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News Service 25: PC – TRAINING SECTOR COURSES ‘LITTLE OR NO VALUE’ TO EMPLOYERS; MINISTER INITIATES SOLAR INDUSTRY REVIEW; NATIONAL LICENSING; SAFETY MATTERS; NCVER PODCASTS – WORKFORCE READY; SOLAR SCAPEGOAT OR SCOURGE?

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  1. TRAINING SECTOR COURSES OF ‘LITTLE OR NO VALUE’ TO EMPLOYERS
  2. AUSSIE SOLAR INDUSTRY TO BE REVIEWED FOR BAD PRACTICES
  3. NATIONAL LICENSING PROPOSAL FOR TECHNICIANS
  4. WATCH OUR WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY LEGISLATION WEBINAR
  5. DANGEROUS ELECTRICAL INCIDENTS – MINE SAFETY NEWS
  6. NCVER: WORKFORCE READY: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR VET
  7. SOLAR PV: SCAPEGOAT OR SCOURGE?

1. TRAINING SECTOR COURSES OF ‘LITTLE OR NO VALUE’ TO EMPLOYERS

The Australian Financial Review (AFR) took a closer look at the recently released NSW Productivity Commission Green Paper, covered in last week’s News Service.  Robert Bolton the Education Editor at AFR re-stated the Commissioner, “The barriers to apprenticeships are too high and the old model of training is a closed shop even to people who want to get into it and despite the fact some skilled jobs have had a shortage of workers for most of the last 30 years.

The damning findings come in the NSW Productivity Commission report responding to COVID-19, which says the post-pandemic employment crisis in the country’s biggest state economy requires radical changes to old practices, including how industry trains and skills employees.”

The news article went on to report a further statement from the Commissioner Peter Achterstraat, who said, “Unless we quickly find alternative pathways for displaced apprentices, industry will lose them. Qualifications will remain incomplete. Individuals, employers and taxpayers will not recoup their training investments.”  He went onto say, “The training industry has been so good at protecting existing arrangements it has created skill sets that are “of no use to employers“.

The Apprenticeship Act militates young people “taste testing” a skilled job by preventing anyone younger than 21 doing a skill-related job unless they are an apprentice or already qualified.”

Bolton, highlights an example the Commissioner cites, of an air conditioning mechanic, “the barriers to entry are bizarre”.  Stating, “Enrolment in a certificate three is contingent on being employed in the industry. But course fees are $3300, must be paid up front and are ineligible for the Commonwealth student loan, meaning an apprentice needs a job to pay the fee, or a well off family member or friend to help them financially.

Licensing is tied to a person having done an apprenticeship. But in a pandemic, when employers are not hiring apprentices, it is hard for people to get on-the-job training and impossible for them to get a licence.

Meanwhile, apprenticeships were designed around the needs of teenage boys. Training has not kept up with the changes happening elsewhere in society, the commissioner said.”

The Commissioner also pontificates on reasons why “Aspiring female apprentices are likely to have more difficulty finding an employer than males, because most licensed tradespeople are men, who expect apprentices to be male.”

If you have not had the opportunity to review the Executive Summary or the full Green Paper, the article is worthy of a read. 

Anyone with a sound understanding of VET and its relationship with the world of work would probably not come to the same conclusions as the that of Productivity Commission and/or the Commissioner.  Such reports demonstrate how people with little skin in the game and at arms length from realty are able to conclude with confidence that their solutions are sound and the path to enlightenment is contained in their findings.  Very unfortunate, but this particular pattern of recommendations and suggestions follows a growing trend to promote segregation of learning – that is separating learning in classrooms from the learning in the workplace as something totally foreign to how people best learn vocational and occupational competencies. 

