Skills eFlash #96

Skills eFlash #96

Skills eFlash #96
Date: 01-Apr-2021

In this edition: Skills Forum Wrap-Up| Careers in Water| Nominate an Outstanding Operator!| Fundamentals Webinar| Review of Electrical Safety Act – Have Your Say| Skills Advocacy| Upcoming Events

1. Skills Forum Wrap-Up

Almost 100 water industry stakeholders participated in the fourth annual Queensland Water Skills Forum on Thursday 4 March, hosted as a hybrid event with most delegates attending in person and the remainder online. View the photos.

Thank you to all those who provided presentations at the forum and to everyone who got involved in conversations on the day and contributed ideas. The forum covered a number of key themes that had been identified by Water Skills Partners as their most pressing skilling and workforce priorities, including leadership development, succession planning and future training requirements. Feedback was invited throughout the day from delegates participating online and those in person about the priorities they would most like to address through the collaboration of the Water Skills Partnership and the common issues identified were:

  • The need for a mandatory minimum competency standard for operators;
  • Tools to support retirement transitions;
  • Addressing the FTE caps within utilities to allow for the recruitment of more trainees; and
  • Skilling opportunities for future and current leaders.

The Water Skills Partnership will meet in the coming months to discuss the outcomes from the forum and consider collaborative opportunities to support Queensland utilities in addressing these issues. Copies of all presentations are available for download by qldwater members, Water Skills Partners and forum attendees.

Presentations included:

  • A keynote address by Josh Rayner, Executive Director of Jobs Queensland, where he described the essential work of the water industry as having received greater prominence over the past year in responding to COVID-19 issues and along with other essential utilities, flagged it as a priority for future workforce planning;
  • A summary of current skilling issues in NSW with discussion around opportunities for collaboration with Queensland;
  • Findings of recent research into retirement transition processes of a number of water, energy and rail utilities;
  • Case studies where transitions have been successful in providing meaningful work to those stepping back from full time work and to use their knowledge to skill up and mentor trainees;
  • Technology solutions to support remote mentoring and coaching and how these can be improved to support staff in regional and remote Queensland;
  • A case study of wellbeing initiatives from a Victorian water utility;
  • Learnings from a recent leadership development program at Bundaberg Regional Council;
  • A presentation by WIOA of their new certification portal;
  • Details of Unitywater’s review of their competency training framework; and
  • An exploration of two SEQ treatment plants that are being explored as potential future operator training sites.

A key feature of the day was a panel discussion about the Operator Skilling Crisis, with input from forum delegates indicating that 63% of utilities indicating that operators were unable to take leave because they had no one to cover their role and as a result were carrying unmanageable leave balances. Favoured solutions for dealing with the shortage of operators included incentivizing regional collaboration, partnerships between large and small utilities and investment in remote monitoring and support technologies. The panel discussed the declining RTO market for water industry training and a majority of delegates indicated that investment in developing standardized training resources was seen as the most useful investment to stimulate the training market along with getting industry experts involved in training delivery. Panellists and delegates agreed that the most important change that could be made to address the operator crisis and declining training market was for regulars to establish mandatory minimum competency standard for operators.

Thank you to TAFE Queensland – SkillsTech for sponsoring the forum once again and thanks to our new forum sponsor, Trility. Thank you also to Diona, who kindly sponsored the networking drinks to round out a great day.

2. Careers in Water

Those who attended the Water Skills Forum were the first to see our latest resources for promoting careers in the water industry!

The new ‘Careers in Water’ section of the qldwater website contains information about job roles and career pathways in the industry, the qualifications required for those roles and links to other water industry career resources. We are delighted to have interviewed a number of Queensland water industry trainees and managers about their training and career journeys and those interviews are available for you to watch and share. Thank you to all those who shared their inspiring stories, they are a great reminder about what’s great about the water industry.

Over time we will be adding more information about other job roles and opportunities to the site, we welcome your feedback and ideas for additional content to

3. Nominate an Outstanding Operator!

Get your nominations in for qldwater’s Young Operator of the Year and Operator of the Year (Civil/All-Rounder) Awards, offered in conjunction with the Water Industry Operators Association of Australia (WIOA). The awards recognise the outstanding performance of operational employees of either qldwater full members or Water Skills Partnership member organisations and are a great way to reward your operators for the work they do for their community. Read about our 2020 Award Winners.

