Transcript of Building effective RTO-employer partnerships

12 September 2023

Vocational voices: Season 8, Episode 5

Building effective RTO-employer partnerships

Jeff Lynch (00:04)

Quite seriously, I probably learned as much from the guys as I try to, you know, deliver to them. You talk about vulnerability; I can recall back right to the start of this. We kind of all exposed ourselves, said, okay, none of us know everything. Let's talk about scenarios. And we talked a lot and confidentially about scenarios that are happening in the guy’s workplaces, all those kinds of things. And, I think the trust and respect grew over time and to where we are now.

Steve Davis (00:31)

Hello and welcome to Vocational Voices. The official podcast of the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, or NCVER for short. I'm Steve Davis, and in today's episode, we're exploring the topic of building effective RTO-employer partnerships.

We have five vocational voices today. We have Michelle Circelli, Research and Data Analytics Branch, NCVER. Charmaine Marshall from Murrumbidgee Local Health District, New South Wales Government. Jeff Lynch, a trainer and assessor, Tina Berghella, a consultant with Oggi Consulting. And Ange Damm, who is representing the voice of the learner in this process.

Hello to all of you.

Angela Damm, Michelle Circelli, Charmaine Marshall, Jeff Lynch, Tina Berghella (01:17)

Good morning.
Hi Steve.

Steve Davis (01:21)

Now... Effective partnerships between training providers and employers are important for ensuring a robust VET sector. RTO employer partnerships, they act as channels through which industry skill needs are met with relevant training, while simultaneously building the capacity and the resilience of providers and employers alike.

Well, based on a series of case studies of RTO-employer partnerships covering a range of industry areas, geographical locations and employer sizes, a new NCVER Good Practice Guide, Building Effective RTO-Employer Partnerships, identifies the drivers for RTO Employer Partnerships, the benefits and the challenges related to building and sustaining partnerships, along with strategies that foster the development of quality RTO-employer partnerships.

Now, before we look at those four key elements that lead to effective partnerships, I'd like to start by asking you, Michelle, why was NCVER interested in undertaking this project?

Michelle Circelli (02:29)

Yeah, really good starting point, Steve. Thanks. Our interest in how effective or successful RTO employer partnerships are built and sustained was prompted by a few things.

Now, firstly, we know the VET system, or vocational education training system, is a key supplier of work skills. But often times we hear concerns raised about how well or well not the VET system is meeting the skills needed by industry. And here I refer, industry is referring to employers and unions and peak bodies.

So, at this broader political level, the Commonwealth and state and territory governments have a keen interest in how well industry engages with the VET system. Now, if industry is working closely with the VET system, it means current and future skills needs are met, people are getting the right skills at the right time.

Innovation and knowledge creation abounds, productivity increases, and there's this greater trust in our VET system that it can deliver the skills that are needed. So that's the bigger picture. But we're also prompted to look at RTO-employer partnerships after reflecting on some of NCVER's own work. For example, the 2021 results from our biennial Survey of Employers’ Use and Views of the VET system.

It highlights that the majority of employers are satisfied with the VET system as a way of meeting the skills they need. But for employers who were dissatisfied, among the key reasons were that relevant skills were not taught and that the training was of a poor quality. Other NCVER research has shown that employers want training that is short, sharp and bespoke. It has to be convenient, at a low cost and of immediate relevance to practical business issues.

Which all highlights the importance of training providers developing strong relationships with employers so as to better understand and meet their skill needs, which led us to the work we undertook and the conversation that we're going to have today.

How do training providers actually go about engaging more effectively with employers so as to build these stronger, more collaborative relationships as a means to better meet employer skills needs?

Steve Davis (04:46)

Michelle, are you able to just name and define these four key elements that underpin the building and sustaining of effective partnerships?

Michelle Circelli (04:55)

Yeah, sure, Steve. So, through the research that we did, and Tina was a core part of undertaking all of that research, there were, as you say, four elements we identified. And the first one we refer to as quality training and service delivery. And we see this as the foundation of a partnership. If you don't have that, it's going to be really hard to build any partnership.

And when we talk about quality here, we're referring to highly skilled trainers and assessors who are proficient in delivering training within the workplace. They have exceptional interpersonal skills, extensive industry knowledge, and they have the ability to understand and pre-empt the employer's needs.