Many occupational learning processes are not similar to university models where classroom learning is conducted all up front, and subsequently, successful individuals who get a testamur for attendance, are able to seek employment in a closely allied or in some cases a different  field of work.  That might work in that context but not another context such as VET where the learning and the requirements of the job outcome are purpose built.  There are countless examples of where such ideas, promoted by the Commission and the Commissioner, that have been tried and failed and employers left with employees having to be retrained.  The notion proposed by the Commission, of all up front training as a silver bullet solution is naïve and a poorly researched approach, and one that appears more about cost efficiencies than real learning that advantages the learner and the potential employer, as well as the economy.  Skill shortages are not always about barriers there are other factors at play, and the Commission could have done itself and the community a favour a done more serious research how VET works for industry.  We will wait and see what transpires. 

Moreover, it will be interesting to learn of progress of the Commission’s work in due course.  In the meantime the AFR article can be accessed at the following link: TRAINING SECTOR COURSES OF ‘LITTLE OR NO VALUE’ TO EMPLOYERS

The Productivity Commission’s report (Green Paper) can be accessed from: DOWNLOAD GREEN PAPER

If you have an interest in the findings and recommendations and wish to share your feedback on the Green Paper, go to the following link and make a submission:  GREEN PAPER HOME PAGE

To provide feedback to the NSW Productivity Commission’s Green Paper go to:  CONTINUING THE PRODUCTIVITY CONVERSATION


2. AUSSIE SOLAR INDUSTRY TO BE REVIEWED FOR BAD PRACTICES

THE EPOCH TIMES reports that Energy Minister Angus Taylor has launched a two-month inquiry into the integrity of the rooftop solar industry.  The report by Victoria Kelly Clark, Aug 25, states, “The Department of Energy and Emissions investigation will also involve the Clean Energy Regulator while focusing on the solar accreditation processes, the integrity of installers, financing practices, and unaccredited operators in the market.”

It sates that, “Taylor told AAP on Aug. 25 that the investigation came after integrity issues were raised in a range of recent reports of the rooftop solar sector.

“Australians are world leaders in the uptake of rooftop PV, shown by the uninterrupted strong growth in rooftop solar,” Taylor said.

“Protecting the integrity of a system that has such a wide-ranging impact on Australian households and businesses is a top priority.”

The Clean Energy Council confirmed in its media report of 25 August 2020 regarding a review of the solar industry and its regulatory framework to be undertaken by the Federal Government, stated, “The Clean Energy Council understands that the full scope and terms of reference of the review are yet to be finalised and will be released in coming days.

The Clean Energy Council welcomes any genuine review of the regulations and oversight of the Australian solar industry, particularly if it leads to continuous improvement and harmonisation of the way the solar industry is regulated, delivering a more robust sector and a better outcome for customers. However, the Clean Energy Council would be deeply concerned if this became politicised as was the case in 2015 when the Abbott Government initiated a review of the solar industry as part of its campaign to reduce support for renewable energy.

The Australian solar industry is heavily regulated and scrutinised. The Clean Energy Council works closely with the range of regulatory bodies across state and Commonwealth agencies to continuously lift the bar and improve the standards and conduct of the solar industry.  The Clean Energy Council plays an essential role across the industry. It has been driving tougher standards for solar panels and inverters, increased training and support for installers and clamping down on poor behaviour from retailers. We are confident that this means the vast majority of solar customers get a good quality solar system that is safely installed.”

THE EPOCH TIMES also identified a contrary view, reporting, “Industry expert Finn Peacock from the SolarQuotes Blog, and author of “The Good Solar Guide,” told The Epoch Times on Aug. 25  that the industry does have a problem with substandard installation and safety.

Peacock explained that not all solar installation companies are the same, and often those with the cheapest rates are employing lowly-paid sub-contractors who are in a rush to get the job done.

“This is a cut-throat industry with many firms competing to be the lowest-priced,” he said.

The ABC reported that, the “Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the solar industry did not appear to be working in the best interest of consumers and he wants the Clean Energy Regulator to investigate.

“I have asked the Clean Energy Regulator, with the support of my department, to investigate the issues raised in a range of recent reports focused on the integrity of the rooftop solar sector,” he said.”

He believed a rigorous independent inspection routine would alleviate most of the issues around sub-standard solar installations.”

