community as well as from industry, that provided the impetus for the establishment of independently governed community based colleges in the Pilbara. The agenda for collaboration was set in the early 1980s when intense community pressure led the then state government to establish a new breed of college.

Notwithstanding these comments about community driven outcomes, the present state and federal governments are playing a crucial role in maintaining an environment which promotes industry and college collaboration. In effect, government is attempting to spread the Pilbara ethos to all parts of the nation, particularly those population centres with industries undergoing significant change as a result of award restructuring and the move to a multi skilled work force.

Examples of industry and college collaboration

Ashburton Campus

The Ashburton Campus, which opened on 16 May 1989, was the outcome of an exciting nine month development period involving the combined efforts of the communities of Tom Price and Paraburdoo, Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd and Karratha College, and provides a genuine example of the level of cooperation which can be achieved. Hamersley provided a campus building valued in excess of $800,000 and refurbished the building at a cost to the company of some $150,000. A joint venture approach was then made to the Ministry of Education to cover recurrent expenditure at the campus, and in January 1989 the state government approved an ongoing annual operating budget of $240,000.

This level of support from Hamersley Iron continued into 1990 through the following initiatives

Events at Tom Price over the formative nine months occurred at a pace which could not have been predicted and clearly illustrate what can be achieved through the combined efforts of industry, government and the community. The Ashburton Campus of Karratha College stands as a tribute to those people who had the vision and determination to make it happen. In light of our success at Tom Price, a similar model of development is being applied to the formation of a campus at Wickham, this time with the assistance of Robe River Iron Associates.

Skills extension programme

During 1986, Karratha College successfully negotiated a contract to provide a skills extension programme for the instrument and electrical trades within Woodside Offshore Petroleum's plant operations. Essentially, the programme consists of a cross skilling package which merges the positions of electrical fitter and instrument fitter. The term of the contract ran from 1 December 1986 to 31 December 1988. However, in providing the funding for the programme, Woodside regarded the venture as a pump priming exercise, the aim being to establish a permanent training facility for electrical and instrument trades people in the Pilbara, as a "centre for excellence".

The proposal was developed on the basis that Woodside would meet all recurrent costs (an estimated $186 630) in 1986/87 and 1987/88, plus the initial equipment costs. However, Woodside required reimbursement of the equipment costs (an estimated $365 870) by June 1992. This arrangement received the approval of the state government at the beginning of 1987. On this basis, an amount of $73 174 per annum is being paid back to Woodside Offshore Petroleum over a five year period. This is channelled to Woodside via the College's annual CRF budget (Consolidated Revenue Funds from the state government). The joint venture aspect of this initiative has been recognised by the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET), so much so that the project has received $45,000 support through the Joint Venture Equipment Fund.

A second phase project has now been negotiated with Woodside to take the same kind of training out to the gas drilling platform situated 130 kilometres offshore in the Indian Ocean. This involves a totally different, open learning delivery strategy based on a mixed mode approach utilising distance learning materials, computer managed learning, on site and remote tutorial support, plus intensive short periods of practical training at the college. Following an intensive six month development stage, the CML delivery of the skills extension programme commenced on 1 June 1989.

Initial funding for the second phase has been provided by Woodside and covers an additional lecturing position, a data entry operator, plus equipment and resources relating to the delivery strategy. This represents an investment of almost $200,000 over the two year duration of the project. By the end of 1990, Woodside's seed funding for the skills extension programme will be $385,000. With regard to ongoing funding, state government CRF support for shore based activities commenced at the beginning of this year and the college is optimistic about gaining a similar commitment for the offshore segment from 1991 onwards.

Pilbara Video Conferencing Project (LIVE-NET)

In May this year, Karratha College became part of a fully interactive video conferencing system (TAFE, 1990) linking Karratha to Tom Price, Paraburdoo and Perth. This exciting development in rural education and training is the culmination of initiatives started in 1988 and is made possible by the support of DEET, Hamersley Iron, the Department of Computing and Information Technology (DOCIT), Karratha College, Telecom and the Perth Campus of the Central Metropolitan College of TAFE. (Refer also to Davy, 1990, in this volume.) As an open learning strategy, LIVE-NET delivers both mainstream award programmes and customised training to towns which have been educationally disadvantaged due to their remoteness.