Being customer focused is our second element, and so having established quality allows RTOs to be more customer focused, to be more agile and flexible in their response to employers’ needs. For example, looking for ways to create efficiencies in how training is delivered, so as to minimise that disruption to normal workplace operations. Offering tailor made and customised training are other examples of being customer focused.

The third of our four elements is working together. So, the customer focused approach I just mentioned is enhanced by working together, having the strong communication and collaborative relationships and a willingness to be learner centric in the approach to training and assessment.

And our fourth element is relationships. Now this element is you know, closely aligned with working together, but its focus is on the longer term. It's about building the trust in each other, fostering strong and mutually beneficial connections, ongoing communication, and achieving shared goals. And this aspect is really critical for sustaining partnerships.

And I'd just like to point out that while I've described these four elements separately, and great examples of each of these elements are highlighted across the case studies which we use to form the good practice guide, it's important to understand that in the real world context there's a good degree of overlap between them and they do often build upon each other.

So, for example, through being customer focused and delivering training on site as a way to make that training explicitly relevant while also minimising that disruption to the workplace. That also provides trainers and assessors the opportunity to really actively engage and integrate themselves into the employer's work environment.

And this can then foster meaningful interactions with the employees themselves, as well as the employers. That cultivates those relationships. It facilitates that exchange of information and encourages ongoing collaboration. You know, that working together. And from this, a stronger and more longer-term sustained partnership may result.

Steve Davis (07:53)

All right. Well, that set us up nicely. Thank you for that. There are six case studies that form the foundation of this report and the good practice guide. And I'd like to focus on one of them in particular. It involves the partnership between the Management Edge and Murrumbidgee Local Health District to provide nationally recognised leadership training to prepare Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers currently employed in clinical roles for higher level management roles. Now, Charmaine, you were on the employer side of this partnership. What prompted your organisation to go down this pathway and seek training?

Charmaine Marshall (08:33)

Quite a few things actually, Steve, and like Michelle was alluding to before, we wanted some quality training delivery.

We do leadership programs in house now through our own leadership framework within New South Wales Health as a whole. However, we wanted to make it culturally safe and incorporate the eight ways of Aboriginal learning, as well as go down the accredited training side. So, we wanted to come from a bespoke point of view, an employer led point of view.

We wanted it to fit into our leadership sustainability framework, our learning organisation framework. However, we still wanted the Diploma of Leadership Management for our participants.

Steve Davis (09:13)

I also see, in looking in the details, Charmaine, that the trainer was advised, and I'd like to quote this, you're not delivering to a normal group, you've actually got to allow time for yarning to unpack it, to sit back and listen, not just keep wanting to teach what's on your agenda.

You need to listen to what's going on in the room. You're there to map nicely to the eight ways of learning in the Aboriginal way. And if you as a facilitator can step back in that space, there'll be learning being shared. But it might not be aligned to how you want to run your run sheet or your session plan.

Now I've got to ask, did that add a challenge in trying to find the right training provider?

Charmaine Marshall (09:56)

Yes, it did.

So, as you know as well before we are as employers looking for bespoke in a lot of RTOs, registered training organisations have their agenda. They have their set timetable, they have their assessments they must do, and they have their observations, and you must do it this way, this way in this very linear fashion.

However, we're asking for holistic sit and listen, watch what's being observed in the room, listen carefully like level three listening, you know, real solid listening, and you as the trainer will get your observation checklist completed by yarning, listening, observing, and incorporating our policies within Murrumbidgee Local Health District and New South Wales Health, and you'll find we can co-facilitate together and align it to your, we will calling them tick boxes, that the RTO needed.

Not every RTO, Steve, is open to do it that way.

Steve Davis (10:53)

I can't go any further without turning to Jeff here, because Jeff, you're the trainer in this discussion. What were your recollections of the training project?

Jeff Lynch (11:03)

Well, thanks Steve. I must say, when I was asked to undertake the project, I really was, you know, that sort of railway training approach.

And I was going to deliver the training, you know, the way everyone gets their TAE, which means you follow a session plan. And we have a workbook, which everyone, you know, gets and has to complete. So initially that was the approach. It didn't take a real lot of time before we worked out that wasn't working.

