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2020 Large Employer of the Year

SA Power Networks

When COVID-19 hit, SA Power Networks - one of South Australia’s largest organisations - successfully pivoted its training model to ensure a seamless learning experience for all.

In pursuit of its vision to empower South Australia by delivering cheaper, more flexible and greener energy solutions to customers, the electricity distributor’s 2000-strong team has embraced Industry 4.0 - the emerging digital age that utilises automation, digital control technologies and artificial intelligences. To achieve this, SA Power Networks recognised the business required a skilled, capable and engaged workforce, and so it began retraining and upskilling its employees.

The organisation integrates smart thinking into the development of its training environment, tying its training framework to an effective performance and development review process to ensure the targeted implementation of mandatory, developmental, technical and leadership training.

SA Power Networks Training Services - the business’ Enterprise Registered Training Organisation (RTO) - delivers 84,000 hours of accredited training to employees annually. The RTO is currently training 105 apprentices across the Certificate III in Electrotechnology (Electrician) and Certificate III
in ESI Power Systems Distribution, and since 2000 it has trained a total of 575 electrical apprentices, with a 93 per cent retention rate.

Additionally, to build its leadership pipeline, the business is currently supporting 45 team members to complete either a Certificate IV or Diploma in Leadership and Management, and skilled paraprofessionals progressing toward more senior roles are given the opportunity to undertake an Advanced Diploma in Applied Electrical Engineering.

To facilitate learning for its regional workers, SA Power Networks has invested in developing online and blended learning solutions, combining RTO partnerships with inhouse capability to write and produce eLearning modules.

The trade technical courses delivered by the Enterprise RTO (which partners with TAFE SA to deliver some apprenticeship units to its students) have been rewritten to better utilise online technologies, and the Advanced Diploma has moved from classroom to synchronistic webinars combined with on-the-job learning and online assignments and assessments.

These enhancements to the organisation’s learning culture positioned SA Power Networks to quickly able to adapt to social distancing rules resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent months, synchronous face-to-face inductions have been replaced with asynchronous online learning, the Advanced Diploma has moved from a classroom model to delivery via a blend of webinars, on-the-job activities and assessments, and online learning has allowed participants to access information from both desktop or mobile devices.

At the height of COVID-19, safety and technical training for apprentices in dangerous environments was enhanced with virtual reality modules, and career development training - once restricted to offerings from an RTO - was broadened to include self-directed offerings from digital libraries and curated videos.

SA Power Networks recognises that quality training improves productivity and employee engagement. Today, more than 550 apprentices and in excess of 220 engineering graduates employed by the business since 2003 are successfully performing in supervisory and leadership positions across the organisation.

2020 Medium Employer of the Year

Outside Ideas

Since it was established in 2003, civil construction, commercial landscaping and structural concreting business, Outside Ideas, has grown to a team of more than 165 full time staff members. Together, the team delivers world-class projects, industry-best outcomes and sustainable solutions across Australia.

With a history spanning the civic, commercial, health, education, transport and leisure industries, the company’s proven track record reflects its drive for quality and innovation while maintaining a commitment to value, buildability and overall functionality.

What sets Outside Ideas apart from its competitors is the business’ commitment to quality Vocational Education and Training (VET) that meet the needs of individual learners, and the understanding that every person learns differently - with the highest quality outcomes achieved by matching the learning environment to the employee.

To maintain its market reputation as an employer of choice, Outside Ideas strives to ensure its apprentices receive the best possible training to prepare them for the industry. This commitment was a key driver in the organisation’s decision to establish Construction Training Academy (CTA), a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) specialising in landscaping and civil construction training.

CTA gained registration in January 2020, and the RTO has recently commenced training its first intake of apprentices. Moving forward, CTA will play a significant role in the development of Outside Ideas’ apprentices and extend its training programs to the wider landscaping and civil construction industries.

Outside Ideas’ vision for CTA is to ensure the entire industry can benefit from industry-specific, job ready training. In the past 12 months, a range of training and leadership innovations have been introduced to support continuous improvement of training for staff at all levels - including an apprentice passport program that enables apprentices and supervisors to better track the training process, an ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award, a structured performance review process for all staff, and a leadership program designed to empower senior staff to become better leaders and mentors.

Outside Ideas understands the challenges young people face when starting their careers. The company’s training program offers flexibility and a diverse range of opportunities to support new employees to experience all facets of the business and to select a pathway that best matches their aptitude and passion.

Apprentices at the start of their VET journey are paired with a mentor who works with them throughout the period of their training, providing ongoing support and a constant point of contact for career development - and instilling a passion for lifelong learning that has seen many of the company’s established staff engaged in ongoing training.

Outside Ideas takes an innovative, lifecycle approach to training, believing its leadership training creates better mentors for the company’s apprentices, encouraging a heathy company culture and a higher rate of staff retention.

To date, 24 employees have completed CTA’s newly introduced leadership program - the first training package delivered by the new RTO - and Outside Ideas’ 25 apprentices are benefitting from working with their mentors and undertaking formal on-job-training, including structured technical learning and life skills training delivered through the apprentice passport program.

2020 VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year (runner-up)

Steven Skinner

Passionately committed to the belief that no student should be left behind, Steven Skinner is an inspiring educator recognised for his work in developing flexible learning and assessment strategies to support students of all abilities.

A lecturer at TAFE SA, Steven draws upon his 40-year career in the heavy engineering and defence industry to develop methodologies that link industry best practice with tailored, hands-on training.

“During my time in industry, I worked in a number of senior management roles, and oversaw the training and mentoring of colleagues and staff in some of the largest companies in Australia,” says Steven. “For a decade of that time, I also worked as an instructor in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.”

“I joined TAFE SA as a full-time lecturer during an Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) audit, and to achieve our accreditation it was evident we needed to identify and implement immediate improvements. My industry experience gave me the necessary insight to support my work unit with the development of an enhanced suite of training and assessment tools, and I expanded those tools further to create a set of lecturer and student learning guides.”

In the years following the ASQA audit, Steven taught students from school age through to adulthood, collaborating with his peers at TAFE SA and leveraging and sharing the experience he had gained across his career through working with lecturers, training managers, course developers and designers in Australia and internationally.

Two years ago, Steven was invited to develop and deliver an engineering program for school students participating in a new multi-trades program at TAFE SA’s Noarlunga campus, a pivotal moment in his career as a VET educator.

Drawn from a diverse range of learning backgrounds, many participants in the program are on the autism spectrum or face language, literacy and numeracy challenges. Using the lecturer and student guides he created during TAFE SA’s audit process, Steven has adapted the learning environment to suit different cohorts and the needs of individual participants.

“The last two years have been the most challenging of my career, due mainly to the number of flexible learning options students I have taught and the complex learning and social challenges they face,” says Steven. “However, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I take great pride in knowing that no student is left behind and that I’ve played a part in turning around the lives of many young people.”

“I’ve been a disciple and a product of the VET system since I began my journey as an apprentice 40 years ago. VET offers an excellent system of learning and development across a very broad range of competencies, assisting participants of all abilities to prepare, establish and develop the careers they want.”

“My dream is that every student who comes through our door, leaves us with a great skill set, job ready, and prepared to embrace the opportunities that await them.”