Work experience in the pre-accredited environment

Work Experience in the Pre-Accredited Environment, 27 October 2017

Nick Orchard, Senior Policy Officer, Participation Branch, Department of Education and Training Thanks so much for that and thanks everyone for attending today. It’s really great to have such a high number of Learn Locals and of my government colleagues join the call. Before I start, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I stand, the Wurundjeri People and pay my respect to elders, past and present, and also on the lands where all of you are located today.

Now, I’m going to keep it relatively brief, running through our presentation today, so we have plenty of time for questions at the end. So, if you do have questions, please if you could hold off to the allocated section, that would be fantastic.

So, what I’m going to run through today is going to be what prompted these guidelines to be created. A bit about the legislative and insurance environment that we’re operating in here, a bit about the pre-accredited model, the pre-accredited work experience model and going into a bit more detail and, of course, the most important part – to give you all a chance to ask questions, based on your initial read of the guidelines. Now, to start it off, I’d like to acknowledge that there’s been some fantastic work which has been done by pre-accredited providers, Learn Locals have the last several years in the work experience space and there’s been a wide variety of models which have been drawn from and some examples of really, really, sensational practice there. Now, these models have varied broadly from including unsupervised vocational placements, all the way through to collectives of learners going together out to workplaces to learn hands-on skills in a real industry setting. So, lots and lots of different models and a particular shout-out to Noweyung, who had a fantastic model that they’ve been running this year, in conjunction with Gippsland Health, I believe it was but what a great model that was in partnership with a local Commonwealth employment service provider. Really, really great stuff there. Now, and I also want to acknowledge that authentic exposure to industry is really important for learners. At the end of the day, it’s going to help them make informed choices about their future. It’s going to help them to choose their education pathways and, ultimately, it’s going to help them get a job as well and getting exposure is always a good thing, as well as putting, you know, the great things that you’re learning in the classroom into practice to consolidate those learnings.

Now, some of the things that we’ve had to investigate recently has been around insurance, regulation, legislation in relation to pre-accredited work experience. We’ve had a number of questions from providers, again over the last few years, about insurance and it’s been a bit of a confusing space. We’ve had some mixed messaging from VMIA and from our insurance contacts in the Department and a variety of legal advice over that time. So, the purpose of these guidelines is to try to put some of that back to bed and to have a really clear model and really clear understanding for all providers. In the making of these guidelines, we’ve had very significant input from our legal department, from our insurance people in the Department and also from VMIA. We’ve also had a work experience working group with an array of my Departmental colleagues, including Verna Kearney, who for those of you who didn’t know, Verna recently retired and is now lying on a beach in Noosa somewhere. Jane de Wildt, Georgina Ryder, Jeremy from South Eastern and Teresa Durka. So, some really good heads around the table there, helping to devise what this model looks like and some really good examples of great practice in the sector that it’s been drawn from.

Now, for the purpose of our conversation today, I’m going to use a couple of terms just to, you know, distinguish different types of work experience. So, for examples of work experience where a learner is in a workplace, not in a group – they’re there by themselves and aren’t supervised by a trainer, I’m going to use the term ‘unsupervised vocational placements’. For pre-accredited – the model that is included in the guidelines – I’ll use the term ‘pre-accredited work experience’. Just so we can differentiate, as we go along, because work experience is such an interchangeable term.

Now, let’s talk legislation – everyone’s favourite. So, the key piece of legislation which relate to pre-accredited work experience at the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 and the Fair Work Act 2009. Now, I’m going to go into a lot of detail about ETRA, the Education and Training Reform Act and the Fair Work Act but I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail about the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. Just because their definition of work experience is exactly aligned to that of ETRA’s, so ETRA is the over-arching document here. The Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act is a piece of legislation which provides a framework for compensation which all the insurance policies are based on but ETRA has the same definition. So, we’ll talk in detail about ETRA.