So, thankfully through like Charmaine and then previously Troy, we sat down, had a conversation and said, you know, this is the way this needs to work. It's also important to point out that we were sort of doing this in the middle of COVID and you're talking about the health system and you're talking about highly trained professionals, understaffed, overworked.

So, we started off by doing this, you know, or trying to do this virtually and I don't think I got any, it didn't get real traction. So, we then said, okay enough of this virtual stuff, let's do this face-to-face. That's when the learning curve really started. Listening to these men and women, these professionals, talk about how they learn, sharing stories, experiences and real-life experiences, and then it all fell into place.

So, if you want to apply the, you know, shall we say, the stock standard approach I don't think we'd be having this conversation today.

Steve Davis (12:46)

Well, Jeff, the model here is reciprocal learning or two-way learning, in which it's important for you as the trainer, not only to listen to the room, but also to be vulnerable, which those of us who stand in the front of groups aren't often asked to do. How did that affect you? And to close the loop on the two-way learning, what did you learn from the experience?

Jeff Lynch (13:10)

Well, I mean, quite seriously, I probably learned as much from the guys as, you know, as I tried to, you know, deliver to them. You talk about vulnerability; I can recall back right to the start of this.

We kind of all exposed ourselves, said, okay, none of us know everything. Let's talk about scenarios, and we talked a lot and confidentially about scenarios that are happening in the guys’ workplaces, all those kinds of things, and I think the trust and respect grew over time and to where we are now. When we go to training now, we're all prepared to have a conversation, open up, be frank and honest with each other, and boy, we have some open and honest discussions.

And it's a great relationship. It's one which I value enormously.

Steve Davis (13:52)

Were there tears along the way in this? I imagine when humans get emotional, get vulnerable, emotions closely aligned.

Jeff Lynch (13:59])

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, men and women alike, we all shed a tear.

Steve Davis (14:05)

Charmaine, when you look back on it, what are some of the moments, the milestones during this journey, this partnership?

Charmaine Marshall (14:14)

I think I’ll probably go threefold. So, number one, the co-design approach, and then working with us, not for us from the RTO perspective. And the leadership skills application to really operationalise it is the key success factor for us. And, you know that that's witnessed by, and as you'll hear from Angela later on, how the leadership language has changed when we're having our, we call it reflection yarns at the start of the sessions. You can actually hear the language being applied. You can hear them using their coaching techniques. Everything that we've grown from leadership capability over the duration of the workshops and the program, you see it in here unfolding in the participants now, which is, I call it a very proud mama moment.

And it's going from strength to strength.

Steve Davis (15:02)

Looking back on the process, in hindsight, what could have helped it go better?

Jeff Lynch (15:09)

I would have liked to have been more involved from the outset, because I think we would have established some of the foundations and the cornerstones of what we're going to try and do, as opposed to sort of turn up and then we, and when we struggled for, the first month or two, try to sort of work each other out.

I guess I, as the trainer, didn't have an appreciation of what Charmaine was looking for. I didn't have a full appreciation of what our students were looking for as well. So, I think involving the trainer earlier would have been beneficial to do that.

Because I also think that it would have given us a little bit more flexibility to some of the materials that we could have brought into the training and being prepared just a little earlier than what we were. So, it's involving the trainer earlier, which doesn't happen a lot in RTO land. You kind of get the project to do, and you start and then you're kind of always sort of playing a bit of catch up in the early stages of it.

Steve Davis (16:22)

Yeah. Charmaine, from your perspective?

Charmaine Marshall (16:24)

I'd probably mirror that too, and also for us it was finding the RTO. So we reached out to our colleagues at Training Services NSW here to find the RTO that would be flexible to a bespoke program for us and meet our needs in the first instance, as well as come under the funding model as well so we used Training Services that way. And it would have been nice to have a yarn and sit down in a planning session with the RTO as well, but we'd already done that beforehand and created our program, which we actually call Ginhiimaldhaany, by the way, which is leadership in Wiradjuri language, which covers a lot of the Riverina and the Murrumbidgee.

So, the Aboriginal Leadership Program's name is Ginhiimaldhaany.

