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An Essential Guide to Skills for Growth: the Workforce Development and Strategic Planning Program for Small and Medium Business

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Posted on October 11, 2010 @ 2:13 pm
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Skills for Growth is a strategic planning and workforce development program run by the Government of Victoria that provides small and medium businesses in the State of Victoria with free access to skilled business consultants and to employee training opportunities. The goal of the program is to help small and medium business owners achieve greater levels of near-term and long-term success by mapping out their business’ key goals and priorities and evaluating – and closing – capability gaps in their workforce.

The Skills for Growth initiative will create a number of benefits – some of which are:

- Superior business performance and productivity

- Increased workforce efficiency and effectiveness

- Greater capacity to innovate

- Broader range of employee skills

- Reduced overall costs

Ultimately, all of the above-noted benefits lead to the one benefit important to all businesses: increased profits.

Skills for Growth Background

Because the Government of Victoria recognised the fact that small and medium businesses are the key driver of the state’s economy – they make up about ninety nine percent of all businesses and employ around one milliion people – they decided to create and fund – to the tine of $52 million – the Skills for Growth program in an effort to ensure their continued competitiveness and growth.

Skills for Growth launched in April of 2009 with 25 Service Providers – working in partnership with independent workforce planning and training Specialists – approved to provide accredited training services to eligible businesses.

Structure of the Skills for Growth Program

After a business registers with the Skills for Growth program (which can be done by visiting the website at and selects a Service Provider that best suits its needs, the Service Provider assigns an independent workforce planning and training Specialist who contacts the business owner and arranges for an on-site visit.

Workforce planning and training Specialists are required to have completed a Training and Assessment (TAA) course as well as well as an accredited course on Assess Informal Learning (AIL). Completion of a number of key units from Certificate IV is a prerequisite for AIL.

The Skills for Growth program basically goes through two phases.

Phase 1

In the first phase, a workforce planning and training Specialist conducts an onsite business review that concludes with the creation of a detailed plan for the development of the workforce. Among other things, a workforce development plan identifies opportunities for skill development and provides recommendations for training.

Following is a high-level overview of the key steps to phase one:

- The completion of a business review that plots out the business’ strategic direction and identifies key business needs

- Assessment of the skills and training needs of employees as they relate to the business’ strategic direction

- Developing a Workforce Training and Action Plan that maps out business needs and workforce skills needs and that provides referrals to key training programs and developmental opportunities

The first phase of the Skills for Growth program is free for businesses to take part in.

Phase 2

The second phase of the Skills for Growth program proceeds only if business owners/managers choose to move forward with the training recommendations made by the workforce planning and training Specialist.

Following is a high-level overview of the key steps to phase two:

- Facilitation of staff placement into training with an accredited training organisation

- Completion of a follow-up review after staff have completed training – or have undergone at least three months of training – and of a Skills for Growth report which must be reviewed and approved by the business (any employees hired by the business after the initial review receive individual training plans)

Businesses are required to fund the second phase of the Skills for Growth program, but costs to the business can be reduced significantly if their staff qualify for subsidies under the Victorian Training Guarantee. Some of the basic eligibility considerations are: age, residency status, educational background, and citizenship.

It usually takes about four weeks to complete the Skills for Growth program. The followup review is generally completed after about six months.

Eligibility for the Skills for Growth Program

Skills for Growth is open to all small and medium businesses that are based in Victoria. Other eligibility requirements include:

- Employ between 1 to 200 staff

- Have been in operation for at least 12 months

- Be financially viable (effective trading history and ability to meet debts when they fall due)

The eligibility requirements are obviously set to maximize participation in the program.

Key Numbers on the Uptake of Skills for Growth

By the end of January 2010, Skills for Growth had reached the following milestones:

- 1,648 businesses had signed up for Skills for Growth

- 667 workforce action plans had been approved by businesses

- 17.934 employee training plans had been signed off on by business owners/managers

- 10,488 approved training plans had met VictorianTraining Guarantee eligibility requirements

Obviously, business uptake of the Skills for Growth program has been strong. So, too, have the results that many businesses have seen from their participation in the program, which you can read about in the case studies published on the Business Victoria website.

If you own or manage a small to medium business in the State of Victoria – and meet the eligibility requirements set out earlier in this article – do your business a favour and check out the Skills for Growth program.

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