For access to THE EPOCH TIMES News article visit: AUSSIE SOLAR INDUSTRY TO BE REVIEWED FOR BAD PRACTICES

With respect to the Clean Energy Council’s media statement visit: STATEMENT REGARDING SOLAR INQUIRY

For a link to the ABC article, by Angelique Donnellan visit: ROOFTOP SOLAR SECTOR TO FACE INQUIRY AFTER REPORTS OF DODGY SALES PRACTICES AND INSTALLATIONS


3. NATIONAL LICENSING PROPOSAL FOR TECHNICIANS

Sandra Rossi at Climate Control News (CCN) reports, 21 August 2020, on the impact the proposed automatic mutual recognition of tradies qualifications and licenses may have on HVACR technicians.  The report states that it is proposed, “Tradies holding an occupational licence could have their licensing credentials automatically recognised in all states and territories from January 1, 2021.

The proposal for automatic mutual recognition is part of am ambitious national reform agenda announced by the Federal Government this week.”

The article goes on to state, “Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) CEO, Glenn Evans, said automatic mutual recognition should make it easier and less expensive for businesses and tradespeople to operate across borders.

He said ARC has contributed to discussions with the Federal Government about the proposal which had its genesis back in 2014 under the National Occupational Licence Scheme (NOLS).

Although NOLS did not go ahead the Productivity Commission completed a report on mutual recognition in 2015 which led to the current proposal.

The framework for automatic mutual recognition is being developed by the Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR) which comes under the new National Federation Reform Council which has replaced the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

CFFR is expected to report to Cabinet in October, 2020.”

To review the whole article visit: NATIONAL LICENSING PROPOSAL FOR TECHNICIANS


4. WATCH OUR WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY LEGISLATION WEBINAR

SafeWork NSW reports that it has made available a short webinar covering the basic overview of the Work Health and Safety Legislation.

It states, “The Basics webinar has been updated and is now available on the SafeWork NSW website”.

The webinar includes:

  • duties and duty holders
  • risk management
  • a definition of reasonably practicable, a common phrase in the legislation
  • links to extra resources and other webinars such as Hazardous Manual Tasks and Consultation in the Workplace.

This latest version of the webinar has been reduced from 1 hour 10 minutes to a shorter 30 minute delivery.

The webinar is eligible for the small business if you take part on the SafeWork NSW website.

Note, the rebate questions need to be answered.

For more information on the latest SafeWork NSW News visit: SAFEWORK LATEST E-NEWS or visit the SafeWork website: https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/


5. DANGEROUS ELECTRICAL INCIDENTS – MINE SAFETY NEWS

Mine Safety (NSW Resources Regulator)  reports of a dangerous electrical incident in the mineral sands industry – number 0037998.  The summary of the incidents states, “An electrician was removing an insulator from a disconnected 22kV trailing cable. When he tried to remove the second insulator, his hand came in contact with one of the phase pins and he suffered an electric shock. When the three-phase pins were tested, two read zero voltage while the third gave a reading of 108VDC.

Subsequent testing returned readings of zero voltage on all three pins.”

Mine Safety’s response to the incident announced, “Mine operators should ensure that safe work procedures include the requirement to discharge any capacitive charge and verify the energy is dissipated before commencing work on electrical components.”

Visit the NSW Resources Regulator’s website for the latest news: https://www.resourcesregulator.nsw.gov.au/

SECOND ELECTRICAL INCIDENT

A second electrical incident it reports on relates to the “Installation and maintenance of temporary generators: MSB No.177”.  It states that, ” There have been numerous incidents at mine sites involving the testing and maintenance of temporary generators, with several defects being detected.”  Reported in DMIRS (WA) publication. MSSB No. 177 download

It reports, “Temporary generators are often used on mine sites to provide short-term electricity supply during construction, shutdown or breakdown situations, or where a permanent electricity supply is not available. From 2014 to 2019, 24 electrical incidents involving the maintenance or testing of temporary generators occurred on Western Australian mine sites. In the same period, mines inspectors identified 28 defects related to temporary generator installations.