Steve Davis (17:05)

Hmm. Jeff referenced the fact that the people who were being trained were in the medical realm where everyone is, you know, under a lot of work pressure all the time. And I'll just mention that Angela, you're in the middle of a busy day today. So, thank you for making some time for this chat. You actually experienced the result of this RTO employer partnership in the training. How would you describe the experience and also, while you're answering that, how does it compare to any other training that you've undertaken?

Angela Damm (17:37)

My expectations have exceeded what the outcome was going to be. I had no idea about the potential growth that I was going to have professionally. So, I'm a registered nurse and in our capabilities, they asked us to develop leadership along the way. In the last 18 months, professionally I've received recognition at a state level for the patient centred and value-based care that I have achieved, purely based on the learnings from the modules that I've sat down with Charmaine and Jeff over the last eighteen months. Yeah, so we catch up once a month, have a bit of a yarn.

I never realised until now that sitting back as Charmaine taking all these notes and actually realising what our capabilities are and individually able to articulate skills and capabilities that we do have, so I suppose that's where it's comparatively different. So, the expectation is we work through our modules together, but individually they're able to pull apart our conversations and document and reflect back on that to meet the needs of the ticker boxes or the assessment criterias.

But then we still come together and then do our workbook so that we've looked through all of the required learnings, but also make sure that that's linked to work. And it's actually realistic. It's skills that are relevant to the experiences that we are facing on the floor.

The other thing that's really good is that it's time appropriate. It's supported by the district so that we're able to do it in our work time. And I don't feel that I've spent a lot of time individually hands-on on the books, maybe an hour or two, a week or so that I need to go over and read over some of the stuff to make sure that I'm keeping up with the learnings that I need to learn about for myself.

But I find that I'm drawing back off the information from the modules that Jeff has given to us to learn about on the journey and, you know, just sitting around having a yarn initially with COVID coming through, that was a really big roadblock too.

I suppose, for Aboriginal people, we like to know each other. We like to have that bond. We like to know where we sit with each other. Like you have the opportunity to say, Oh, where's your mob from? And then there's able to bring those links together and we then establish our kinship and our connection through that way. I think that was kind of missed at the start, and I think that maybe something that, in future, now that COVID's moved away, thankfully that's probably a really big opportunity.

So when you initially start the program, it'd be nice to see us coming together and having that team building, I suppose you would call it, so that we can come together. Because we're all across the district. The district is thousands of kilometres apart from each other, so it's hard to try and build those relationships in our individual space.

I'm a nurse, there's mental health workers, there's allied health workers, so it's a rather large pool of workforce that are coming together, so we understand each other, where we all sit, because we all work inter-professionally. Yeah, but I think, I really can't tell you, it far exceeds any learning environment that I've been in, to be honest.

Steve Davis (21:10)

I like the way you mentioned that, well, it's kind of like team building, that first component. Team building seems like a sterile concept outside of this grass roots way that it was undertaken, but while you're here and while Jeff has been happy to be vulnerable, can you remember when you first had him join the group and any thoughts that went through your mind as you watched this trainer learn to adapt in real time?

Angela Damm (21:39)

Oh, yeah.

Charmaine Marshall (21:42)

Be kind, Ange.

Angela Damm (21:44)

I haven't thought about the words to put it, but he looked like a new kid on the block, really. Like, he looked nervous. I could feel that he was nervous, and I could sense that we were all trying to work out what is this program actually about.

Before we had all come together, we'd sat down and done our strengths and weaknesses. Well, what is that one called? Clifton? Models. So, we've done this over here, a bit ad hoc, and then we've come together, so we're all kind of thinking over there, and then we come together with Jeff, and then we were like, okay, well, what are we doing?

And then, so we kind of, because we are used to learning in that environment where we sit there and look at the teacher and then fiddle in the back and try and hide for when we get asked a question. But over time, you know, we slowly built a friendship up, and the communication line started to open up, and the journey began, and it's been fantastic.

Steve Davis (22:39)

Jeff, just to round off with you here at this point, it must be heartening to hear the way Ange is talking about the enduring value of what's been learned, still being drawn from, to this day.

