Workforce, Certification & Training

TLISC: helping tackle rail’s skills shortages

Rail turnout - RISSB

The Transport Industry Skills Council (TLISC) provides advice to industry on workforce planning initiatives, training package development and the vocational education training system. Rail Express spoke with TLISC CEO Robert Adams.

REX: Robert, you are the new CEO at TLISC, how have you found your first few months?

Adams: Well, I have come on board at a very busy period. Luckily I had been involved with the Skills Council for the last 11 years as a member of the board, and as such am no stranger to the organisation.

The fact that I am not new to the sector has been of great advantage. Previously I worked as a management consultant in the rail industry and for the last 11 years I was with one of the largest road transport companies in Australia, TNT.

REX: Australian rail’s chronic skills shortages have been talked about a lot in recent times. What is your take on this issue?

Adams: I think that one of the key emerging issues is that the industry currently faces a lot of competition for skilled workers. If we look to the two speed economy, a lot of the skills that are in the transport and logistics area are transferable to other sectors. As a result in rail we see significant competition from the mining and resources area for our workers.

The challenge is to improve the skill development process and work with rail companies to  construct and implement retention strategies. This will ensure that we have the workforce available to support the freight needs of Australia.

There is also a real need to broaden recruitment by attracting new segments to the rail labour market.

REX: Can TLISC help rail organisations to broaden their recruitment and retention strategies?

Adams: There are a number of ways that we can help rail organisations train and retain staff. One way is through the enhancement of the Training Packages that form the qualifications. Making sure that qualifications match actual job roles means that workers have the right skills to do the jobs at hand.

The other way TLISC is helping is by working nationally with the rail industry to develop the workforce planning agenda. This will support the industry to develop the workforce that will be required, both now and in the near future.

REX: Are many rail organisations using the services that TLISC offer for workforce planning?

Adams: Yes, there are a number of rail companies making the most of current funding opportunities. Recently two companies were successful, with assistance from TLISC, in getting their submissions up for the Federal Government’s Critical Skills Investment Fund.

REX: What is currently happening with TLISC’s rail Training Package development?

Adams: There is a lot of work currently being undertaken in the rail sections of the TLI10 Training Package. This work is aimed at driving the national agenda around updating the rail qualifications.

We have taken a very consultative and inclusive approach to try and make certain that we get the right industry input and the technical advice. This will ensure that we deliver qualifications and skill sets that will meet the needs of the rail industry.

REX: I hear there may be a Diploma level qualification soon. Is this true?

Adams: Yes, we are looking at developing a diploma level qualification that will provide a pathway from the Certificate IV level into higher level job roles. This diploma could provide an entry into the rail industry for people coming from other areas such as project management or even engineering. This will allow professionals to join the rail industry at a higher level.

We are looking at developing a rail infrastructure diploma first, with the aim that it will be available to industry by 2013. There has also been similar interest expressed for a rail operations diploma.

REX: How are the new Rail Operations qualifications progressing?

Adams: Our rail specialist, Rae Fossard, is currently working with industry on developing a variety of new qualifications, for example, electric passenger train driving for metropolitan services, heavy haul driving (both freight and passenger) and yard operations. Over the next year work will broaden and include areas such as station operations.

REX: One of TLISC’s key tasks is to gather industry intelligence and provide analysis. How does this work?

Adams: As part of our contractual arrangements with the Australian Government we conduct analysis of T&L industry and enterprise skill needs. It is undertaken over a short time period each year and relies on ‘real time’ evidence captured across industry.

The result of this extensive engagement with the sector is a detailed document called the T&L Industry Environmental Scan. It is designed to advise enterprise and government on key challenges and projected skill needs with the transport and logistics area.

REX: What is the Environmental Scan data and analysis used for?

Adams: The government uses the Environmental Scan information, along with other intelligence, when creating policy and making funding decisions. For example, if we identify specific economic challenges it can assist the government in developing strategies and policies to address those needs.

The scan also provides an up-to-date overview of the levels of participation in funded training activities and highlights potential opportunities for further investment in skills development.

Industry and training organisations also use the analysis to gain an overview of the current T&L environment. It can assist them with their planning and decision making for subsequent years.

We would welcome the input from the rail sector as we undertake the intelligence gathering process between now and the end of the year. Please visit our website ( to find out more.

The resulting Environmental Scan will be published next February.

REX: When gathering information about the sector do you only get input from enterprise?

Adams: No, we cast a very wide net. We try to get a diverse range of people and organisations that are involved in various activities in the sector. This means that we are talking to enterprises, unions, associations and institutions that have vested interests in this area. It is a very comprehensive process that we undertake and we are always looking to increase the number of organisations and people that are interested in providing feedback.

REX: Are there new developments on the horizon at TLISC?

Adams: TLISC has just gone through an in-depth strategic planning process and is now looking forward to continuing its important work in four key areas. These are:

  • High quality development and continuous improvement of training products and value-add services to support excellence in training delivery and assessment across the tertiary sector.
  • Contemporary, high quality analysis and intelligence on the profile and skills needs of the current and future transport and logistics workforce.
  • Increasing enterprise productivity through contemporary skills and workforce development practices.
  • Repositioning transport and logistics as an attractive, valued and rewarding place to work.

For more information on the work being undertaken by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council visit:

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