Progress of Action 5.4

Action 5.4: Develop a Strategic Workforce Plan for operations with a strong focus on regional and remote delivery of services.

Action objective: FRV has a Strategic Workforce Plan for operations, that forecasts changing workforce requirements through to 2026. The plan will also outline the actions required to ensure FRV has the workforce capacity, capability and culture required to deliver on community expectations, including secondment obligations to CFA.

Lead agency: FRV

Year Two to Five Plan (November 2021) completion dateYear Two to Five Plan (updated May 2023) completion dateAgency reported status as at 30 June 2023
June 2022March 2023Completed

Context

This action requires FRV to develop a Strategic Workforce Plan for operations with a strong focus on regional and remote delivery of services.

The FRV Strategic Workforce Plan (Operations) 2022-2027 (FRV Workforce Plan) will address existing workforce challenges and opportunities to support the optimal wellbeing, capacity and capability of FRV’s operational workforce, which is integral to its performance as a service-led organisation.

FSIM notes that in Q4 2022-23, FRV adjusted the deliverables for this action. In previous quarters, this action had included a ‘forecast capacity and capability gaps analysis’ deliverable; however, in Q4, FRV had incorporated this gaps analysis as part of their ongoing draft workforce plan implementation.

Progress summary

As at 30 June 2023, FRV reported this action as completed but had not submitted the acquittal form. FRV’s ELT endorsed the draft FRV Workforce Plan in February 2023. At the time of reporting, the endorsed draft FRV Workforce Plan was with CFA and separately with the UFU for consultation.

The draft FRV Workforce Plan outlines five key focus areas FRV will target to build and maintain its workforce for the future:

  • health, safety and wellbeing
  • capability planning and development
  • culture, inclusion and engagement
  • workforce modelling and data quality
  • governance.

The draft FRV Workforce Plan includes projections for FRV staff and 20 initiatives outlining foundational work programs to support the optimal capacity and capability of FRV’s operational workforce. Each of the 20 initiatives has defined KPIs and performance metrics will be overseen by quarterly reporting to FRV’s ELT. As part of workforce monitoring and forecasting, FRV has completed work to forecast their workforce affordability, demand, and supply over a five-year horizon.

FSIM notes that the current FRV workforce projections do not account for the number of staff required to support CFA under the secondment arrangements. However, one of the 20 recommended initiatives is to ensure a pipeline of capable ACFOs and Commanders with the requisite skills and capabilities to support CFA to deliver services in the CAoV. FRV has initiated work with CFA to understand and forecast CFA’s needs to inform the draft FRV Workforce Plan in 2024. This is a critical intersection with the CFA Capability Statement (action 5.1) and FSIM observed that as FRV further develop the draft FRV Workforce Plan, these capabilities and skills should be specifically identified and accounted for.

Implementing the draft FRV Workforce Plan supports, and is supported by, other organisational-wide strategic plans such as the FRV Strategic Plan 2022-2032 and draft FRV DEI Strategy.

In February 2023, FRV provided the draft FRV Workforce Plan to CFA for consultation. In June 2023, FRV was awaiting feedback from CFA. CFA advised FRV in June 2023 that they were consolidating feedback and will provide it to FRV in FY 2023-24.

Findings

FSIM finds action 5.4 is partially implemented as FRV removed the ‘forecast capacity and capability gaps’ deliverables, intended for delivery in Q4 FY 2022-23, to a BAU activity in FY 2023-24. Given these fundamental pieces of work are not yet complete and significantly contribute to FRV achieving the action’s objective, FSIM will return to assess the effectiveness of this action in the short term.

FRV’s workforce forecasting model is yet to incorporate CFA’s capability and capacity forecasts

In June 2023, FRV advised FSIM that its workforce forecasting model was yet to include a forecasted number of seconded staff to CFA. FRV planned to develop a seconded staff forecasting model in consultation with CFA in 2024. FSIM notes that without comprehensive workforce forecasting incorporating the number of staff with requisite skills to be seconded to CFA, FRV may face challenges in meeting its secondment obligations under the Secondment Agreement.