Jeff Lynch (22:53)

You couldn't write a book about this. The way we started, and Angela was right, I mean, I had an idea in my mind and I, truthfully, I thought I was walking into, you know, non-professionals.

All of a sudden, I find I'm working out with registered nurses, people working in cardiac care, mental health professionals, and so I was kind of like a fish out of water. And so yeah, was I nervous? You bet your life I was. But then, you know, we kind of got on a roll and I think one of the things, and now I'll embarrass Ange. We, as a group, we had to undertake a project, so we sat around down at the hospital, and we were brainstorming what this project was going to look like.

And it came up to be it was given a nickname called the Care Chair, but it was, the correct name is Chair Based Services. And it grew from there. And I think what that did to us, Steve, is that we all kind of all recognised that we're all in this together. And so, we kind of shared it, and then it grew, and Ange exhibited some great leadership capabilities, she was the project lead on it. But in all good, true leadership things, you know, other people sort of stepped up and took the lead. And, you know, Charmaine was instrumental in sort of, you know, keeping things, compact and together and distributing stuff.

So all of a sudden this whole thing took shape and took place, and so once we sort of got into the flow of it, because we all had, the old infamous skin in the game, so we all had something to contribute, and we were all looking for something to get out of it, from an RTO perspective, getting a completion, and for these guys to get in. And then, thankfully, I was able to sort of bring along some other materials which I don't think is covered in a lot of the resource material, so we can sort of share that around and talk about how can you put it into practice.

I think we kind of threw away the rule book.

Steve Davis (25:16)

Or rather etched out a deeper approach to the rule book, I suppose is another way of saying it. Tina, I'd like to turn to you because you're the consultant who undertook the interviews for all six case studies in the Good Practice Guide.

What are some of the highlights and the insights that you picked up from some of the other case studies?

Tina Berghella (25:36)

Yeah, sure. Yeah, thanks, Steve. So I think what was interesting that was the case studies are across all different industries, so we've, as well as this healthcare one. We've got a meatworks, we've got a food manufacturer, we've got a bicycle shop, we've got a construction company, and we've got a disability care provider, and in all those case studies, they're so very different.

But highlighting how important it is to have those good quality trainers and assessors in place and how we have good quality trainers and assessors available and working out there. And not only in the industry skills and their understanding of the industry and their understanding of the training content, but I think what really stood out amongst those trainers and assessors was they're exceptional communicators. And so, what you're talking about today with Jeff and his willingness to be vulnerable, that's about deep listening and really good communication.

So having that deep communication with the employer and the learners I think is a highlight that there are those skills out there and how important they are in those partnerships. So, the partnerships regardless of whether we had large employers, small employers, medium and same with RTOs and it's not like a one size fits all, so in this case we have a very small RTO with a large employer, but we also had small with small and large with large.

So, there's not like one size fits all. It's more about being able to build that relationship and they build them in different ways. So, for example, in the meatworks case study, it's a very large provider and large providers can be very complex organisations and they have a one point of contact there, which is a staff member who doesn't deliver any of the training and assessment themselves, but they are responsible for the managing of the relationship with that employer. And they also help shield the employer from the complexity of that RTO, and they navigate the RTO on behalf of that employer.

With a small-to-small relationship, like in the bicycle shop one, you have the owner of the RTO doing that task, but also doing training and assessment as well.

So we have different models, and it's not that one point of contact is the key thing, because we have another one where there are three points of contact, but that focus on the employer and having people at the RTO that are responsible for managing the relationship and really customising the service to meet the employer's needs.

Steve Davis (28:19)

So, there's a lot to be gained from all of the case studies. I hasten to add, we're just focusing on one because we've got the live participants here to talk about. And on that note, I want to come back to you Charmaine, because Ange mentioned how she's continually dipping back into the resources of those modules in an ongoing way.

But the report highlights that the evolution of partnerships from the initial connections to the long term is important. How do you think RTOs and employers can work together to make sure that longevity of a partnership actually happens?

Charmaine Marshall (28:56)

I think we might come back to all the three C's that been mentioned already is connection, collaboration, and communication and the collaboration working together is the most important.

