Governments need to offer formal skills training

By Jonathan Jones, Head of Education, IPWEA

Accelerating rates of change, increasing demand for capable, skilled staff, together with critical skills shortages across the sector, has resulted in a perfect storm where the right education and professional development opportunities can create an impact like never before.

Jonathan Jones

Developing staff knowledge, skills and competence is a key challenge and opportunity for any organisation. However, as the National Skills Commission’s 2022 Skills Priority List detailed, there are 286 occupations with national shortages, compared with 153 in 2021. The challenging side of this equation is not going away anytime soon.

Facing a vast array of skill shortages, governments are now also competing for employer-of-choice status in an environment where staff are experiencing increased career mobility and opportunity. Ensuring employer-of-choice status is critical, in a manner that benefits the individual, the organisation and the sector, and enabling access to quality professional development opportunities needs to be a key component of this response.

All organisations have seen a significant change in the way people manage their careers recently, however these shifts have been occurring for years. The pandemic accelerated trends such as ‘working from anywhere’ and career development responsibility shifting from the organisation to the individual.

While the concept of ‘job for life’ may be gone, the traditional 70-20-10 model for learning and development (70% job-related experience, 20% interactions with others, 10% formal education and training) which has been widely deployed as the optimal professional development mix is still relevant, it has never been more important to ensure the 10% formal elements are fit for purpose to adequately prepare talent for current and future workplace challenges.

A model that works

The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) has addressed the capacity and capability development needs of the sector head-on by developing a formal education pathway that develops deep and practical skills aligned to an international professional certification. By focusing on the knowledge and skills development of those working in Infrastructure Asset Management (the discipline applied to the management of public works infrastructure and services) through this pathway, IPWEA is reporting significant outcomes for participants, and at scale.

To meet and exceed community expectations of infrastructure assets, the asset owners i.e., rate payers and general public, require a pipeline of skilled and capable professionals who view Asset Management as a viable and rewarding long-term profession.

Achieving this pipeline demands a strong commitment to professional development and accreditation.

One of the challenges facing the Infrastructure Asset Management industry is that skilled and experienced asset managers are in high demand. This has been highlighted by several recent reports, including the 2021-2022 Local Government NSW Priorities Report, which found that four in five NSW local governments are experiencing a skills shortage in engineering, asset management and planning.

In response, IPWEA launched the Asset Management Pathway in 2021, an articulated and structured professional development journey for those seeking to uplift their knowledge and skills to deliver improved outcomes to communities they serve.

A key course within the Pathway is the Professional Certificate in Asset Management Planning which has educated a generation of professionals and is recognised as a global standard in Asset Management training. The course has been successful as it combines hands-on experience drafting an Asset Management Plan that uses an organisation’s own data, with a range of modules that include video content, activities and peer interactions, supported by IPWEA’s Mentors.

The results have been outstanding. Post-course surveys completed by 1,052 alumni over two years show participants have an average of 67% uplift in their proficiency across 12 capability areas, with the average moving from ‘Advanced Beginner’ to ‘Proficient’. Eighty-eight percent agreed they learned from their peers, and 90% said they were implementing what they had learned immediately in the workplace. This means that uplift is being achieved at scale, with 300 participants successfully completing the course each year.

Lifelong learning

IPWEA has also linked the successful completion of multiple courses to the World Partners in Asset Management Global Certification Scheme, enabling participants to leverage their IPWEA courses in their application for certification. In this way IPWEA promotes a lifelong learning approach, aiming to become a trusted development partner at the individual, organisational and sector level.

For those charged with the responsibility of developing our public service talent to meet the resources and skills challenges of today and of the future, it is vital that they enable access to quality, accredited programs that provide lasting credentials for participants.

Formal professional development is one of the solutions to addressing the crippling skill shortage, but it should be viewed as a long-term knowledge and skills journey — one that benefits the individual, their organisation and their sector for years to come.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

One thought on “Governments need to offer formal skills training

  1. As the Asset Management Coordinator I don’t design or build anything, I don’t decide service levels or what will be in the CAPEX. My focus is what has been done – in order to record a history and to help with forecasting and what will be done again to help with forecasting and planning and very little to do with what is happening this year.

    While it is laudable to address asset management skills at this professional level let us not forget there are people who support this function who are getting left out. I think its time for TAFE level training in this area addressing the technical skills required to support this function.

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required