Go to top of page

Appendix 8

Report on Training classifications for Australian Public Service Commission

Tailored HR Solutions

June 2012

Introduction

This report summarises the key findings and proposed recommendations in relation to the use and viability of the current training classifications provided in Schedule 2 of the APS Classification Rules. The findings and recommendations are made based on a research study commissioned by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) and undertaken by Tailored HR Solutions.

Background

The APS Classification Rules provide for training classifications including trainees, cadets, graduates and apprentices (Schedule 2).

Tailored HR Solutions was engaged to provide support in analysing agency use and viability of the current training classifications. In particular:

  • The operating context for training classifications across multiple agencies
  • Identification of issues with using any of the training classifications
  • How well understood and used are the varying training classifications
  • How effective are the training classifications in supporting One APS
  • How do the current training classifications and associated arrangements support the future requirements of agencies
  • What are the options for improving the training classifications to meet the aims of the review.

Approach

The following phases were undertaken as part of the consultancy:

  1. project planning and scoping of research study;
  2. plan and conduct ‘deep dive’ research study with eleven (11) government departments;
  3. analyse and present research findings and implications to the APSC and associated APS Classification review Working Group; and
  4. contribute to the APSC's report in relation to ‘deep dive’ research component regarding training classifications.

The eleven (11) agencies interviewed in relation to their use of Schedule 2 included:

  • AGIMO
  • Attorney-General's Department
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Department of Defence
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Geoscience Australia
  • National Archives

Key Findings

About training classifications generally

  • There is a wide application and use of the training classifications leveraging off both Schedule 1 and 2 of the APS Classification Rules by the participating agencies.
  • The majority of programs utilising the training classifications provide for ongoing employment. Exceptions included:
    • Cadet programs (Treasury, Environment, DFAT);
    • ICT Vacation Student (ABS); and
    • Australian Government Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Australian School Based Apprenticeship (ASBA) Program.
  • Having operational classifications being standardised across a number of training classifications (for example Cadet APS, Graduate APS and Trainee APS (Technical) on APS 3) is not reflective of the differences in capabilities of individuals completing the training.
  • Key Findings – Use of Schedule 2

    • 100% of interviewees were aware of Schedule 2 of the APS Classification Rules, however, there appears to be a lack of understanding around their intended use, the detail and flexibility built into Schedule 2 (refer Circular 1998/2).
      • “Agencies can still vary remuneration through a range of mechanisms even if they align their classifications to Schedule 2. These flexibilities are often not understood by agencies hence the need for practical guidance and training.”
      • “There appears to be a lack of understanding of how to embed classification rules (including Schedule 2). Training is not provided like it used to be (e.g. how the old Personnel Operations Program groups coordinated by DEEWR did it) and a lot of the required knowledge has been lost. The APSC should provide additional practical training/guidance on how to embed Schedule 2 effectively.”
    • There is inconsistent use of Schedule 2 in the sample interviewed.
      • Approximately 63% (15 out of 24) of all programs utilised Schedule 2.
      • Approximately 67% (6 out of 10) of graduate programs utilised Schedule 2.
      • The majority of graduate programs have a broadband in place. Ranges for broadbands in the sample included: APS 1 - 4, APS 1 - 6, APS 3 - 5, APS 4 - 5
      • Graduates from 5 out of 10 agencies assumed an APS 4 operational classification and 2 out of 10 agencies assumed an APS 5 operational classification on successful completion of the Graduate program.
    • Agencies using Schedule 1 to support training classifications use similar training classification titles to that provided in Schedule 2 (e.g. cadet, apprentice, trainee, graduate).
    • Further guidance is required in relation to the wide range of innovative programs offered by agencies to enable them to distinguish between training programs covered by Schedule 2 and those that are not e.g. employment programs. A number of these programs provide entry level employment opportunities coupled with on the job experience and associated training qualifications for example.
      • The Youth to Work Program provides employment, training and skills for young people, focusing on school leavers with limited work experience or education.
      • The Operations Career Advancement Program (OCAP) is an entry level opportunity with the ATO. It introduces you to work in the Operations Sub-plan while you gain a Certificate III in Customer Contact.
      • The Executive Assistant Advancement Program (EAAP) provides an entry point into the ATO. Employees are introduced to executive assistant work while gaining a Certificate III in Business Administration, or similar.
      • The ATO is currently developing an Indigenous school-based traineeship which will commence in early 2012.
    • There is inconsistent use of the Schedule 2 operational classifications. Drivers for varying operational classifications include recognising operational classification work value, the need to provide competitive remuneration, the need to recognise qualifications/skills, the need to meet quotas for particular training classifications (e.g. indigenous trainees and cadets).
      • “Our graduates are highly qualified (Masters, Honours or PHD graduates as a minimum) and have technical and field work experience. These qualifications and skills, coupled with the specialised work they do and the need to provide remuneration that is competitive with the private sector are the key drivers for creating an APS4 - 5 broadband where the APS 5 is the designated operational classification.”
    • Specifically graduate programs operational classifications are very much at odds with Schedule 2. Many have broadbanded this training classification in order to provide competitive remuneration with other employers and/or recognise work value of graduates post their training period. Broadbands range from APS 3 - 4 to APS 1 - 6.
      • “Operational classification should vary depending on length of program and skills learnt and the work value of the job undertaken at the end of the program.”
    • The term Graduates appears to be being used more around a ‘graduate program’ rather than a ‘training classification’. Removal of the Graduate classification from Schedule 2 however may result in confusion around the perceived importance of such programs to the APS and may also have a negative impact for those agencies who use Schedule 2 to support the program (specifically in relation to flexibility arrangements provided by Schedule 2).
    • Flexibility should be built into Schedule 2 to integrate new classifications should they arise.
      • “Broader national training initiatives could be tracked by APSC and the Classification Rules should reflect these trends e.g. Introduction of School Based Traineeships. The APSC could provide information/advice to agencies regarding these trends/initiatives.”
    • Maintaining Schedule 2 in the APS Classification Rules demonstrates the APS's commitment to training and does provide some form of consistency / structure to APS. This is particularly relevant to the trainee, apprentice and cadet classifications. Removing rules may result in total inconsistency between agencies. If Schedule 2 is retained then further work is required to increase APS usage and compliance.
      • “Schedule 2 serves a purpose in that it makes it clear that the APS is committed to training.”
    • Only 55% of interviewees believed the current training classifications ‘supported a united APS’. Interviewees felt that in theory Schedule 2 achieved this aim however in practice it did not given the lack of agencies use of or conformity to Schedule 2.

