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What is the future of training in Australia's waste management sector?

The recovery industry could benefit from broader support and better uptake of waste driver training, argues Georgina Davis.

In this post I discuss the current status and adoption of the Certificate III Waste Driving Operations (TLI33413).

Following concerns from within the waste management industry that the available nationally recognised qualifications were not delivering vital and essential skills for industry personnel, key industry organisations (including national and multinational companies), and state-based industry associations engaged with the relevant Industry Skills Council (ISC) to design an appropriate qualification for professional drivers working across Australia’s waste management and recycling sector.  

This initiative also aimed to better align job roles with qualifications available in the Transport and Logistics Training Package.

Professional drivers play a critical role in the waste and recycling industry, which employs over 30,000 people across Australia.  

Environmental and efficiency factors, which have led the need to improve methods of waste collection and recycling, have seen the emergence of new technologies, greater specialisation, and continued growth in the industry.

The waste recycling driver's role reflects these changes with more specialised vehicle equipment types, increased use of technology (such as on board cameras and in-cab data terminals), and greater need to identify, handle and segregate waste for specific recycling processes.  

Waste industry drivers operate vehicles that range in size from utes and vans, through heavy rigid, and up to single articulated and 'B' double trucks and trailers.  

These operations are conducted by a wide range of both small and large businesses, as well as local councils who may engage their own workforce or have contract arrangements with a private enterprise provider.  

Drivers in the waste recycling industry are exposed to a range of risks, including working near electrical assets and the potential to come into contact with hazardous wastes. As such, operators/drivers must have the necessary competencies to deal with these risks.

After several years of industry-led, collaborative work by an interstate working group, the National Skills Standards Council (NSSC) fully endorsed TLI10 V4.0 Training Package on 5 December 2013 and, as such, the new qualification TLI33413 Certificate III in Waste Driving Operations was released on on 24 December 2013, allowing Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to apply to have the new qualification added to their Scope of Registration to enable delivery.  

TLI10 V4.0 also includes TLISS00076 Introduction to the Waste Industry Skill Set and TLISS00090 Waste Industry Off-Sider Skill Set which, it was anticipated, would provide a minimum ‘entry level’ opportunity which specifically addressed a range of workplace health and safety considerations as well as an introduction to the role of the industry.

It was expected that this new qualification would provide an opportunity for new industry entrants and existing workers to access training to support specific ‘waste driving’ roles, recognising that Vocational Education and Training (VET) is an essential tool for providing waste management and recycling workers with the necessary skills and knowledge needed to beneficially influence their own employment and career development; and to also ensure productivity and safe working conditions within the organisations in which they are employed.

So what has been the adoption of this new industry-led and industry-designed qualification?  Disappointingly, as of 1 November 2015, only five separate RTOs have added this qualification to their Scope of Registration.  

Of these providers, only a single provider (TAFE Queensland/MSIT) appears to offer the full scope of the qualification.  

The NCVER data also supports this poor outcome showing no commencements onto this qualification since its release.

To Fund or Not to Fund?

TLI33413 Certificate III in Waste Driving Operations is currently subsidised up to $2506 for the whole qualification, equating to a subsidy of only $132 for each of the 19 competencies (12 core units and six electives).

The qualification also fails the ‘in-demand’ criteria and is not an apprenticeship, despite being at Certificate III level.         

In 2014, the Waste, Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) made a formal request to the state government at the time for TLI33413 Certificate III in Waste Driving Operations to be added to the High Priority Qualification List.

Although this qualification appears on the Certificate III Guarantee list (which assists eligible working age Queenslanders to State Government funding to help them complete a Certificate Level III qualification), it is still not recognised on the High Priority Qualification List which would ensure a higher subsidy rate.

To the Future

Although the demand for the new qualification was strongly industry-led, industry-supported and industry-authored, industry has not adopted the qualification (Certificate III in Waste Driver Operations nor the accompanying Skills Set).

This is reflected in the low number of RTOs which have included it onto their Scope of Registration and, in turn, only a single provider currently offering the whole qualification (rather than selected units).

There is a risk attached to an RTO registering for a qualification – it must be fully resourced to deliver that qualification. An RTO will only invest in these resources where there is the industry support and interest, and a critical mass of potential students.

In the old adage – if you don’t use it, you lose it! The lack of adoption of this qualification will also make future industry-led development of other critical qualifications and skills sets uncertain.

Dr Georgina Davis is the director at Waste to Opportunity Enterprise.