Learning for the future – AAPA’s new national training centre

rcw-news-aapaknoweldge-med When AAPA moved its head offices to Melbourne’s Fishermans Bend last year, it not only gave it a central and easy access location, but it also increased the size of its operation more than ever before.

The new and larger office space has opened up a range of opportunities for the association as it looks towards the future. The most notable is the inclusion of a dedicated training facility – the national Road Worker Training Centre.

AAPA officially opened its new training hub at the beginning of December with an event attended by key industry figures, including Victorian Minister for Roads, Road Safety and Ports Luke Donnellan. Mr. Donnellan opened the centre in November and met with AAPA members to talk about and emphasise the importance of such an institution. “A worker engaged with their work is a productive and safe worker. Learning on the job is no longer enough. It will always be important, but we know that a more efficient workforce is trained both in the classroom and at the work site,” he said at the ceremony.

The new facility includes two dedicated training rooms and a webinar room, all of which are available for industry partners to use. Rooms can be booked by simply contacting AAPA directly.

While AAPA has provided training for more than 20 years, this new space and the organisation’s new Director of Training and Knowledge, Tanja Conners, are set to develop and grow its training offering to its members exponentially.

Ms. Conners joined AAPA late last year, bringing with her a wealth of experience and knowledge as a skilled manager, coach, trainer and mentor with a strong background in the road sector and wider civil construction industry.

Previous AAPA courses have always catered to the wider industry. However, Ms. Conners says there have always been companies running their own internal training programs. For instance, AAPA and an industry organisation may have respective spray-sealing courses but relay the same information to attendees, risking doubling-up information. Another potential problem here is that one of these courses may offer different views on best industry practice.

Ms. Conners says new AAPA Road Worker Training Centre addresses these issues while helping to drive national harmonised standards, the professional development of companies and individuals, connect industry and government and widen the reach and relevance of training.

She has been talking with AAPA’s members and various organisations across the industry about establishing this concise and collaborative approach to training.

“We want to make the training up-to-date and relevant, and offer it to all of our members. If we’re going to run a course on spray sealing, we want to get someone from government and someone from industry to present it in a true partnership. It’s really important then to get better practices within the industry,” she says.

“The primary goal for AAPA is to deliver a reliable portal for training across Australia and advocating within the industry for better standards. This new facility shows that AAPA is committed to bringing industry together and reaching positive outcomes for the wider roads sector.”

Ms. Conners is adamant that this coordination between AAPA, industry and government is key, particularly in making sure the training that is provided is the best it can be and that the technical information is relevant.

Ms. Conners asserts that this concerted approach to industry training is not just about achieving the best practice, but making sure industry across Australia is on the same page.

“The main thing that we’re looking at is the whole 360-degree approach,” she says. This holistic approach is about looking at every training aspect possible for the industry, to whom it is relevant and how it can be improved – from the workers with their boots on the ground to the high-level executives.

Ms. Conners uses the graduate level as a key example of this. “How do we entice younger people or people looking for a career change? How do we get an 18 or 19-year-old enthusiastic about a career in the industry?” she says.

Ms. Conners plans to explore these questions and help to understand how new graduates can be enticed into the industry, and how to grow the industry through career pathways and practical job-start programs. Through these planned job-start programs a graduate would have the opportunity to spend a day or two in the Training Centre and, through industry collaboration, work for one of AAPA’s industry partners during the rest of the week. “We want to pilot that in Victoria and the new Training Centre will be the hub for it,” she says.

The Training Centre’s new webinar room and online capacity bolsters this broader topic range and focus on best industry practice. AAPA is further exploring online training courses to facilitate distance learning and provide ease of access for those not based in Victoria. “I’d like to be able to take training via video conference, where it will be conducted like a live lecture. If you’re stuck at home or in your office but you have a tablet, you can access the information there,” she says.

Ms. Conners says there are important parts of industry training that do require face-to-face interaction. Her plan is that the online courses, using the webinar room, will evolve into an interactive classroom where presenters and lecturers from industry can engage remotely with those attending the course and vice-versa.

Ms. Conners says that her immediate focus for 2016 will be on delivering courses with input from industry that are up to date and relevant. A true focus on workers on foot and traffic controller safety will be highlighted as the first programs rolled out in 2016.

As to some of her long-term plans for the Training Centre, Ms. Conners has one major project already in progress.

“What I’m going to do is put together an AAPA registration solution, a portal for all workers in the industry to gain access to their training records wherever they are in the country,” she says. The idea is to have a digital card that holds an individual’s training certification history.

The proposed system would create a standard medium from which individuals and employers can verify a worker’s credentials. “If someone goes from say Fulton Hogan to Boral, this card is to say that they’ve done a certain level of certification in a particular field,” she says.

“It’s part of AAPA’s plan to provide the next generation of access to training and ensure that skills are transportable across Australia. This will ensure our industry and its workforce are up to date and working safely. It’s new and innovative, and it shows we mean business for and on behalf of our industry.”

This story has appeared in the Roads & Civil Works February/March 2016 edition – get your copy here today!

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