COVID-19 has disrupted work for most Australians and has created and/or increased critical skills shortages and issues. The industries we work with are essential to Australia’s food production and security. As well as feeding our nation, and many people beyond our nation, these industries also provide a range of key products and services currently under increased demand and which will support the economy to recover.

In response to a recent request by the AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee, Skills Impact has met with relevant Industry Reference Committees (IRCs), who worked hard to identify areas within the training packages where rapid development of skills standards could help industry respond to COVID-19. While the IRCs were able to identify a list of possible solutions to submit, all-in-all they found the training packages to be in a good position to meet the skills needs of industry, even as they adjust to the challenges of COVID-19.

Of the submitted solutions, a project to develop a skill set in pharmaceutical manufacturing has been approved, as there is a need for these skills standards to be developed quickly as part of the emergency response to the pandemic. While the other projects submitted were not approved for the expedited critical response format, they still addressed relevant industry skills needs and opportunities to build on available skills standards. A number of projects were referred to the National Careers Institute, while others were identified as being appropriate for consideration through the regular process and will be submitted as part of future Skills Forecasts if the relevant IRC/s see fit.

New Pharmaceutical Skill Set

A skill set to support the pharmaceutical industry in their urgent response to the COVID-19 health crisis is now available for training delivery.

Pharmaceutical companies are playing a key role in the COVID-19 pandemic by developing potential tests, treatments and vaccines. It is important manufacturers are equipped with all the expertise they may require, including the unique skills to produce and distribute life-saving and enhancing medical treatments.

The Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Operator Induction Skill Set describes the foundation skills and knowledge required by workers entering the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, especially those employed to work with bioprocessed products, such as vaccines and antibody testing devices.

The skill set was developed by industry experts, in a process supported by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Industry Reference Committee and managed by Skills Impact.

It was developed in response to the Critical Skills for Recovery initiative, driven by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) and the AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee. Work to develop the skill set was approved by the AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee on 28 July 2020. The completed skill set was approved by the Sub‑Committee on 16 September 2020.

The skill set will help support displaced workers to gain new skills and build on existing skills and will also help businesses to take advantage of opportunities that exist now and into the future.

It is included on the JobTrainer Fund list and the fee for registered training providers putting it on scope will be waived.

This work is part of the AISC’s efforts to ensure Australia’s national training system is well positioned to address the workforce challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn.

Any industry players who believe there are additional resources that could be developed to support training in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector are encourage to contact Skills Impact.

Training & Assessment Resources

A range of resources and tools have been developed to support training delivery of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Operator Induction Skill Set. The training and assessment resources were funded by the Commonwealth Government and are available for free access and download.

Trainer Guide: Contains training materials to address all four units of competency in the skill set

Download Trainer Guide

Assessment Tasks and Tools: Contains suggested assessment tasks

Download Tasks and Tools

Download Tasks and Tools (editable version) 

Marking Guide: A guide to marking the suggested assessment tasks

Download Marking Guide

Mapping Matrix: Maps the assessment tasks with the requirements of the skill set and units of competency

Download Mapping Matrix

Enterprise Information Guide: For enterprises thinking about employing a trainee or embarking on a skills development program for staff to meet the requirements of the skill set

Download Enterprise Information Guide

COVID-19 Work and the AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the IRCs have been providing information on an urgent basis to the AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee. In turn, the AISC has been working with the National Cabinet to highlight matters for attention to support industry and skills development, including support for essential services and displaced workers.

The AISC, through the Emergency Response Sub-Committee, has been working with IRCs on appropriate responses during the stages of the COVID-19 crisis. These stages have been:

  • Immediate crisis response
    • Identification of immediate training issues relating to workplace and campus-based training (completed April 2020)
    • Identification and meeting skills needs of essential workforces (completed May 2020)
  • Supporting training for worker movement and potential surge workforces to meet current needs
    • Analysis of the existence of training products and potential surge workforces (Completed May 2020)
    • Analysis of available infection control training (Completed June 2020)
  • Support for workforce recovery
    • Critical Response Projects to create pathways for displaced workers (Submitted July 2020, in progress)
    • Promotion of pathways for displaced workers (first projects submitted July 2020, under consideration)

It is expected that further actions will be identified over the next few months.

Immediate Crisis response

During March and April 2020, each IRC submitted to the AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee information related to:

  • Listing as or rationale for being listed as an Essential industry for the purposes of emergency response
  • The current state of available training for improving responses in workplaces

This allowed a number of industries to make their case for listing as essential businesses through an additional avenue, and helped the AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee define the priority industries to be considered.

Skills impact also carried out an analysis of all Units of Competency within seven (7) Training packages to identify any requirements for mandatory work placements, assessment that had to take place in work places, or training and assessment that required physical attendance. This was to identify alternatives for assessment and training, and to identify where there might be delays in being able to carry out training and assessment in the Units of Competency. This was a particular issue for Registered Training Organisations trying to deliver training using social distancing, and for employers looking to bolster the safety of workplaces by preventing non-essential personnel or visitors from accessing work sites.

Training for worker movement and potential surge workforces

During April – June 2020, Skills Impact worked with IRCs to identify any potential requirements for training to meet the needs of rapid worker movement and surge workforces. This included identifying potential training related to infection control.

This work was submitted to the AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee. Generally, the analysis demonstrated that within the Training Packages overseen by Industry Reference Committees that work with Skills Impact, there are all the required skills documented, including skills standards for higher levels of biosecurity, exceeding the proposed new cross industry standards related to infection control.

Specific issues raised included the importance of recognising any work with living entities, animal or plant, as essential work for welfare and social reasons, as well as the importance of protection regional, rural, remote and local communities and economies. The AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee received submissions from all of the IRCs that work with Skills impact.

This work formed the basis of advice provided to National Cabinet concerning skills needs during the crisis.