Workforce, Certification & Training

Changing times, changing needs

While known as a training solutions provider for the rail industry, over the last 16 years since its inception, the Centre for Excellence in Rail Training has become much more than that.

The Centre for Excellence in Rail Training (CERT) began as a training facility in Western Australia in 2003, offering training courses for all areas required by the rail industry nationally, including rail infrastructure, rail operations, rail safeworking, rail safety investigations, rail structures and rail safety management.

Since then, the organisation has grown to become the nation-wide choice for those training courses, as well as assessment services, but also an international player delivering courses in Indonesia, Malaysia and East Africa. CERT now also offers extensive training for workers in mining, port and engineering industries, as well as its core market in rail. They are also best placed for future rail innovations such as in-cab rail signalling systems and automatic train protection systems. In addition, CERT has established training facilities in WA (Bunbury, Perth and Port Hedland) to provide training services for high risk work licences, mobile equipment, first aid, fire equipment, and training for working at heights and confined spaces.

Part of the reason for the organisation coming to take this place in the industry, according to CERT national manager, Mark Haigh, is its “ability to holistically service the industry nationally, with independent, compliant and quality training solutions”. Having presided over some of the most significant growth in CERT’s operations, throughout 2005 and 2006, Haigh has been able to establish an agile training team, designed to meet the needs of industry. CERT’s trainers have a minimum of ten years, while most have more than 20 years, experience in the industry.

Trainers have worked in the delivery of rail infrastructure, rail operations, and rail safe-working training and assessment. During this time, CERT has seen changes in Australia’s rail labour market.

“The attempt to align rail safety worker competence to national units of competence, in order to allow people to work in all states and all networks has been the biggest change in my fifteen years in the rail training industry,” Haigh said. “Allowing rail workers to have portability in their skills gives them and their families the ability to move from project to project and have sustainable lifestyles. It also allows networks, contractors and employers in general access to competent staff who have experience and exposure to rail networks nationally.”

These changes have helped CERT grow into the business that it is today, having established training facilities and engaged trainers in all states of Australia. “CERT has and will travel anywhere to support rail safety workers in gaining competence which in turn assists them in gaining employment. Our demographic spread also mitigates costs to industry,” Haigh said.

Being capable of delivering its services in such an agile manner is another reason for the CERT’s success. Uniquely placed as it is within the Australian rail landscape, and with sixteen years’ experience, CERT holds such a comprehensive repository of information about the rail industry, that it has become the first port of call for those who are confused by the lack of, or by the mixed, information available about the rail industry. CERT staff field countless calls every week from people with questions as disparate as “how do I become a train driver” to “what medicals do I need?” CERT has expertise is competency consultancy in terms of skills mapping, organisational training needs analysis, mentoring and work skills coaching.

The organisation now intends to leverage its unique place in the industry and the wealth of knowledge of its trainers to become a one-stop shop for all information related to the rail industry. As such, CERT will soon be launching its new website answering these questions, from “RIW card – what is it and how do I get one?” to “what is rail infrastructure?” CERT will share its in-depth knowledge of the industry, making the it as transparent as possible.

Its major goal in this is to help students navigate the rail industry, whether it results in or even relates to students choosing a CERT course or not.

Delivering effective training solutions remains CERT’s core business, however, especially in light of the Australasian Railway Association’s (ARA) predictions that Australia’s rail industry will struggle to cope as demand for labour peaks in the middle of the next decade and the workforce continues to age, during a time when the pipeline of rail infrastructure projects has never been bigger.

“Every state, every network in Australia is experiencing skills shortages. Investment in rail by all levels of government is high and the workforce is not keeping up with project demands. The rail industry has an ageing workforce and the investment in skills is required to ensure rail projects are sustainable,” Haigh said. CERT’s aim is to enable anyone who wants to, to be capable of meeting the rail industry’s needs.

While the organisation tailors customised cost effective and industry compliant training packages for Australia’s biggest rail networks, it is also agile enough to cater to individual needs. According to Haigh “CERT has a committed team of rail and vocational training experts dedicated to developing current and contextualised courseware to meet the needs of all rail projects nationally”.

“We are investing in the skills and currency of our trainers to ensure they can meet the demands of industry. We are not a labour hire company; we are training organisation that is committed to ensuring Australian rail safety workers have the skills to meet the needs of the rail industry for decades to come. Quality, compliance, responsiveness and flexibility in our delivery methodologies are key strategies in our business,” Haigh said.

When Paul, who is hearing impaired, required training for a new job role in Western Australia, CERT catered the course to suit his needs. The difficulty of translating the theoretical components of the course through Auslan meant Paul required a very specific environment to be able to attain a successful outcome. Paul worked with an Auslan interpreter over a course of months, rather than the usual one- or two-day courses, to translate the assessments and take extra time to slowly work through them, until Paul felt confident that he could complete the assessments.

Paul’s Employment Support Coordinator told CERT that “Paul’s self-esteem and morale has grown in leaps and bounds. From a business perspective, it’s another step in having a more flexible and can-do team which is good for everyone. CERT’s one-on-one training package delivered by Craig was certainly great value for money- thanks for making it happen.”

CERT has also partnered with another training solutions provider as part of a program designed to offer long-term unemployed and disadvantaged candidates the opportunity to complete work-based training and skills funded under the Skilling Queenslanders for Work (SQW) initiative. This is provided over an 8-10 week period across regional Queensland where rail-based employment opportunities are available. To keep as agile as possible, CERT is now in the process of changing its Student Management System.

The organisation says that is committed to investing in making the relevant changes to create a user-friendly, efficient and quick process to find and enrol in training courses. Once the transition is complete, there will be student and client portals available. From a business aspect, this will allow an employer to login and select any student in the system that has that client name listed as their employer, select them by name and book them into a selected course. It will also allow the client and individual student to view their training history and certificates.

Haigh emphasises CERT’s commitment to tackling the ongoing issues facing the future of the rail industry.

“Skills shortages, an aging workforce and access to complaint, current and cost affective training solutions are real and ongoing issues for the rail industry,” he said. “CERT has committed management, quality, training and administration teams that are conveniently situated nationally to assist rail safety workers and employers address these situations. CERT is also part of the public company Engenco, whose board is very supportive of ensuring rail industry skills are supported and developed in order to enable future projects and generations.”