The beginnings of the LIVE-NET programme date back to 1988 when the Director of the Central Metropolitan College of TAFE, Graeme Davy, was Director of Karratha College. In close collaboration with DEET and Hamersley Iron, Graeme worked to develop a joint venture approach to the funding of video conferencing facilities in the West Pilbara. A seed grant of $71,000 was provided by DEET under the Innovative Rural Education and Training Programme. At the end of 1989, Hamersley Iron supported the initiative with a grant of $80,000 and local government added a further $120,000.

Telecom has provided four video conference units for a period of six months, installing one unit in each of the host institutions. These institutions are the Perth Campus CMC, Karratha College, the Paraburdoo Mine Training Centre and Ashburton Campus, Tom Price. In all, Telecom has pledged $130,000 in support for the project.

Integrated training

Integrated training is essentially a partnership between industry and education, in this case the TAFE colleges, which leads to an improvement in work skills through the joint design, development and delivery of accredited training programmes. This model is conceptualised in Figure 1.

Development of a model

The concept of integrated training arose from a genuine desire on the part of industry to join forces with a TAFE college in the design, development and delivery of a WA Council for Tertiary Awards (WACTA) accredited and Australian Council for Tertiary Awards (ACTA) registered course. Its inception predates the 1987 DEET document Skills for Australia (Dawkins and Holding, 1987) by several months. However, the initiative is certainly consistent with one of the main objectives of this publication, which is to raise industry's commitment to training. This is clearly illustrated in the last paragraph of section 1.2.4, which states
The Government will also be taking action to achieve a more effective relationship between industry and the formal education sector in matters such as curriculum development, the sharing of training facilities and equipment, and the provision of training itself.
Again, in section 2.5.1 of Skills for Australia, there is implicit recognition of integrated training in the statement.
Improvements will also be needed in arrangements for the delivery of industry training, and in the development of alternative and innovative training approaches.
Figure 1

Figure 1: Integrated training model

Consideration of the integrated training approach began in late 1986 following discussions with training personnel from one of the major iron ore producers in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. At the time, they were involved in a training needs analysis exercise involving different facets of the company's operation. The purpose of the exercise was to highlight those areas with shortfalls in specific skills and then to redress the situation through suitable in house programmes.

From these discussions, it became apparent that there was a strong desire on the part of the potential students to obtain recognition for their efforts in company training programmes. This led to the suggestion that it may be feasible to incorporate these activities into some type of college accredited course involving a degree of on the job training. Optimum use could be made of college and company training facilities in order to ensure a convenient and flexible delivery strategy. This would make use of off the job and on the job training, blending the theoretical and practical aspects.

This concept has now been accepted by the Academic Boards of the Pilbara colleges as a legitimate basis for course design. Furthermore, each Board accepted integrated training as a viable mechanism for allowing the joint delivery of courses.

Resources were to be pooled for a single award which could gain state accreditation and national registration. Part or all of the course would be delivered through college staff, but recognition would be given for on the job learning experiences and company training courses.

Operating benefits

Although the integrated training model may seem somewhat radical, it is far from new. There are a number of countries which operate integrated training courses involving a mixture of accredited training programmes at work and at college - the most prominent of these is North America. For some time, the North Americans have realised the value of their community colleges for developing strategies which lead to improvements in work force productivity. They view the community colleges as having "goods to offer", as sources of well qualified and professional educators, as custodians of a nationally recognised accreditation system and as major resource bases for industry training .

In Virginia, USA, a number of community colleges have entered into major resource agreements with industry and commerce to provide customised instructional services. For example, the Lord Fairfax Community College has developed an Educational Partnership Programme with local industry which exhibits all the characteristics of the integrated training model, but also includes an Educational Partnership Inventory. The inventory outlines precisely the responsibilities of the college and the company with respect to the design, development and delivery of the training programme. It was government who acted as the catalyst in this venture by releasing constraints upon off campus and non traditional instructional delivery methods, and by providing financial encouragement for the establishment of educational partnerships.

In 1984, a partnership was developed between San Juan College (SJC) and the Public Service Company of New Mexico's (PNM) San Juan Generating Plant. An agreement was reached to promote training through a planned educational experience in which SJC awarded credit for courses taught by PNM training personnel. The programme began in response to the need for an industrial instrumentation programme that would meet PNM's needs, and proved so successful it was expanded into apprenticeship programmes in eight crafts. In light of the success of this partnership programme, SJC entered into a partnership with the Arizona Public Service Company to provide training for apprentices in the electrical, instrumentation and machinist crafts and established an industrial management programme at PNM to serve blue collar as well as low and mid management employees. SJC has continued the development of partnerships to include clerical positions, security guards, management, and child care positions.