Now, within the Education and Training Reform Act, there is specific reference to school-based work experience, structured workplace learning and practical placements, which are embedded and give special provisions and conditions to those undertaking it. So, for the period of time that a school student doing work experience or someone doing structured workplace learning or practical placements – for the period of time that that student is in that placement, they’re considered to be an employee of the Department of Education and Training, is covered under our insurance policy, as result. So, that’s specified within the Education and Training Reform Act. Now, pre-accredited work experience is not included under the Education and Training Reform Act, which means there is not the same coverage as these other programs enjoy, unfortunately. There is, however, an option which is included in the Education and Training Reform Act for ministerial orders to be made, to broaden the scope of the legislation, however, this is an incredibly long process and would need to be considered if the definition of pre-accredited work experience also fits with the definition of work experience under the Fair Work Act, which is a Commonwealth legislation, under which ETRA sits, essentially, or the work experience component in ETRA. So, look, this is all interesting to note and helps to provide the different rationale for how different work experience models are run.

To move onto the Fair Work Act, so from a Commonwealth perspective and, look, it’s a very detailed Act and anyone who is interested in understanding more about it, I would refer to a paper written by the University of Adelaide, on behalf of the Fair Work Ombudsman, which is the Experience Or Exploitation Report, which has some fantastic case studies but has a very, very, very in-depth analysis of the Fair Work Act, specifically pertaining to work experience and volunteering in these sorts of environments.

Now, under the Fair Work Act, a pre-accredited worker on work experience is considered to be a worker for the duration of that time. So, they’re considered to be, essentially, an unpaid employee of the employer who’s hosting the work experience, which is important to know. Again, different to those doing practical placements or structured workplace learning, who are considered to be employees of the Department of Education and Training for that period. Now, under the Fair Work Act, and this is an interesting contentious thing, but the exact wording is that ‘work experience must be a requirement of the course’, which our legal department has interpreted as an assessed component of a course, which is out of scope for pre-accredited training because pre-accredited training, by its very nature, isn’t assessed and this is really interesting as well but ‘if the worker undertaken by a learner who is doing pre-accredited work experience, is deemed to be productive, then that host employer would potentially be liable to action under the Fair Work Commission’. So, by this, what I mean is, let’s say someone is working for a business and the work experience they’re doing is something that would improve that business’s bottom line and theoretically someone could be getting paid an hourly rate to undertake, that would mean that that host employer would be exposed potentially under the Fair Work Act. So, that’s really important to note.

Insurance coverage. So, the Department purchases insurance coverage for all Learn Locals, except those that are neighbourhood houses, who the exact same policy is purchased by DHHS for neighbourhood houses / Learn Locals. So, that is the Community Service Organisation policy of the VMIA, which we purchase. Now, this policy is complex, in relation to pre-accredited work experience. So, there is explicit full coverage for if you were to be hosting a worker onsite at your work for work experience. Absolutely, you’re covered for that – unsupervised or supervised. You’re covered if you’re the one hosting, however, if you’re hosting external work experience, the definitions are, you know, there’s some contentions the legal department was looking into. The definition for work experience is laid out in the personal accident policy is ‘a set period of time during which a young person, usually a student, works either voluntarily or for a very small monetary amount for the named insured, which is you, the Learn Local agency, in order to gain experience in a particular type of industry. Now, so, that’s the wording and that’s being contentious but regardless of whether this policy does cover for external, unsupervised vocational placements, it doesn’t cover everything off under that. So, the host employer is still going to be liable for some insurance coverage.

