Times are currently tough due to COVID-19. However, it is possible to turn downtime into an upside, with numerous options for remote and online learning available.
Whether you want to brush up on your business skills and digital technology expertise, or become proficient with best practice sustainability approaches, turning attention to training during this time is “an excellent strategy,” said CEO of Master Builders Victoria Rebecca Casson.
According to Casson, training with Master Builders Training Institute (MBTI), for example, can help you attract the work you want once the industry begins to ease restrictions and increase productivity.
“Workplace manslaughter laws are coming into effect very soon,” Casson said. “Because safety is everyone’s responsibility on a worksite, it’s wise to explore occupational health and safety training to help ensure you have the knowledge needed to be an effective safety partner for yourself and your colleagues.”
Putting Your Knowledge to the Test
It’s also good to brush up on areas that are a major source of rework and repair, such as waterproofing, which is one of many technical courses on offer as part of the large suite of distance learning options through the MBTI.
Changes have also just come into effect that raise the bar on energy efficiency within the National Construction Code.
“Adding to this, there is an increase in demand from homeowners who want to reduce their energy bills through sustainable construction,” Casson noted.
Merrily Hunter, managing director of MAC Energy Consulting, agrees there will never be a better time to begin learning.
Many organisations, including the Green Building Council of Australia, have pivoted from face-to-face training events to online options.
Some, like NABERS, are also offering courses for free. NABERS Essentials’ course, for instance, covers basic details of what types of spaces NABERS rates, why ratings matter, how to improve a rating and the legislation applicable.
Since ratings are likely to become mandatory for more types of buildings, this knowledge can prove extremely valuable for the building sector, Hunter said.
Her company has also developed an award-winning online training portal, EEIQ. It offers accredited training for trades in the key skills and knowledge required by state-based energy efficiency programs as well as other topics including consumer law and safety.
In some areas, training can position a trades business well for new work opportunities. Hunter indicates solar PV, for example, will soon be standard for all residential properties. It is also likely that many businesses which have been in “hibernation” during lockdown will look to upgrade lighting to LED, install solar, and undertake other energy efficiency activities as they ready themselves to reopen workplaces again.
The Upsides of Online
Hunter pointed out various benefits of online training. She noted that more businesses have started discovering that online training not only meets health and safety requirements for maintaining distance between people but also can offer cost and time-saving benefits. Travel, catering, venue hire and time away from the work site have been all removed from the equation.
Training can make navigating changes to standards and practice more efficient and cost-effective as well. EEIQ has been developing resources for the booming solar installation industry, for instance, including installation of energy storage batteries.
According to Hunter, for a company to get up to speed on the new Australian Standard for battery installation without external training, it would first need to invest in the standard and then develop a process for ensuring workers can apply it. Online training can provide workers with the skills and knowledge they need without the massive spend of time and money.
Online training can also be suitable for a wide range of learning styles, and particularly for those who are visual learners. Unlike the conventional Powerpoint, presenter and paper style of training, online learning can be interactive, use animation to illustrate the material, and be self-paced.
Hunter said many businesses are also looking to online learning options as part of preparations for a post-COVID world.
“There will be far more digitised and flexible working,” Hunter said.
This makes it important to upskill in navigating the tools and systems available and to improve understanding of systems interactions.
Even small details of how work is completed and documented are changing. Hunter explained that the conventional process for signing a declaration of works completed as part of a state energy-efficiency program, for example, involved handing a customer a physical form and a pen.
Now, however, some tradespeople are turning to video logs, email confirmations, or voice recording logs to fulfil documentation requirements. Learning or enhancing expertise with these technologies is, therefore, crucial.
Get up to Speed on Digital and Other Critical Skills
In many states, TAFEs are currently offering fee-free courses in different aspects of doing business digitally.
Artibus has collated the range of courses on offer in a recent blog post, including TAFE Queensland’s IsoLearn courses, TAFE Victoria’s fee-free courses, and NSW TAFE’s free courses during the pandemic program.
Many other jurisdictions including Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT are offering funding or subsidies towards worker and apprentice training. Courses and programs are part of training incentives to attract people to the construction industry. They also include micro-credentials that allow retrenched and stood down workers to upskill in areas that value-add to their work, Artibus said.
“The Construction Industry is expected to be negatively impacted by the pandemic, particularly its workforce,” Artibus wrote. “However, this is also an opportunity for its workforce to develop new skills in digital literacy and data, mental health peer skills, and business and customer service.
“These skills are often mentioned by industry stakeholders as requiring further development to take the industry from 3.0 to 4.0.”
What is on Offer
NSW has fee-free short TAFE courses in topics like business administration, business skills, and aspects of business development and marketing, including growing a digital presence through websites and social media.
Victoria offers fee-free certificate courses in building and surveying, waterproofing, concreting, and the Diploma and the Certificate IV in Building and Construction.
TAFE Queensland has free courses including cyber-security, communications technologies, digital literacy and data analysis.
“This is a time for reflection,” Hunter said. “There are a lot of trades or service industry people looking at a career change or a pivot.”