FSIM notes that vacant seconded ACFO and Commander positions and relief issues for District Duty Officers were standing agenda items at every HoA meeting over FY 2022-23. CFA has consistently reiterated, via HoA, that understaffing for critical seconded roles may impact their ability to respond to emergencies. FSIM also notes that ongoing vacancy and relief management issues may impact the health and wellbeing of staff (e.g., fatigue and stress), FRV productivity (e.g., due to increased workloads for operational staff), and operational costs (e.g., increase in costs of higher duties and overtime).

Additionally, CFA has identified approximately 48 per cent of current seconded staff could retire in the coming five to ten years (as noted in action 5.1). This potential risk may be addressed in the draft FRV Workforce Plan, under sections 2.2 and 4.2, in FY 2023-24. Establishing a pipeline of seconded staff to address this impending risk will be crucial for FRV to fulfil its secondment obligations to CFA.

FRV received $4.6 million over two years in the 2023-24 State Budget to fund additional command staff to deliver critical leadership functions across Victoria’s fire services and strengthen the emergency management firefighting capability. As at 30 June 2023, the funding was held in contingency with approval to release subject to a proposal for staffing allocation across CFA and FRV (including but not limited to Commanders, Commander Relievers and ACFOs). Accessing this additional funding may address vacancy issues identified by CFA and FRV.

Agencies need to collaborate to ensure this action meets its objectives

As at 30 June 2023, FSIM had received evidence that CFA had not yet provided a formal written response to FRV regarding whether the draft FRV Workforce Plan met CFA’s seconded staff capability and capacity requirements.

FSIM considers it fundamental to the success of both this action, and action 5.1 (CFA’s capability and capacity requirements for seconded staff), that CFA and FRV work collaboratively to establish a mutually accepted approach on how FRV fulfills its secondment obligations to CFA, with a strong focus on effective provisions of services in regional and remote areas of Victoria. This entails collecting pertinent data, fostering collaborative and transparent workforce planning between CFA and FRV, leveraging historical workforce trends and incident data, and employing an appropriate and comprehensive forecasting model.

FRV’s workforce capacity and capability forecasting and gap analysis, which are not yet complete and do not currently include staff seconded to CFA, are critical inputs into FRV’s forecasting of future workforce related costs for the new fire services model (action 5.8 long-term funding plans). As noted in FSIM's Annual Report 2021/22, FRV’s primary cost driver is employee full-time equivalent costs, which constitute 79 per cent of the total expenses incurred in the delivery of services for FY 2021–22 (and 82 per cent in FY 2020-21).[77] Given that FRV’s employee costs are highly influenced by the agreed enterprise bargaining agreements, it is imperative for FRV to accurately assess employee costs (including seconded employee costs) and their impacts on FRV’s long-term financial sustainability.

FRV considered the forecast capacity and capability gaps analysis is a BAU activity to be delivered as part of the ongoing implementation of the draft FRV Workforce Plan from July 2023 to December 2023.

FSIM notes that FRV is actively engaged in regular and ongoing refinements of their internal workforce forecast model in response to the evolving circumstances and is continuing to work with CFA to develop a forecasting model for staff secondment. This iterative approach to enhancement is essential for maintaining operational readiness and ensuring efficient resource allocation for FRV.

There are fundamental pieces of work currently in progress that will assist FRV in meeting this action’s objective, including:

  • FRV providing a formal response to CFA on the CFA Capability Statement.
  • FRV working collaboratively with CFA to agree on the forecast of staff to be seconded from FRV to meet CFA’s capability and capacity requirements.
  • FRV completing the gap analysis to inform possible mitigation strategies if FRV is not able to meet CFA capability and capacity needs under the secondment arrangements.
  • CFA providing a formal response to FRV, highlighting the extent to which the draft FRV Workforce Plan addresses the CFA Capability Statement requirements now and into the future and identifying where CFA has additional information or data to inform more accurate modelling by FRV for seconded staff.
  • CFA and FRV working collaboratively to forecast changing workforce requirements based on interoperable and complementary fire services across Victoria.



Footnotes

[77] Fire Services Implementation Monitor, 2023, Fire Services Implementation Monitor Annual Report 2021/22, Victorian Government, viewed 8 August 2023, https://www.vic.gov.au/fire-services-implementation-monitor-annual-report-2021-22, pg. 125.

Updated