WHAT WE DO
We are a dedicated not-for-profit company with the technical expertise to assist industry and enterprises navigate education, skills and training ensuring access to capable workers who can value add to business growth and productivity.
Industry skills for innovation and adoption
FAS receives a growing number of inquiries about how we can contribute to helping industry innovate. Upskilling at the right time, in the specific context of the growth and innovation objective of the enterprise or industry is key. FAS engages at industry scale to conduct industry wide skills needs analysis to assist industry to map its long term, strategic view of workforce capability needs and investment priorities. Working at business scale FAS analyses the skills needs of businesses, helping employers and managers understand their role in stimulating worker productivity and an innovative culture.
With around 90,000 enrolments in agrifood qualifications every year, there is vast untapped potential to drive a step-change in productivity and resolve the ‘extension’ conundrum, through a re-engagement with vocational education and training as part of the research and development continuum.
Australia invests hundreds of millions of dollars every year in rural research and development. Yet the sector continues to lament low adoption rates and impact outcomes on industry productivity from that investment. OECD research has shown that the predominant form of innovation in enterprises is incremental. This points to the central role workers play in the adoption of technical and organisational change which relies on the skills of workers. Could it be that the missing link is in a break-down of the connection between the research and development pipeline and the education and training system?
FAS has identified the opportunity to more effectively engage research and development with education and training. Embedding innovation within vocational qualifications and university degrees thereby exposing students to the very latest knowledge, technologies and practices which they will take into the rural businesses who employ them.
Navigating vocational education and training
Vocational education and training has been characterised by a continuous cycle of reform during the last 15 years. At the heart of reform is balancing the investment between Federal governments, States and Territory governments and industry. There is rhetoric about reform improving the system, yet there continues to be articles about dodgy training providers and employee certificate holders arriving in workplaces who are not “job ready”, leading to a crisis in confidence in the quality of VET training. A growing number of industry bodies and enterprises understand the importance of skills and training. But many have limited time, resources and access to the information or networks they need to make effective use of the training opportunities that are available through VET.
FAS lives and breathes the VET sector. We understand the system at Federal, State/Territory levels and can navigate through the complexity to arrive at appropriate training solutions for industry and enterprises, this includes applying for government funding. Our 10 years of industry intelligence gathering also enables us to provide independent policy advice to industry about sector priorities in workforce, skills and training.
Regional workforce, skills and employment solutions
FAS has trialled and tested a variety of approaches to helping solve the lack of labour and skills gaps in regions. Attraction and retention of skilled workers seems to be an intractable problem. Unless addressed directly, this situation will increasingly impede industry performance.
FAS’s regional employment and skills model has proven to be particularly resilient and successful in addressing these challenges. It comprises an innovative, scalable, cost-effective collaborative system with a proven ability to deliver sustained improvements in attraction, training and retention of the skilled people needed in regional communities. The system achieves the step-change required through an intense localisation and quick delivery of the skills sets needed most by enterprises, creating a more mobile skilled regional workforce and developing ‘employers of choice’.
The model recognises that each region has a unique mix of attributes – economic, social, cultural, natural and historic – all of which are important in determining a region’s potential for growth and competitiveness. It is therefore designed to be highly adaptable to each region. Local community and businesses become the owners and drivers of the region’s sustainable workforce solutions with a realisable set of objectives:
- The region will be able to attract and retain skilled workers
- Business owners and managers will develop their business & leadership capability
- Greater productivity and utilisation of skills will be realised
- And career opportunities will emerge, reducing outward migration of the region’s greatest asset: young people.
Most recently FAS has combined its efforts with other not for profit entities with strong social welfare experience to assist in the Long Term Unemployed space – who are particularly numerous in regional areas. This is an exciting development and will expand the reach of FAS’s model – meeting industry, government and social objectives – in a much more holistic way than possible before.
Career pathways and education
There is a major effort underway to promote careers in food and agriculture and to ensure schools teach current material about the industry as part of the Australian curriculum. FAS is part of that effort generating education materials and promoting career pathways. This effort needs to continue as the sector faces stiff competition for workers. Also, jobs are radically changing with new technology, automation and shifts in consumer and market demands, the careers focus must be about attracting and retaining workers throughout their career. The diversity of career options and paths available in food and agriculture is a particular strength in what the sector has to offer.
Industry has long lamented the distinct lack of information available about careers in the sector. Career Harvest was launched by the Deans of Agriculture to address this gap. The website provides excellent information about careers, scholarships and internships offered by universities and VET. The future of Career Harvest is exciting. FAS has taken over management of Career Harvest and will work with industry and education stakeholders to develop the site to engage the next generation in a dialogue about the exciting career opportunities our sector offers.
International skills and TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training)
Australia is on the doorstep of rapidly developing Asian economies. As these economies mature, so do their expectations and demand of their workforces. ASEAN and APEC are devoting significant resources to workforce development and enabling labour mobility within the region. There is particular demand from governments for assistance in developing TVET capability within country, with agriculture and aquaculture being priority industries. FAS offers core capability to assist governments to develop TVET capability, with projects already completed in Vietnam and Philippines.
Australia relies on its reputation for high-quality, safe product into Asia as our point of difference and value proposition to consumers in competitive overseas markets. Exporters must be certain product is handled appropriately at every stage of the supply chain to meet buyer expectations, this relies on appropriate worker training. FAS has the capability to partner with industry and governments to ensure workers are trained to handle Australian product throughout the supply chain to ensure the integrity of our quality products are assured. This is even more important now following the increased opportunities for export of agriculture products under the Trans Pacific Partnership arrangements.
Labour market intelligence
Rapid advances in technology, shifts in global demography and the rise of the conscientious consumer are just some of the factors which must be taken into account when planning industry workforce needs. Media stories report daily that the jobs of the future will not be the jobs of today. So how does industry assess its current and future worker needs?
Every year FAS, as AgriFood Skills Australia prepared an environmental scan for the industry which considered the micro and macro economic factors driving local and global change. Each scan then drilled down and reported the implications of those drivers on the agrifood industries workforce and skills and training needs. FAS will continue to capture and report intelligence on drivers of change for the industry.
National skills programs management and delivery
A national approach to skills and training recognises the diverse needs and mobile workforce of the agrifood sector. The FAS team has long term experience in the design of national programs which are delivered locally through regions, industry groups and businesses. FAS is also experienced in engaging on behalf of industry with federal, state and territory skills and training programs to achieve industry wide and individual enterprise training solutions.
Through the National Workforce Development Fund (NWDF) and other initiatives FAS has invested $13 million over a number of years in co-funded skills and training between businesses, industry and government. We have managed 99 contracts training 3,500 learners nationwide addressing the upskilling needs of enterprises. Our experience enables us to effectively manage the interface between funding opportunities, industry and enterprise training needs and quality training providers avoiding the many pitfalls and poor training outcomes that are prevalent in the system.