So, for example, under the VMIA Community Service Organisation Policy, things which aren’t covered – Workers Compensation, bearing in mind again under the Fair Work Act, learners are considered to be workers for the period of time that they are undertaking this unsupervised vocational placement. Stress leave, aggravation of pre-existing injuries, lifetime disability, mental health impacts and return to work. Again, because they’re considered to be a worker, return to work becomes in scope. Now, this is the majority of damages which would be likely to be paid out. If you address it in a full list of those that are covered, please refer to pages 10-13 of your VMIA community Service Organisation policy. Those are some of the really big headline things which aren’t covered and aggravation of pre-existing injuries – I mean, that’s a really significant outlay and also just noting that claims can be retrospective. So, what I mean by that is that, theoretically, if someone was to do an unsupervised vocational placement tomorrow in a pre-accredited course and, four years from now, feel like they were injured or something occurred to them during that time, they could make a claim, at that point and we have a complex arrangement as well for insurance for practical placements that our RTOs are delivering and there have been several claims that are retrospective to four or five years ago in that space. So, it does happen though, of course, a much higher volume of students who are doing placements – practical placements – than there are those that are doing pre-accredited unsupervised vocational placements.

So, the reality is that there’s a few conundrums that we’re keen to overcome and the reason that we’re come these is that, again, you know, we really value that industry exposure is important to learners. It helps make great future educational choices and is, yeah, it’s a critical factor and a great thing to be included in pre-accredited training.

So, the model which we’ve designed is something that is safe, covered by insurance and aligned the intent of pre-accredited training which is, of course, utterly entry level and to prepare people to move onto a Cert I or a Cert II or a Cert III but to prepare them for accredited training or further employment and, yeah, so we feel that this model has some great things to offer in that space. So, in this model, it’s designed to incorporate tours, hands-on learning, occupational health and safety, career stories and industry-specific skill development. Should be able to help learners to myth-bust vocations and build skills again to make those really great informed choices for accredited training and not burn their entitlements. You know, at the end of the day, it’s really easy for learners to have an idea in their head about certain industries and might be, you know, a romantic idea but when you go in and do a couple of days’ work, you might say “hey, this actually isn’t what I want to do at all”. So, it’s great to do that before you’re actually doing one of your accredited entitlements to have that important lesson.

Really assist the learner to understand whether skills and talents lie in a work context. You know, all the time, we hear from our learners and the people that we work with that, you know, they feel like they’re not good at anything or they’ve had real trouble finding an industry that suits them and it’s a chance to get there, try different industries, you know, get your hands a bit dirty trying different things and say “hey, actually, I’ve got real talent and skill and now I’m clear about where those sit in the world of industry”. Again, helps to dispel industry myths. We spoke about that. Builds employability skills and contextualises industry-specific experience. So, it’s great. You’re in the classroom, you know, learning lessons, learning about, you know, a certain industry and where their skills apply but then you actually get to go out and try them out and get a good sense and, at the end of the day, as we’re talking about authentic experience improves career decision-making and, you know, that’s what we’re all about. We want people to move through hopefully into accredited training and hopefully into employment and we want them to be really confident doing that and making really fantastic decisions for them.

So, the four key elements of this model are that it must be undertaken as a group and be supervised by a trainer at all times. Pre-accredited work experience. The pre-accredited work experience must link to the A-frame. The pre-accredited work experience must not exceed 10% of the total pre-accredited delivery hours and that a formal agreement should be in place between the Learn Local and the host employer. Now, you would have noticed that, as an attachment to the guidelines, we’ve included an example of this agreement. You don’t have to use that example. These agreements are not something that we’re ever going to audit or be chasing up. It’s for you, as an independent non-government organisation to have yourself covered off, should anything crop up at any point. So, it’s to have that certainty and these are the measures that are in place to make sure that the pre-accredited work experience is defined within the scope of an education initiative. It’s to protect the host employer, as much as it is to protect you. So, its to make sure that nothing is falling into that category of productive work, which might leave the host employer exposed and also to make sure that all the lessons that are learned are being contextualised to the lessons that are learned in the pre-accredited course, more broadly, and also make sure that learners have that hands-on supervision so when they move through into doing unsupervised vocational placements, as part of an accredited course, they’ll be very, very well prepared for those.