    Key Findings – Enterprise Agreements

    • The majority of the most recent Enterprise Agreements (EAs) have worked to integrate training classifications. This is working to a greater or lesser extent with quite a range of variations in how they are embedded. Some align with Schedule 2 and others align with Schedule 1 or some don't embed at all if they don't host a relevant program.
    • Lead time is required to embed Schedule 2 appropriately in EAs, for example, new programs coming on have leveraged off Schedule 1 rather than 2. Recognising that this is the case, some agencies have incorporated training classification into their EA, but do not have any programs in place.
    • The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) Whole of Government program does not align to Schedule 2. Some interviewees noted the difficulty in embedding this program into their EAs.
      • “Agency EAs, WLS and use (or not) of training classifications are varied making it difficult to provide a consistent WoG program.”
    • Many interviewees identified the need for more practical training/guidance in how to embed training classifications into their EA appropriately – perhaps through a better practice guide based on case studies.

    Key Findings – Work Level Standards

    • Work Level Standards (WLS) are in place in the majority of agencies. However some identified they were yet to be developed or that they needed updating.
    • There is concern regarding assessing work value consistent with WLS. Issues identified included:
      • WLS vary between agencies resulting in inconsistent classifications;
      • Some agencies have WLS for level and also job families which can lead to even greater levels of inconsistency in classifications across agencies;
      • Some agencies have identified that their WLS are very broad and are regularly reviewed and reissued – causing an unstable base for job analysis;
      • A wide range of approaches are utilised in conducting job analysis (some have more rigour than others);
      • The training and competence of those undertaking the position classification activity; and
      • The tools (or lack thereof) provided to those undertaking the position classification activity.
        • “A devolved approach to creating and maintaining WLS has resulted in problems. What the ATO expects from an APS 5 for examples might be different to what Centrelink expects. We have developed WLS across levels and are now also developing job specific WLS. The APSC is developing Whole of Government WLS for SES, the APSC could also tackle this for non SES to ensure consistency across departments.”
        • “More consistent WLS across APS would help with consistent application.”
        • “Our EA has had to broadband the training classification to work around remuneration issues with Schedule 2 prescribed operational classifications. Other agencies have done similar work arounds. Perhaps APSC could provide additional guidance and rigour around remuneration and broadbanding and EAs rather than revised classification rules. We need to use WLS to underpin training classification and correctly identify work value. Not so many tools provided for using WLS and undertaking job analysis .. perhaps more are needed?“
    • WLS are not necessarily used to assign a position classification. Other key drivers include the need to provide competitive remuneration, the need to recognise qualifications/skills, the need to meet quotas for particular programs etc.
      • “We want to/have to compete with private sector pay rates and support attraction and retention by providing ongoing job and promotion opportunities.”
      • “There is a shrinking pool of appropriately skilled ICT graduates and high workforce demand. Remuneration is a key element of attraction and drives agencies toward Schedule 1 rather than 2 in order to compete for these candidates both with private and other public sector organisations.”

    Recommendations

    Based on the findings of the Research Study the following recommendation is provided:

    • Recommit to Schedule 2 to demonstrate the importance of training to the APS by enhancing its usability. Specifically:
      • provide an appropriate definition to enable the APS to distinguish between training programs covered by Schedule 2 and those that are not e.g. employment programs;
      • refresh and provide ongoing current advice (including Circular 1998/2) to support effective utilisation of Schedule 2 including advice and guidance on broadbanding arrangements to support training classifications;
      • provide consistent WLS for non SES levels and supporting guidance and education in relation to job analysis tools and processes;
      • provide guidance and support on embedding training classifications into Enterprise Agreements prior to the next round of bargaining;
      • provide guidance and advice in relation to remuneration flexibility arrangements in support of Schedule 2;
      • provide guidance that is practical which may take the form of additional training, working groups, and better practice guides containing practical case studies; and
      • provide the flexibility in Schedule 2 to integrate new classifications should they arise.