With this kind of a track record overseas, the integrated training model offers the following advantages to industry and commerce in Australia.

Certificate in Supervision

At the end of 1989, the Certificate in Supervision (Minerals and Energy Industry) became the first course in Australia to receive state accreditation and national registration on the basis of a joint submission between industry and education. As such, this innovative programme is destined to have a significant impact on the traditional role of TAFE colleges across Australia.

For almost three years, the Chamber of Mines and Energy of WA (Inc) and TAFE (Karratha College and Hedland College) have been collaborating in the use of integrated training (Gunningham, 1988; Chamber of Mines and Energy, 1989) to design and develop a course for first line managers which meets the specific requirements of the major resource companies in the Pilbara, Hamersley Iron Pty Limited, Iron Ore BHP-Utah Minerals International, Newmont Australia, Robe River Iron Associates and Woodside Offshore Petroleum Pty Ltd.

The most radical component of the integrated training approach is the joint delivery of the course through efficient and effective utilisation of training expertise based in industry and education.

Model of involvement

Throughout the development of the Certificate in Supervision, numerous problems and challenges have surfaced, and on occasions the solutions were far from obvious. Contributory factors included the differing values and opinions of the various companies involved, the lack of cohesion between the Pilbara colleges, and the inability of some participants to conceptualise the eventual product. However, through perseverance and a clear understanding of the underlying concept, Karratha College made a significant contribution to the successful outcome.

Many of the difficulties with the Certificate in Supervision were overcome through the development of a Memorandum of Understanding. Under the guidance of the Western Australian Post Secondary Education Commission, an agreement was drawn up which reflected the joint nature of the course, defined the respective roles and responsibilities of participating organisations and clarified the procedures for accreditation. Figure 2 indicates the key players in this memorandum of understanding.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Model of involvement

The memorandum of understanding is not unlike education partnership agreements used by community colleges in North America and without such terms of reference it would have been difficult for the initiative to progress to the current stage of development. The key elements of the agreement are that the parties

An Industry perspective

The following viewpoint is provided by the joint author of this paper and one of the key industrial players in the development of the Certificate in Supervision, Alan Fletcher of Hamersley Iron Pty Limited. As presented, it is a direct transcript of Mr Fletcher's address to the Conference.
The Certificate in Supervision (Minerals and Energy Industry), developed between mining and resource companies and regional colleges in the Pilbara, was an exercise in implementing integrated training. It is real, it is in being and it is being used by companies in the Pilbara.

I want to share with you the "how" and "why" it came together, and highlight some of the difficulties that arose. I would firstly like to suggest an initial self analysis image given by the colleges and mining companies taking part.

It would be fair to say there was a modicum of mistrust, but at the same time we were realistic enough to see there were grounds for different view points.

There was a lot of supervisory training going on within individual mining companies; piecemeal perhaps, uncoordinated, expensive, with little business going to the regional colleges. What the companies saw was an opportunity to pool resources, reduce costs, and ensure supervisory training met company needs. What the colleges saw was an opportunity to be involved in meeting the needs of local industries, to increase enrolments and income by being active in the resulting course.

A task force was established late in 1987, under the chair of the Chamber of Mines and Energy, with one representative from each of five mining and resource Pilbara companies and one from each of the two colleges.

It would be honest to say that the mistrust surfaced immediately with the colleges circulating inaccurate minutes of the first meeting. This was firmly corrected after letters back and forth were necessary. I mention this incident only because it created mistrust instead of cooperation, and it left its mark even to this day. It really arose because the colleges saw official accreditation as an essential feature, whilst the companies saw meeting their own needs as the only goal. The companies saw accreditation as a useful adjunct, but not essential. Only in 1989 did the companies agree that accreditation become a feature of the Certificate course.

I had planned to describe three steps to you - what the companies wanted, what was achieved and how we overcame any difficulties. Then I realised that that was far too logical a summary of what happend, so I have decided to provide a mix. I will tell you what we have achieved, link those achievements with what we wanted, then mention how we overcame any difficulties that arose.

Firstly, we have developed a WACTA accredited supervisory certificate course consisting of three progressive stages, each stage made up of 11-12 modules. We demanded only relevant material, so although the module titles are generic, the content is relevant specifically to the mining and energy industries. This was accomplished in outline form after a three day conference at Argyle. I must mention the enlightenment provided by WACTA, who accepted and encouraged so many non traditional ideas and proved a valuable mediator in times of near stand offs. Without WACTA's involvement throughout most of 1989, I do not think we would have a Certificate course today.