And finding the RTOs out there for us again would be my advice for employers looking is use training services because one, they can actually go down a funding stream for you, but two, they can go, have you tried this, this, this, and this. So, they were key instrumental for us to finding the right RTO in the first instance.

And then communication with listening and also really listening to the employer of how are you actually going to operationalise this training with the application on the job afterwards? How does it fit into your strategic goals? How does it fit into where the organisation is going and how does it fit into the frameworks in your capabilities of how you do things around here, basically.

So, connection, collaboration, communication are my three C's.

Steve Davis (29:53)

Love it. And Jeff, I note from the customer service section of the report, it talks about the benefits of the onsite training delivery and customisation. That was a big thing. How can an RTO actually strike a balance between the level of customisation that you offered with that competing balance of still needing to run an efficient training service?

Jeff Lynch (30:17)

Thankfully, Tony Lane from TME, you know, has kind of given me a bit of a loose rein to sort of do this. But rather than just take the resources and rely solely on the resources, I've been allowed to sort of, you know, add other stuff, which I think brings value to the training. Because I think the Diploma of Management, as it was previously, focused very much on management.Now it's the Diploma of Leadership and Management, but it hadn't really embedded a lot of leadership material, leadership content within the resources.

So, with that customer focus in mind and what Charmaine and everyone was trying to achieve down in Wagga was to, bring, you know, put the leadership, bring that to the forefront and how do we tie the leadership and the management into the day to day roles of Ange and all the other, you know, fabulous people that we've been working with.

So, allowing us the flexibility to do that is a huge plus. And I think you need to bear in mind that there are some RTOs, and that's not being disrespectful to other RTOs, but they don't want you to do that. They want you to basically turn up, deliver, walk out, and that's it. I think if you're going to be successful, you've got to be able to adapt not just the resources, but also adapt as the trainer.

And that's what we've been sort of talking about, to be able to sit back and listen. Because a lot of trainers like to just like to hear our own voices. So, to be able to sit back and listen and, you know, yarn and unpack. When we get into a room now, we're probably more mates than we are trainers and students and things.

So, and I think that builds to the longevity of the relationship.

Steve Davis (32:12)

I'm getting a great sense of the theme of yarn and unpack running a lot through here as part of the DNA of what makes a successful partnership. And this is probably a good time to yarn and unpack by going around the table. Ange, I'll start with you because I know you also have ward duties that you're responsible for at the moment.

What I'd love you to reflect on is for any potential RTO and employers out there who are on the verge of forging a relationship to undertake training. What would you like to say to them? What words of encouragement or caution would you like to share as they look at that into their future?

Angela Damm (32:54)

Definitely not caution. Definitely get amongst it. It's been probably the best training opportunity that I've had, and I've done lots of courses, bachelors, I've done a couple of grad certs. I've done lots of tickets. And I'd have to say this has to be one of the best.

I think the thing that as a workplace, what you need to do is sit down. What is it that you want from your employee? What is it you that you want them to do and then tailor your training towards that, as opposed to keeping it structured and focused in a siloed approach. You need to open it up a little bit and have, as everyone's been saying today, is talking to each other. What can the RTO provide? And what does the workplace really need? What do we need? What's going to improve the workplace and increase workplace satisfaction, improve culture, build leadership over management?

I think the thing to think about, get amongst it and having the right people in the job too. I don't think it would have been as successful without the right training providers and that being Jeff and Charmaine. I think they've both done a fantastic job in reading the room at the start and working out how to redefine how the project was going to work out or how the diploma was going to work out.

Steve Davis (34:13)

Wow, yet another little tick for those people who understand the value of so-called soft skills.

You mentioned being able to read the room. That's part of what seems to have been at the heart of success here. Charmaine, your thoughts for other potential RTO employer partnerships.

Charmaine Marshall (34:33)

I'll piggyback off Ange's last comment about reading the room and evolving and making it organic because as we unfold the topics, whether it's project management or ER or fulfillment proposal, then I'll bring in from the, the local facilitation point of view, now everybody go and find our performance review policy.

Now go and find this. Now go and do that. Let's all do it together. Now let's create a SMART goal because it's now a goal cycle. Let's do it together. So, everything we're doing is purposeful. Like I said before, operationalised and in real time of what we're doing in the organisation.

