As an employer, you may be looking at ways to bring in new staff under an apprenticeship or trainee program. Alternatively, you could be looking for ways to upskill your existing staff. In NSW, the Smart and Skilled scheme is designed to help students receive training and qualifications in certain fields. So, as an employer, it’s worth knowing all about these Smart and Skilled courses that may be beneficial to your business.
This article will look at what Smart and Skilled are and how they can benefit your business.
What are Smart and Skilled Courses?
Smart and Skilled NSW courses, sometimes known as Smart Skills courses, are a selection of qualifications that can be partially or fully Government-subsidised. The program is a reform of the vocational education and training (VET) program in NSW.
Eligible students can receive Government-subsidised training up to and including Certificate III and Government funding for higher-level courses. Across the whole scheme, students can access courses, apprenticeships and traineeships in a wide variety of skill sets.
What is the NSW Skills List?
The NSW Skills List is the basis from which eligible courses and apprenticeships are selected. Using industry and community consultation, as well as labour market research, the NSW government has determined a range of qualifications that will help the diverse needs of NSW businesses.
The Skills List covers all training courses from Certificate II to Advanced Diploma, as well as selected Foundation Skills courses and apprenticeships. The list is updated twice yearly to ensure it is up to date with the current labour market and forecasting.
Essentially, the list determines which courses are available for funding and subsidy under the Smart and Skilled program.
Eligibility for Smart and Skilled Courses
The eligibility criteria for Smart and Skilled is quite simple. Students must be:
· 15 years or older
· No longer attending school
· Living or working in NSW
· An Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, humanitarian visa holder or New Zealand citizen?
If students meet all criteria, they’re eligible. So, from an employment point of view, you need to ensure that any staff you wish to upskill or hire through Smart and Skilled meets these criteria. In addition, we should mention that you can still be eligible for the scheme if you’ve already completed a previous vocational training course or qualification.
Qualification levels available
The great thing about Smart and Skilled is it covers a wide range of courses and qualifications. On the list of eligible courses, you’ll find Certificate I, II, III and 4 courses. You’ll even find diplomas and advanced diplomas. Some of these can be completed as a traineeship or apprenticeship. So, as an employer, if you’re looking to employ an apprentice or trainee, it’s worth having a look through the approved courses list to ensure there are courses that will benefit your business.
In addition, there are certain Foundation Skills courses available. These courses are designed to help people improve their writing, reading and numeracy.
A range of training providers
One of the benefits of using the Smart and Skilled program is you have a huge choice in training providers. Courses can be provided by NSW Tafe, Adult and Community Education colleges, and also certain authorised private providers. It’s easy to check the Smart and Skilled website to find a course and see which training providers you can book through.
As a business, this is important, because you may already have a preferred training provider that you use for other services, and it makes sense to maintain consistency. So, before thinking too far ahead, check that your training provider offers the subsidised courses you want for your staff.
You can hire apprentices and trainees
The idea of hiring an apprentice or trainee isn’t new, however, these subsidies make it more viable than ever. When you hire a trainee, you get the benefit of having a new employee who costs a lot less than an experienced, full-time staff member. Most award wages for trainees are much lower, meaning you can reduce your operating expenses. However, there is usually the expectation that you pay the course fees on behalf of the student. With Smart and Skilled courses being subsidised fully or partially, you can save more money as an employer.
The other benefit to hiring trainees is that you can ensure career paths by promoting from within. Naturally, not all apprentices are hired full-time at the end of their training, but many are. This is because businesses know the value of hiring a staff member already trained in your business. It’s a great way to reduce turnover and the cost of recruitment.
Employers can even get a head-start on the trainee and apprenticeship pathway by considering school-based apprenticeships. With school-based apprenticeships, you can hire young staff while they complete their HSC. You would hire them on a part-time basis, usually one day a week. This helps you build their skills and get them used to the workplace before taking them on as a full apprentice the following year.
The student gets the benefit of gaining hands-on experience while studying, and as a business the benefits are immense. You set yourself up as an employer of choice in the community, but you’re also able to train a young person in how your business operates. If you have formal apprentices or trainees, you can even try to schedule the school apprentice’s day of work on the same day that another apprentice is away for study. This is perfect because you get staff coverage all week, plus, you can spend more time with each apprentice individually.
Upskilling your existing staff
We’ve talked a lot about traineeships and apprenticeships, but what about your existing staff? Training and development are crucial for any business. Not only does it result in more skilled, efficient and productive staff, but they’re also happier. By providing genuine training and development opportunities for your staff, engagement goes up and you develop a reputation as a great employer. When looking for top talent in the job market, you’ll attract better applicants.
So, there’s no reason you can offer Smart and Skilled courses to your existing staff too. Many staff would appreciate this too because they can end up with a valuable qualification at the end of the course. This is much more beneficial to them than just completing in-house training that’s relevant in your organisation.
Work with your training provider
Since you can choose your own training provider, you’ll want to work closely with them when planning a course, apprenticeship or traineeship. You will need to enter into a training contract with the apprentice or trainee, and this will include your training plan.
The training plan sets out each party’s rights and obligations. So, you should include how you’ll be supporting the employee through guidance, study leave or dedicated work-time to complete training. The plan should also feature details of the course, the units to be delivered, and the method of delivery. Make note of whether the formal study is included, and where this will take place.
Your training provider should be able to help with all of this because they’ve likely done hundreds of training plans before.
Various employer incentives
As you already know, the courses that fall under the Smart and Skilled program are Government-subsidised or Government-funded. This is great for the person paying the education fees, whether that be you or your staff member, but there are other incentives available too.
Through various government sources, you may be eligible for funding assistance for:
· Mature age apprentices or trainees
· Apprentices or trainees with a disability
· School-based apprentices
· Rural and regional skills shortages
So, if you’d like to consider accessing the Smart and Skilled Program for your existing or new staff, speak to your preferred training provider and take the first steps.