Secondly, each module includes written behavioural objectives and detailed assignments to be completed. Each assignment is pertinent to each individual company using that company's policies and procedures, the trainee's own work team and his or her own immediate manager.

Thirdly, everyone wanted the course to be competency based. This, however, proved more difficult to achieve than to say. We eventually agreed on a definition to include the following.

During the achievement of competency based learning, the pressure to conform was never ending. We were told that a certificate Each stage has its own assignments, set by the college in conjunction with the relevant company. Eligibility to undertake stage assignments is to be the successful completion of all modules within that stage. Stage assignments are to test the ability to blend the skills within stage modules, and a college assessment will be given at stages 1 and 2. This provides an external adjudicator on standards, and the normal college scaling of results can be applied.

I have gone into some detail, because to achieve the uniqueness and practicality of this programme it showed to the participants the difficulties of integrating academic practices with industrial practices. Priorities were different, language was different and politics were different. In spite of these differences, however, integration can be achieved if determination, patience, tenacity, clear principles and respect for others can be maintained. Worthwhile achievements never come easily.

You all appreciate how difficult it is to open minds. Moving away from tradition is not easy, and this Conference provides the opportunity to look at new solutions and develop a preparedness to consider these initiatives without bias.

Concluding remarks

Hopefully, the Certificate in Supervision (Minerals and Energy Industry) will serve as a flagship for highlighting the distinct characteristics and obvious advantages of integrated training. Through this innovative approach, Karratha College has set the scene for closer collaboration with industry.

However, for integrated training to have a chance of success, it is essential to obtain industry's total commitment to the partnership concept. In this regard, the Chamber of Mines and Energy of WA (Inc) has become a valued partner in promoting the use of integrated training. This is, however, just the beginning, and with industry's wider involvement, integrated training will continue to develop as a valuable mechanism for establishing an effective relationship between education and industry.

In his opening address to the Conference, the Hon Gavan Troy, MLA, Minister for Productivity and Labour Relations, referred to the need for more joint publicly and privately funded initiatives. Again, this paper does help to highlight the benefits of such partnerships, not merely for the companies themselves but also for the communities around them.

Finally, with the current emphasis on award restructuring, there is an urgent need to satisfy industry requirements for short intensive courses. However, there is also the need to recognise the concerns of people such as Rob Meecham from the Trades and Labor Council , who spoke in the Conference panel session. He emphasised the need for industry training programmes which provide some form of external recognition and portability. These issues have been addressed using integrated training to develop the Certificate in Supervision (Minerals and Energy Industry).


In writing this paper, the authors acknowledge the assistance provided by colleagues at Karratha College as well as the special contribution made by member companies of the Chamber of Mines and Energy of WA (Inc.).


Chamber of Mines and Energy of Western Australia Inc, Hedland College and Karratha College. (1989). Certificate in Supervision [Minerals and Energy Industry]. Perth: The Chamber of Mines and Energy of WA.

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

TAFE WA. (1990). LIVE-NET poised for start up. TAFE Talk, April/May 1990.

Gunningham, Jeff & Davy, Graeme. (1989). Industry and college partnerships: A recipe for success. Paper presented at Australasian Association for Engineering Education conference, University of Sydney, 10-12 December, 1989.

Gunningham, J. (1988). The role of integrated training in promoting an effective TAFE/industry interface. In V.L. Meek & R. Harrold (Eds.), TAFE and the reconstruction of higher education. Armidale: University of New England Department of Continuing Education.

Karratha College. (1989). Estimates of recurrent expenditure 1989/90. Karratha: Karratha College.

Jeff Gunningham was appointed Director of Karratha College in May 1990 after serving as Acting Director and Deputy Director. Jeff is a mechanical engineer with extensive experience in industry, and in the Pilbara, experience at Hedland College and its Newman Campus. His activities have centred on key aspects of post secondary educational programmes in the Pilbara, including effective links with local industry, developing a network of educational centres, introduction of new technologies and greater open learning opportunities, and the expansion of community education courses.

Alan Fletcher is Principal Training Adviser, Hamersley Iron Pty Limited. He worked extensively on all aspects of the Certificate of Supervision (Minerals and Energy).

Please cite as: Gunningham, J. and Fletcher, A. (1990). The role of integrated training in promoting open learning in industry. In R. Atkinson and C. McBeath (Eds.), Open Learning and New Technology: Conference proceedings, 165-178. Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology WA Chapter.

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