And, just … actually, just to speak from experience, before I came to the Department, I worked for the Brotherhood of St Laurence and was running programs which very much fit this pre-accredited work experience model and we had great success doing them. They’re great. They’re easy to design, it’s great that they fit within the concept of pre-accredited training, learners definitely get a lot out of it and there’s a huge appeal for industry to get involved in these models and, actually, that’s the next slide, so that’s timely but it’s a structured model, really easy for them to buy in, they don’t have to spare massive amounts of staff time for supervising unsupervised vocational placements, they have a trainer onsite to help them facilitate the activities and, for big businesses, and this is a big one, but … who have sort of corporate social responsibility targets, great chance for them to be writing off some of these activities under corporate social responsibility and, also, for those growth industries, which might have high volume employment needs, really fantastic for these learners to be exposed there to get a foot in the door and, potentially, get some job opportunities, moving forward. So, look, big appeal to industry of this model. It’s a great alignment to pre-accredited training, of course, which is designed to be a taster of further education or vocational pathways and to set people up really well for those and, also, there’s a really good prospect here of links to accredited courses for unsupervised placements. So, if you have a partner RTO or TAFE locally or if you’re a Learn Local who is also an RTO, what a fantastic chance to partner there and, you know, have this exposure to industry as part of the pre-accredited training, which is then linked to a vocational certificate under which there is an unsupervised vocational placement. So, it just helps with that funnel all the way through. From pre-accredited to accredited and into employment for learners who, of course, are seeking employment.

Now, I just want to point out and this is of critical importance, there is absolutely the option for any Learn Local to facilitate a different model to the one that I’ve just talked through. You’re all non-government entities in your own right. You are funded by the ACFE Board for pre-accredited training and the Department, in some cases, but you’re an independent organisation of your own and you can absolutely make your own decisions. So, you can make those calls to have other models but I would just advise that, under the current insurance setting, the host employer is the one who is inadvertently covering the insurance for unsupervised vocational placements, so I would suggest that it would be best practice for them to be fully aware of that, going into the work experience placement and, you know, I would suggest, from practice, that sometimes that’s something that host employers don’t want to cover. It’s a reality there but if they’re fine with that, then that’s completely fine and you can facilitate those sessions. You can also investigate a broader insurance policy, which could be possible, though it could be expensive, just because, as we discussed some of those elements that were out of scope for the Community Service Organisation policy that VMIA have other more expensive items under our return to work thing. We have done some initial investigation within the Department about whether that is something that we could cover and, while those investigations are ongoing, the reality is that we don’t have the budget for that currently and we also don’t want a dual insurance model and what I mean by that is not every Learn Local is delivering pre-accredited work experience and nor is it an expectation that everyone would and so, paying for, you know, different insurance for different organisations and having different coverage would be a logistical challenge.

And, also just to point out another option and, you know, Noweyung have done a great job in this space. To partner with Commonwealth-funded employment service providers who are, to a certain extent, fully covered for unsupervised vocational placements, for those sorts of partnerships, you’re transferring the risk to them and they have a much broader insurance policy and, as a really good example, their Work for the Dole, the new version of Work for the Dole initially had a very similar insurance policy to the VMIA CSO policy and there wasn’t great buy-in from host employers because they didn’t want to be exposed for a whole lot of potential outlays and they didn’t want their premium to be exposed and so, the Department of Employment, the Commonwealth Department of Employment, made the decision to up that insurance policy and so there’s a really good opportunity there to partner with those providers, which I know some of you already do and that’s really good practice.

