Traineeships address aging workforce

Article image - Traineeships address aging workforce City Works and Services Trainee Claudia Baranowski is completing a Certificate II in Local Government Operations.

An innovative workforce planning program being piloted at Wollongong City Council is attracting attention across the industry.

The first 21 participants in the City Works and Services, Local Government Operations Traineeship Program commenced work in September 2016.

To address Council’s ageing workforce, succession planning and workforce capacity building issues Council entwined its youth employment and diversity strategies to deliver the program that will affect its age and diversity profile, workforce capacity, flexibility and ‘bench’ strength over the next five years.

One of the impacts of an ageing workforce is the loss of skilled and experienced staff in a relatively short time period.

The proposed engagement of 20 trainees a year during the five-year strategy will produce suitably trained staff capable of filling this void, significantly changing the age profile of the organisation and taking advantage of the extensive operational skills and experience existing staff are able to pass on to others before they retire.

Council worked with TAFE to design a tailored course that incorporated both civil and parks units and would provide participants with a Certificate II Local Government (Operational Works).

The trainees spend the first six months of the program undertaking open space tasks and the final six months in civil construction and maintenance.

Delivery of the course is blended with theory days and site visits from TAFE with Council’s own policies and systems embedded into the learning program.

City Works Operations Manager Jason Brown said the trial was proving to be a huge success.

“We received 264 applications for the positions after we held an incredibly successful expo at one of our depots and shortlisted 50 applicants,” he said.

“We understood that many applicants were applying for their first job in local government so we invited the shortlisted applicants to an afternoon tea where they could ask questions about the role and the interview process – this resulted in a far more relaxed and comfortable interview process.

“This program has significantly reduced administration of relief staff and we are seeing a real change in culture by integrating the trainees across both Civil and Parks teams.

“It also means we can move staff to areas of the highest seasonal need, for example during summer months when the open space workload increases.”

Mr Brown said there is opportunity for future training and employment after the initial traineeship.

“At the completion of the traineeship, trainees demonstrating specific interest and talent in the relevant field may be offered a second traineeship to specialise in Open Space or Civil depending on workforce planning requirements.

“The program will also provide a multi-skilled labour workforce that will have the ability to transition between Civil and Open Space Operations while providing trainees with an opportunity to seek future employment in either industry. “