Nominees for the Young Operator of the Year Award must be under the age of 35 years and be responsible for operating community water and wastewater treatment plants or industrial water or wastewater plants, operation and maintenance or construction of water and wastewater reticulation networks etc. They must have been employed in their role for four years or less. Previous winners of this award have received a paid trip to participate in the WIOA Utilities Tour of New Zealand, but due to ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions, an alternative tour within Australia is currently being negotiated for 2021 winners. Prizes from previous years that would have typically involved travel/conferences have been preserved to be taken up when it’s easier to do such things. WIOA is currently looking into opportunities for past winners to attend events like Ozwater in Adelaide this year.

Nominees for the Operator of the Year (Civil/All-Rounder) must be responsible for the operation and maintenance or construction of water and wastewater reticulation networks. The winner receives a $1500 voucher to put towards professional development.

Nominations are due by Friday 23 April 2021 to Winners will be announced at the Queensland WIOA Annual Conference Awards Dinner on Thursday 3 June in Toowoomba.

Full details about the nomination process along with nomination forms are available on the qldwater website.

4. April Fundamentals Webinar

As some of you may know, our March Fundamentals webinar had to be rescheduled as our presenter, Murray Thompson, was caught up in the recent flood disaster in NSW. This session has now been rescheduled and Murray will present ‘The Fundamentals of Electrical Safety - Working on Metallic Pipes’ on Tuesday 27 April at 10am. Anyone previously registered for this session has been transferred to the new date and new registrations are invited to register now!

Fundamentals webinars are free for employees of qldwater members and Water Skills Partners, non-members may now participate in the Fundamentals webinars for a cost of $50 plus GST. Recordings of all previous webinars are available for members to access via the qldwater website.

5. Review of Electrical Safety Act – Have Your Say

Energy Skills Queensland has advised that the Honourable Grace Grace MP, Minister for Industrial Relations, has initiated a review of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (Qld) (the Act).

The review of the Act was a recommendation of the 2020 report ‘Improving Electrical Safety in Queensland: A Report by the Commissioner for Electrical Safety’ and is designed to ensure that Queensland’s electrical safety laws continue to provide high standards of safety for workers and communities, while recognising that new and emerging technologies have led to significant changes for electricity generation, storage, and supply across the state.

The Issues Paper for the review of the Act is now live and can be accessed on the WorkSafe website. To have your say, send your written submissions to by 18 April 2021.

6. Skills Advocacy

qldwater through the Water Skills Partnership and in our role as an Industry Skills Advisor to the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training (DESBT) and as a member of the Water Industry Reference Committee, is regularly asked to provide input to policy and investment decisions to support the skilling and training needs of the Queensland water industry workforce. The following is an overview of recent and other related activities:

Skills Reform Consultation

Following several reviews over the past 18 months, Federal and State Governments are progressing a number of key reforms to improve the VET system. There have been a number of requests for consultation in recent weeks and qldwater has represented Queensland water service providers at online workshops and provided submissions on a range of issues relating to the VET system, including quality of the VET workforce, improving the quality of training and the role of industry engagement in VET. More information about the review process and consultation opportunities is available at: There is expected to a be a new National Skills Agreement developed by August 2021.

Third Party Training Arrangements Advocacy 

In response to a shrinking RTO market for water industry training, qldwater, with support from DESBT and on behalf of the Water Industry Reference Committee, has sought to engage with the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to seek clarification on the RTO Standards for engaging third party trainers and co-provision arrangements. Initial efforts to seek an audience with ASQA to explain how these may be limiting the availability of water industry training have been unsuccessful and we are working with the Water IRC to advocate at the national level on this issue. qldwater is seeking to develop an industry standard for having subject matter experts from within utilities delivering practical components of accredited training through arrangements with RTOs.

7. Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday 27 April, 10am-11am – Fundamentals Webinar, ‘The Fundamentals of Electrical Safety - Working on Metallic Pipes’ presented by Murray Thompson. Register Now!
  • Foundation Skills Micro-Credentials, self-paced, online workshops and face to face workshops available. Enrol Now!
  • WIOA is looking for additional Operator Poster abstracts for the Queensland Conference to be held in Toowoomba on 2-3 June 2021. If you have an idea for an operational poster, please contact WIOA.

For more upcoming events, visit:

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