So, examples in practice. So, there was an example that we included in the guidelines which was an invented Learn Local name, which I invented - Winley Learn Local, I don’t know, I think it sounded apt [laughter] but, you know, and about exposure to the horticulture industry, in particular. Now, the stuff that’s really important here, when running these models, I think especially under this model is that there is a really good preparation element in leading up to that group pre-accredited work experience placement. So, everyone is really prepared before they get through the door and ready to hit the ground running when they do and doing a bit of sort of practice and skill development, you know, in the Learn Local, in the classroom or the environment where it’s being run and, also, before going in to do stuff like, an OH&S Induction and a meet and greet with, you know, an Operations Manager or a senior staff member from that particular business. Just so it all feels really familiar and safe and everyone feels really prepared when they get through the door, things that personally and, of course, the model is totally up to you but things that I personally have found that is really great is to do tours, career chats with a diversity of employees across the business, hands on learning, so, making sure that learners are actually getting their hands dirty and doing some of those that are light duties that entry level workers may be required to do just to get a sense of the look, smell, feel, touch of it all and also then after the placement, critically, to have really good opportunities to reflect on those experiences, how you found them, what you learned and, in a group, contextualise these learnings. So, that’s an example but many of you have other sensational examples of practice in this space.

Now, the time everyone has been waiting for. Time for questions. So, I’d love to field any questions now and I’ll read the question out and respond. I may need to refer to notes for some questions and, if there’s anything particularly complex, we may need to take it on notice but, just to give everyone a heads-up, any questions that come through (a) will be included in an FAQ document, which I’ll make sure is distributed via memo in the upcoming weeks and (b) this whole session is being recorded and we’ll make sure this is online so you can re-listen to any of the questions afterwards. So, with no further ado, thank you very much and any questions, I’m happy to field now.

All is quiet, at this stage. I’m wondering if the silence is either that someone is writing like a five paragraph long question or whether maybe somehow I’ve hit the nail on the head of the webinar information but I’m assuming it’s the former, rather than the latter.

Oh, great, okay. So, Holly, thank you very much, Holly. I’m trying to figure out where you’re from – anyhow, Holly, thank you very much. Yes, two participants or more is fine. Oh, from Wellsprings for Women – great. Two participants or more is considered to be a group but also it’s about the logistical challenge for you as much as anyone else around hosting several groups at once. So, it would be, you know, we would sort of imagine the number of people that are doing the pre-accredited session would be the number who would be doing the group work but if you have the capacity to facilitate more broad sort of group sessions with a trainer present, then you’re absolutely welcome to do that and you’d be covered.

Now, Liza or Lisa, Liza – Nick, did you say that the host is responsible for insurance cover or damage? How would that work for tour? So, for the tour, the host employer is absolutely not liable. So, that is covered. Sorry, Liza, I should have said this. This is absolutely covered under the VMIA CSO policy. So, it’s the same as any other excursion. So, you’re absolutely covered for that and the host employer is not exposed. From Rosewall, great – lovely to meet you, Liza.

Good day, Josie. Shoot with your question any time you would like. Oh, good day, Chelsea, hope you’re well. To envision multiple … Chelsea’s asked if we envision multiple sessions or more one-off sessions of work experience? I mean, I think, Chelsea that’s totally up to Learn Locals to make that call. If it was me running it and this is completely personal taste, I would think a one-off session of a few days sort of in the middle of a pre-accredited course to really contextualise the learnings and then have good time at the back end to go over those and reflect would work really well but absolutely welcome to do multiple sessions as well. No probs, thank you.

Good day, Mina, how are ya? So, Mina has written: Hi Nick, does the workplace have to be included in the original SCH or separate? Sorry, Mina, can you spell out what the acronym SCH is? Ah, Student Contact Hour. Yes, yeah, it needs to be included.

Sapna has asked: If we are Learn Local and RTO too, we hold insurance under the RTO arm. Can we do without one-on-one placements? Can we do without one-on-one placements without trainer supervision? Sapna, no sorry, it’s … that’s fantastic that you’re both a Learn Local and an RTO but the coverage is specifically for the practical placements model, which can only be delivered as part of an accredited course. So, that’s not necessarily about the insurance coverage because, actually, learners that are doing it as part of an accredited course are covered under the Department of Education and Training’s insurance policy and that’s because of the specification in the Education and Training Reform Act which is that, for the period of time that learners are doing that work experience or practical placement, that they are covered under our insurance.

