24 July 2021

Public service launches new Academy in training overhaul

| Ian Bushnell
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Old Parliament House

The new APS Academy is based at Old Parliament House, which the APSC say is a fitting home. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

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.

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.

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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.

APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott

APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott: the Academy is a place for all APS employees to learn, develop, discuss and share. Photo: APSC.

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.

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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.

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As long as these courses are optional and not mandatory. .

Tom Worthington5:01 pm 25 Jul 21

The new APS Academy is starting with an impressive depth and breath of course offerings. However, I couldn’t find any accreditation of courses, to provide credit for vocational or university programs, or alignment with the Australian Qualifications Framework. But with the addition of suitable assessment, it would appear feasible to assemble these courses into micro-credentials, and gain credit toward a formal recognized qualifications. https://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/2021/07/new-australian-public-service-academy.html

Given that the vast majority of AQTF courses related to government are based on thinking that is 10+ years old and as a result has little relevance her is hoping that they don’t bother. This way they can keep them updated in a timely manner and relevant to the needs of the APS.

Reminds me of the DFAT course in how to save money held in Paris with attendees from Canberra

I do hope that some Senior Managers are required to do some of these courses AND get assessed so that those with an inbuilt / instinctive / private school / uppercrust resistance to necessary change when proposed from staff.

In my time most senior managers were simply roadblocks. IF you can recall having to queue at Medicare offices for your rebates – which now go into your bank accounts!

You might / might not be surprised at the deep resistance to that and other ideas, that I experienced back in the ’90s. One particular idiot, then head of the PBS, was very bothered by my being a ‘scientist’ when I was putting through the ‘internets’ ( incl banking network) capacity to simplify all our lives.

Apparently management was ‘magical’, to him. And, managing upwards was just not on.

One of my favourite management principles is …. ‘Listen, lead or get out of the way’.

I doubt much has changed.

Someonesmother1:46 pm 24 Jul 21

“the APS faces criticism that an overreliance on consultants and contractors has hollowed out its knowledge base.” Gee wonder who hollowed out the APS and destroyed the corporate knowledge and continuity of knowledge sharing? Now trying to blame the APS and put more mates on the payroll through a learning centre. God this is like an episode of Yes Minister, if we didn’t laugh we would just be crying at our desks. Oh right that is already happening.

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