The reported electrical incidents and defects mainly relate to the following categories:

  • Earth faults
  • Inadequate cable installation
  • Ineffective residual current devices
  • Wet environment
  • Battery explosion/fire
  • Housekeeping

Summary of hazard

The risk of harm from electric shock, due to:

  • dangerous touch potentials on equipment, as a result of inadequate earthing
  • cable damage, as a result of inadequate mechanical protection (poor installation standards)
  • faulty or ineffective circuit protection devices (poor maintenance and testing standards).

The risk of harm from explosion, fire or acid burns from the poor installation, maintenance or storage of batteries. This risk is further elevated during battery charging and jump-starting operations.

A copy of the Mines Safety Bulletin No. 177 – Installation and maintenance of temporary generators is attached or can be downloaded from: MSB 177


6. NCVER: WORKFORCE READY: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR VET

NCVER’s Vocational Voices series is an official podcast, that covers a range of VET issues.  You can listen, “to leading experts discuss current trends in vocational education and training”.

The podcast is entering its 5th season having covered an array of topics ranging from industry currency and professional obsolescence, to attrition in the trades, to the future role of public providers, to unaccredited training and why employers use it, and more recently, VET’s response to Industry 4.0 and the digital economy: what works.  It is a very diverse array of topics that are covered.

In Episode 1 of Season 5 the latest podcast covers, “Workforce ready: challenges and opportunities for VET”.

In this Episode of 12 August 2020, “Steve Davis interviews a collection of presenters from two panel discussions at the 29th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’, held on 7-10 July 2020.

Topics covered in the lively discussion include new directions in skills planning, digital technology and the role it plays in aged and community care, insights from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), and the role of parental influence in taking on an apprenticeship.

Speakers are Professor John Buchanan, The University of Sydney; Ms Anne Livingstone and Dr George Margelis, Australian Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council; Mr David Redway, Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment; and Professor Erica Smith, Federation University.”

To listen to the podcast visit the NCVER’s Vocational Voices webpage: https://www.ncver.edu.au/news-and-events/podcasts/vocational-voices-podcast, and click on the lick to the Season 5 Episode 1 tab, and on the podcast link.  The podcast can also be access via most social media apps.


7. SOLAR PV: SCAPEGOAT OR SCOURGE?

Energy Networks Australia (ENA) and the Australian Energy Council have an interesting article in this weeks news.  It reports that, “Network owners and system operators have argued that solar puts extra stress on the electricity grid by increasing voltage. As the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Audrey Zibelman explained to ABC’s 7.30 recently, when there’s an excess of solar, there’s so little load that AEMO can’t manage to keep the balance with the generators. Voltage problems on distribution networks are nothing new, and knowing what’s happening on the grid is an ongoing problem. But is solar power a scapegoat? We take a look at the arguments.

The ABC’s 7.30 highlighted UNSW research that supports a view that the voltage issue is principally caused by the power supply settings in the distribution networks, which they find is already close to and sometimes over the voltage limit.”

Market-based solutions

In a future where solar, batteries, and electric vehicles can provide a range of benefits to the broader energy market system, we need to make sure that we do not make short term policy responses that lock us into a regulatory framework that excludes or makes consumer participation passive. Specifically, market-based solutions should be preferred over mandated approaches as the most efficient and effective way to enable customers to engage and share in the value of a more decentralised market.

Through a market-based framework, a consumer can proactively decide to self-consume or, if appropriately rewarded, offer their DERs to stabilise the network system as well as other energy system services. In the view of many stakeholders, ultimately an incentive and market based solution is a better and more consumer friendly approach to managing the impacts of DER on the reliability of the distribution network system.”

For more information contact, David Markham, Australian Energy Council

This interesting article is worthy of a read into the complexities and often confusion with the advantages or otherwise of rooftop solar systems and the policy responses needed or proposed that are needed to address real or perceived issues.  For the full article visit: https://www.energycouncil.com.au/analysis/solar-pv-scapegoat-or-scourge/