Holly has asked how hands-on can they be? What exactly is light duty? For example, if the work is with people and not products. Thanks so much for that, Holly. Look, that’s pretty much your call, at the end of the day. By light duty, what I mean is just make sure that it’s not something which is going to add to that employer’s bottom line because, again, we are wanting to avoid the productive work scenario and we’re also not wanting anyone doing anything massively kind of complex or dangerous, which they might not be well prepared for but, by hands on work or working with people, I think that’s totally fine in that, in pre-accredited work experience, it’s just a matter of, yeah, monitoring (a) they’re productive (b) their kind of risk level.

Good day, Josie, how are you and nice to hear from you. Josie, in your circumstance, where I know that you guys are partnered with a Commonwealth Department of Employment colleague, again, that’s a … you’re absolutely welcome to run a different model. The reason that we chose 10% and that was something which was a significant topic of discussion with our work experience working group, our legal department and our insurance people, was just to make absolutely clear if something were to go awry, that the pre-accredited work experience was just part of an educational course and wasn’t sort of that person contributing to that employer’s bottom line. So, that was something important, which was weighed up and to’d and fro’d about quite a bit but, again, if you’re covered under that Department of Employment insurance policy, then you can do it how you like.

Sapna, so Sapna has asked – to be a little more clear – we can’t conduct individual work placement. Sapna, you’re absolutely welcome to but, just to reiterate, the host employer will – if you don’t have a different insurance policy – the host employer would be the one sort of holding the risk in that space, unless there’s a trainer present. So, you can do individual work placement if there’s a trainer present and be covered under the VMIA CSO but I imagine it will be a significant rarity where you will have one person do a pre-accredited course or have the trainer capacity to go out with each individual to sort of personally mind that scenario. Thanks, Hapthree – I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing your name right, sorry about that but … oh, from AMES, hey, how are ya? So, the question is, so is the work experience more of an observation for the students or can they do tasks that may be productive but they are being shown what to do by the employer’s staff? So, my response to that is that definitely observational is great. Definitely, they can do tasks they are being shown what to do by the employer’s staff. So, you know, learning how to do something and doing that kind of hands-on learning practising but, to use an example, if they were on an assembly line in a factory and for more than, you know, half an hour or an hour, putting something together on that assembly line, which theoretically, they could be paid for, that would be veering into that territory of productive work.

No worries, thank you. Cool, so it appears as though that may be the end of the questions but I think that everyone has my details. They’re certainly attached to the memos that have gone out and anyone is welcome to contact me anytime. That is absolutely fine and I’m more than happy to take some time out to talk you individually through the model in more detail and, especially, most importantly, the insurance and legislative environment that we are moving in because it is complex and, you know, took a lot of digging for us to get to the back end of this but I’d like to really thank all of you for joining this group today. It’s been a really great chat and some really sensational questions which, as I’ve discussed, I’ll put together in a FAQ and if you have any extra questions that you send through to me in the next few days via email or by phone, I’ll also include those in the FAQ. So, I’ll close that off at the end of the week and that will be the responses.

Thanks all so much for participating. That’s great. Thanks to my colleague, Anu, for her assistance in the room here and have a lovely day and keep doing the fantastic work you’re doing on work experience for learners. Thanks very much. Female speaker Thanks Nick and that comes – that’s concluding our webinar for today. I’d just like to remind you that this is being recorded and I believe the Department will put it up on their website for anyone who wants a re-listen. So, thanks again, everybody for coming along and I’m sure you found it very interesting and we’ll guide you in your placement with work experience. Thanks, Nick. Thanks a lot. Nick Thank you Female speaker Bye

Reviewed 16 December 2020