Steve Davis (35:06)

Tina, you're in a unique situation having been interviewing people within six different situations.

What would you want to put out there for people to consider?

Tina Berghella (35:17)

I think the successful RTO-employer partnerships, a key theme running through them was that the RTO focused on building the relationship rather than just a basic business transaction. Sure, it is a business transaction with the RTO selling a service to the employer and the employer purchasing that service, but it is so much more than that.

And with that partnership come so many more benefits and you can hear it in the way that Charmaine and Ange and Jeff are engaging in this conversation, there are tangibles and intangible benefits that are long lasting and RTOs that can focus on the long-term building of the relationship, focusing on meeting the employer's need.

That deep listening, not only once, but a continuous process of deep listening and adapting and being flexible which is about the relationship, I think you're going to have success.

Steve Davis (36:17)

Tina, you just helped a coin drop for me. It seems that this is not so much about the letter of the process, but the spirit of the process.

Jeff, your thoughts for any future entities engaging in a partnership?

Jeff Lynch (36:31)

Well, I think, you know, I think it's also been covered fairly well as well, but I think being flexible and being adaptable. I mean, nothing's a one size fits all. And I think from an RTO perspective, and I, again, I'm sort of grateful for the I guess the lateral thinking of TME, but a lot of RTOs don't want to sort of, go out of their home base.

I think you've got to be flexible and go to the employer. You know, we can't rely on, I mean, technology is technology. But you can't rely on technology to keep on delivering things remotely. You've got to be there. And particularly in this case, you've got to be there with the learners and participating and understanding and that's where this yarning and unpacking stuff comes from.

But being flexible, because I don't live in Riverina, I live about five hours away, but it's a treat to go down and work with everyone down there. So, being adaptable. And, I think training has to change per se, you just don't deliver out of a workbook anymore. I mean, you've got to be prepared to sort of make changes, be adaptable and bring new ideas and thinking to the table that's relevant to the group and the particular subject.

Steve Davis (37:50)

Yeah. Michelle, here we are we've together been watching all these players refer to their stories, coming up out of the research that you've overseen at NCVER. What would you draw to people's attention who might be about to embark into this sort of partnership?

Michelle Circelli (38:07)

Well, before I get on to that, Steve, yeah, I just want to reflect on that.

Hasn't it been a wonderful conversation? And just to see the words on our pages come to life. And so, thank you to Charmaine, Jeff, Ange and Tina. It's been so wonderful to have you and to listen to you today.

So, look at the very least with our good practice guide, I'd hope that providers use it to really reflect on how well any relationship they have with an employer. It might be really quite at a rudimentary level, might be really well developed, but really reflect about how well that relationship is working and to think about what aspects of how they do business could be tweaked, could be improved, modified to better suit the needs of the employer.

You know, and we're hearing one example today, but the Good Practice Guide is drawing upon all of the six case studies. And it provides some great examples of what those four key elements, which we spoke about right at the very beginning of our conversation. So, the quality training, service delivery, being customer focused, working together, and that relationship development. The good practice guide brings all of these elements together, examples from the case studies of what these look like in practice.

And what I hope, I hope it prompts training providers, and I'm just going to repeat everything that everybody said, but I really hope it prompts training providers to have truly earnest conversations with employers about ways to strengthen the collaboration. Ways to learn from each other, to really better each other, because in doing so, and Tina mentioned this, by doing this, you're going to move from that purely business, that transactional type relationship to one that is dynamic. It's longer term and it brings with it really quite substantial benefits, individual growth benefits, but also, let's be honest, some nice business benefits too. And I think, as Ange says, just get amongst it.

Steve Davis (40:20)

And I think this is a lovely counterpoint to the way the world seems to be splintering into digits and automation and AI amid all of that.

There can still be humans engaged in such a profound and meaningful endeavour. So, thank you everyone for taking part. Michelle, where can people get access to this guide?

Michelle Circelli (40:40)

So, the guide and the accompanying report will be available from NCVER's website. So,

Steve Davis (40:48)

On that note, thank you again for being part, everybody, of Vocational Voices.

Vocational Voices is produced by NCVER on behalf of the Australian government and state and territory governments with funding provided through the Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations. For further information, please visit