Canberra’s Commonwealth public servants now have access to their own training organisation to grow and develop skills specific and pertinent to their roles in the Australian Public Service.
The Australian Public Service Academy, touted as a new approach to APS-wide learning and development, has been officially launched in Canberra.
Based in offices at Old Parliament House, the Academy is described as a networked learning hub that will host and conduct courses online and, where necessary, face-to-face in Canberra.
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It will offer a mix of fee for service courses and freely available online learning through its own faculty of current and former APS leaders and contracted training providers.
The Academy, headed by Grant Lovelock, is one of the responses to the Thodey review of the APS which identified a decline in capability and lack of mobility in a fragmented service.
It aims to promote a culture of continual learning and brings together and consolidates what was considered a crowded curriculum into core learning areas across integrity, policy, engagement and partnership; implementation and services; working in government; and leadership and management.
The policy and service challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the development of the Academy, which will partner with and work alongside existing APS centres of excellence and other educational institutions such as the ANU.
The Academy will be the primary training vehicle in a One-APS approach. The Australian Public Service Commission hopes its website will be the go-to destination for public servants looking for practical guidance about tackling problems in the course of their work.
Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott said the Academy was a place for all APS employees to learn, develop, discuss and share.
“Working in partnership with APS agencies and external industry experts, the Academy will focus on developing ‘APS Craft’ capabilities to equip our workforce with the skills, tools and knowledge to shape and deliver effective outcomes for Government and the Australian community,” Mr Woolcott said.
The move to ramp up skills has come as the APS faces criticism that an overreliance on consultants and contractors has hollowed out its knowledge base.
Just this week, Labor Senator Katy Gallagher called out the spending of $450,000 on contractors for the Academy as ironic.
The Commission believes the APS will always use contractors to some degree but acknowledges that the work of government has become more complex, particularly in the digital era, and requires a more agile and unified response.
It also believes that the APS needs to do more on leadership and develop leaders at earlier stages of people’s careers.
Some training such as entry-level Integrity will be mandatory, but staff will be encouraged through their managers to undertake courses, some of which will earn university accreditation.
The Academy will cater to all levels through to SES where dealing with the government of the day can be challenging and has attracted claims of the politicisation of the APS.
One course on dealing with ministers’ offices is in the process of being designed for SES officers.
Training participants will be surveyed as part of the evaluation process for all the Academy’s offerings.
Mr Woolcott also announced the release of Highly Capable, Future-Ready, the whole-of-service APS Learning and Development Strategy and Action Plan, and the establishment of the inaugural APS Learning Board.
“The initiatives launched this week are important steps to future-proof the APS,” Mr Woolcott said.
“In our ever-changing operating environment, the public service needs to adapt, develop, and operate as one APS to continue to deliver for all Australians”.
Next year a Learning Marketplace will be established, listing the best product and service offerings to reduce duplication and the cost of training across the service.
The Commission is unable to say exactly how much the Academy has cost to establish but says it has been funded within existing budgets.
To learn more about the Academy’s courses, faculty and board, visit the APS Academy.