Employers look for training that is agile and responsive to their specific needs, is affordable, and minimises workers’ time away from their jobs. They want this training to be shorter-form and more flexible.

Employment-based training approaches such as cadetships, internships and higher apprenticeships are well suited for meeting the needs of employers as is structured on-the-job training. Whether the training is nationally recognised or not is generally not employers’ foremost concern.

What is employment-based training or EBT?

This new paper from NCVER by Lisel O’Dwyer looks at employment-based training (EBT). This is where training is “integrated within a work setting, related to their role, and provided or supported by employers.” As she points out:

“It can be nationally recognised or non-nationally recognised. It can be structured, or unstructured. For many employers, the crucial aspect of EBT is whether the training helps with productivity and profitability.”

Apprenticeships and traineeships are the most recognised type of EBT, but this is not what this paper is looking at. Rather, it looks at a range of approaches that are not all that new, but may not be talked about as much: “for example, cadetships and internships, higher apprenticeships, and on-the-job structured training such as mentoring.” The paper focuses on these two approaches but does not look at unstructured approaches to workplace learning.

Australian research has found that the factors impacting on the choice by employers to use EBT include difficulties in accommodating training around work demands, insufficient government funding incentives, a lack of flexibility and the perceived complexity of the training system and not having the relevant training they want available. However, they also choose to use EBT because that want:

“to develop skills that apply to specific staff roles, a critical requirement since already skilled workers are not always available [AND] provide additional, or supplementary, training to nationally recognised training.”

Essentially it is about ‘gap training’, that is addressing skills that are lacking.

Some of the key benefits of EBT that were noted in interviews the study conducted include:

  • “hiring skilled workers isn’t necessary — anyone with the right attitude can be trained
  • staff skills currency is maintained
  • staff learn from other staff — learning the organisation’s way of doing things
  • it is a less disruptive way of training
  • it results in better-quality training due to the immediate real-world application.”

However, organisations need the resources to develop and implement such approaches and this may not be so easy for small to medium sized enterprises. It’s easier for larger enterprises with well-developed human resource (HR) processes and training budgets. They can also work with external providers to ‘mix and match’ to address training needs.

The paper looks at the strengths and limitations of cadet and internships, and an interesting case study involving the Smith Family and the Business Council of Australia is highlighted. The paper also has a look at higher apprenticeships and our regular readers know this is ground we have trod a lot before in these pages. The paper also takes a hard look at on-the-job training.

What makes EBT work well?

Basically, it’s what you would expect: the training content is relevant to current or upcoming job tasks; the programs have dedicated mentors and support resources in the workplace, including from experienced workers. In addition, time and space is needed to undertake training and practise skills in context before moving on and experienced supervisors are available and supported by a clear company-wide structure.

How can VET play its part?

VET can rethink some of its approaches to delivery, including an increased focus on shorter term and quicker training, the paper suggests. However, VET providers also “need to have the bandwidth and resources to enable flexibility in delivery approaches and program design, especially with regard to e-learning development and implementation. The VET system also needs to look at making it straightforward for employers and individuals to understand and access VET funding.