Industry Leaders Forum: Jane Wenman, Careerforce

Jane Wenman, CEO, Careerforce

How was 2021 for Careerforce? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

In 2021 we continued to navigate the Reforms of Vocational Education (RoVE), which were first announced in February 2019.

Part of these reforms involve the future of Careerforce’s ‘arranging training’ function. Following extensive engagement with our stakeholders, our board made the decision that we would transition this function to Te Pūkenga.

Formed in April 2020, Te Pūkenga results from the merger of sixteen Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) and ultimately the majority of Industry Training Organisations (ITOs).

October 2021 saw the transition of our cleaning sector standard setting responsibilities to Ringa Hora – the Workforce Development Council (WDC) for Service industries. All remaining Careerforce standard setting responsibilities transitioned to Toitu te Waiora WDC.

Early in the year we received the welcome news from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) that cleaning programmes would be included within the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund (TTAF) from January 2021.

This meant enrolment fees for all cleaning programmes would be fully funded through to December 2022. The government’s decision to fund cleaning qualifications reflects the workforce challenges the cleaning sector currently faces, and the value of having professionally trained staff.

As per 2020 and in these times of COVID-19, 2021 has again highlighted the importance of the work of our cleaners, but particularly the importance of high quality cleaning, supported by appropriate training and upskilling of the cleaning workforce.

Despite the chaotic and unsettling backdrop of COVID-19, 2021 has been a strong year for Careerforce, led by very strong growth in enrolments. We have also seen increases in learner training activity, and pleasingly see this flowing through to unit standard and qualification completions.

Over 2021, we also reviewed the programmes leading to the New Zealand Certificate in Cleaning Levels 2 and 3 to ensure that they remained fit for purpose.  A wide range of industry specialists had input into updating the unit standards and we expect that the revised programme will be available in the first quarter of 2022.

In March 2021, we partnered with the BSCNZ to create a free online learning module with useful advice on how to organise a deep clean and halt the spread of COVID.

The new resource is intended for use by cleaners in a range of environments to educate cleaners on the basics of this respiratory virus and to reinforce best practice for them to carry out deep cleaning for COVID-19 risk or exposed areas under the guidance of a cleaning professional.

Also, in 2021 we introduced trainee engagement initiatives to keep trainees motivated and on track with their learning.  Trainees in Level 2 and 3 cleaning programmes receive a welcome pack, regular emails with a copy of their training progress report, gentle encouragement and training supports.

From November 2021, trainees also now have access to iportal, a secure portal which gives them the ability to view their personal training progress on demand.

Is there an achievement you’re particularly proud of from the past 12 months?

Despite the backdrop of the gradual implementation of the RoVE reforms and COVID-19 and all the associated uncertainty and disruption, we have delivered one of our best years.

I believe this is a reflection of the resilience and passion of our staff, but also of the strong partnerships we have formed with employers and the trust they have in workplace-based learning.

What will be the immediate focus for Careerforce in 2022?

Later in 2022, we will officially transition our ‘arranging training’ function into Te Pūkenga. The expectation is this will largely be a ‘lift and shift’ exercise, and we will carry on as Careerforce for some time (albeit under the Te Pūkenga umbrella).

Our focus is very much on business as usual, and to minimise any disruptions for learners and employers through the transition process.

The full implementation of the RoVE reforms are expected to take many years to take full effect. Throughout 2022, we will continue to engage with workplaces to support a smooth transition for our employers and trainees.

What are the major opportunities you foresee for Careerforce in 2022?

Free enrolments in our cleaning programmes will continue through 2022 because of the TTAF fund, and so we expect to see continued strong enrolments. We will also continue to focus on improvements that will lead to better outcomes for our learners and employers.

Historically, we have been restricted from ‘delivering’ training, but with the relinquishment of our standard setting responsibilities, the same restrictions no longer apply.

In close discussions with stakeholders, we are exploring what ‘delivering training’ could mean for Careerforce in 2022, and how it can further enhance our learner outcomes.

We will continue to develop the trainee engagement initiatives that we introduced in 2021 to keep learners engaged throughout their training for successful outcomes.

We will also continue to adjust to new ways of working in what is expected to continue to be a changing environment, especially with potential new Covid-19 rules, and new training to keep up to date with the impact of COVID-19.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the wider cleaning industry in 2022?

With borders remaining closed or heavily restricted, there will be exacerbated workforce recruitment challenges, and a heavier reliance on the local market for recruitment.

Promoting career prospects, via professional development and training, and the prospects of leadership/management positions within the sector will be very important.

Many other sectors of the economy have been badly impacted by COVID-19, and there is the opportunity to attract displaced workers from these sectors.

What is one issue in the cleaning industry that you would like to see addressed?

To see a continued improvement in the recognition and respect of the cleaning workforce, and to improve access to quality training across all organisations in the sector.

The latter will not only support improved career outcomes, but also better life outcomes for the workforce, afforded by improved remuneration and job retention.

What advice do you have for fellow leaders in the cleaning industry?

As the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) for the cleaning sector, probably no surprises here, but we would like to see a greater commitment from the wider cleaning sector to upskilling their staff.

We work with a number of cleaning organisations who do demonstrate this commitment, and who also see the dividends flow through, notably in the areas of staff satisfaction and retention, and also ultimately in greater client satisfaction.

With continued free enrolment through to December 2022 (courtesy of the government’s TTAF funding), 2022 is a great year to enrol your staff. The employment market is expected to remain very tight, so any measures you can take to invest in and retain staff will be critical.

This first appeared in the February issue of INCLEAN NZ magazine. 

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