A constant issue for providers is having effective relationships with local employers, including where they seek to establish and maintain partnerships. This latest report, authored by NCVER’s Daniella Trimboli and Michelle Circelli and Tina Berghella from Oggi Consulting, sought to investigate:

“the drivers for RTO-employer partnerships and the benefits and the challenges related to building and sustaining partnerships, along with strategies that foster the development of quality RTO-employer partnerships.”

This is not the first time NCVER has tackled this subject, though. In 2017 NCVER published a good practice guide and another paper (Continuity and change: employers’ training practices and partnerships with training providers) on this issue. They are both worth a look.

Before that Victor Callan and Peta Ashworth explored this topic in 2004 in a report entitled ‘Working together: Industry and VET provider training partnerships.’ They found that high levels of customisation were a key feature of these training partnerships. Businesses wanted the training to be highly customised and contextualised to meet their requirements. In addition, they found that developing effective approaches to communication and high levels of trust between the partners were both important. In addition, commitment to the partnership on both sides is needed to ensure partnerships work well. Has anything changed in these messages? What does this latest report tell us?

This latest work used a series of six case studies of partnerships between RTOs and employers. These covered a range of industry areas, geographical locations and employer sizes and are summarized in a support document to the main report.

The main report identified four key elements underpin the building and sustaining of effective partnerships:

First, there needs to be quality training and service delivery. This is seen as the foundation of good partnerships. “Here quality refers to the trainers and assessors and the service delivery, including understanding and anticipating the employer’s needs.”

Second, RTOs need to be customer focused “through agile and flexible delivery of training and customisation on demand.”

Third, strong communication and collaboration are needed when working together, coupled with “a willingness to be learner-centric in the approach to training and assessment,” and finally:

Long-term, trust-based relationships need to be built. Thus, this element is not only related to working together but also focused on the longer-term. It is critical for sustaining partnerships.

The following diagram from NCVER’s report is an apt summary, noting the importance of a ‘building block’ approach.

The report notes that: “While these elements are described here as separate entities, in practice there is a degree of overlap and often they build on each other.” This is a message that the report gives readers clearly.

Importantly, it also presents very similar messages to those of 2004 and the later work highlighted above and this new report presents a good overview of this earlier work on the topic. Indeed, the value of this latest report is that readers from RTOs get a good historical perspective as well as clear messages they can use effectively in developing and sustaining their own partnership arrangements while also being aware of the barriers and challenges that need to be confronted and overcome in partnering.