Chapter 7. Local actions to boost skills utilisation Tasmania’s disability services

Once fully operational, Australia’s new National Disability Insurance Scheme is expected to nearly double the size of the disability sector workforce as well as create demand for new job roles, skills, and employment models. As part of the response to these changes, this chapter describes workforce development projects in the Australian state of Tasmania, with a focus on efforts to engage disability service providers in boosting skill development and utilisation.


The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a new model of providing disability services in Australia that introduces the concept of client-centred care, requiring disability service providers to adopt new business models and workforce practices.

To adjust, the disability services workforce will need to rapidly expand, become more flexible, and acquire new human resources skills, supporting self-care, business disciplines, and management and leadership. The Australian Government and state and territory governments are supporting the industry to transition with assistance to develop and implement local workforce plans.

  • In Tasmania, the plan identifies four priorities: building industry capacity and capability for workforce development and training, management and leadership skills for the sector, workforce attraction and retention, and addressing workforce skills gaps.

  • Local activities reinforced national initiatives undertaken by NDIS, including the development of a Workforce Capability Framework to map the skills, knowledge and capabilities required of all major job roles in disability services, and a data Workforce Wizard. While the small, compact nature of Tasmania was one critical factor, strong input from a range of employers, dedicated resources and co-ordination with other national and state workforce plans contributed to the success of the initiatives.


In 2012, the Australian Government together with the governments of its states and territories agreed to transform the way that disability services are funded and provided. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will shift service provision to a client-centred approach while also eventually expanding access to support for many more Australians with a disability. The Scheme, once fully operational, is expected nearly double the size of the disability sector workforce as well as create demand for new job roles, skills, and employment models. The NDIS is currently undergoing a staged rollout with trial sites across Australia, including in the small island state of Tasmania. As part of the trial, the Australian Government together with other stakeholders is sponsoring a number of workforce development projects. This chapter focuses on the workforce development projects currently being undertaken in Tasmania, with a focus on activities to engage disability service providers.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme and its implications for the disability services sector

Australia is currently implementing a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which will support a better life for hundreds of thousands of Australians with a significant and permanent disability and their families and carers. The basic structure of the scheme was outlined by the 2011 Productivity Commission report into options for funding and delivery long-term disability care and support (Productivity Commission, 2011). The NDIS aims to promote the independence of people with disability and their carers by expanding their opportunities to participate in social and economic life and lead dignified lives. In doing so, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will radically expand the range of supports available, and reorient service systems around promoting the capacity of people with disability to exercise choice and control, to ensure individuals can access the mix of services and supports that best meet their needs.

Local trials of the scheme, which is based on a client-centred approach, began in 2013. The Tasmanian trial began on 1 July 2013 and involves young people (people aged 15 to 24 years old). As of August 2015, there were 924 Tasmanians with approved plans under NDIS. Plans are predominantly about supporting Social participation (594 plans) and Independence (558 plans). Funding support has mainly been provided to support communication; self-care; social and civic involvement in the community; and general tasks and demands (NDIA, 2015). Intelligence from the trial sites indicates that participants are exercising more choice and have better access to assistive technology than in previous years, providers have become more customer-focused but organisations find the NDIA systems and processes time consuming and would benefit from further market information (NDS, 2015a). The NDIS is expected to be fully operational by 1 July 2019.

Implications for the disability service sector and workforce

Prior to the commencement of the NDIS, the disability service sector in Australia predominantly comprised a mix of services provided by the state and territory governments and numerous not-for-profit organisations. Disability service types are commonly grouped into seven categories: accommodation support; community support; community access; respite; employment; advocacy, information, alternative forms of communication; and other support. In 2011-12, a majority of all service types (and 80% of all services) were provided by non-government organisations and most of these were charities (69% of all service types) (AIHW, 2013). In total, there were 2 277 agencies managing 14 306 service type outlets (AIHW, 2013). State governments provided approximately 86% of the public funding for disability support services, with the Australian Government providing the remaining 14% (AIHW 2013). Accommodation support, community support, community access and employment comprised the largest categories by expenditure and usage (AIHW, 2013).

A 2010 survey estimates there around 68 000 people working in the sector (Martin and Healy 2010). With a high rate of part-time employment in the sector, this translated to 34 000 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. The largest group of workers in the survey (adjusted for FTE) were support workers (43%), managers and co-ordinators (25%), and care workers (19%) (Martin and Healy, 2010: 111-12). Only 12% of workers were in professional social worker or allied health worker roles. Workers were overwhelmingly female (approximately 80%) and middle-aged. Wages in disability services are lower than for other female employees, with disability service sector employees paid less than their colleagues in government-run services (Martin and Healy, 2010).

The introduction and roll-out of the NDIS is having a significant impact on the service sector and the paid workforce. As the Productivity Commission (2011) noted, disability services are labour intensive, and there is potential for severe workforce shortages to emerge as the disability sector expands. The Federal Government expects the full roll-out of the scheme to require the formal disability workforce to double in size (Treasury, 2013). Other estimates predict that once fully operational, the disability sector workforce is expected to be around 162 000 FTE, an increase of 73 600 FTE workers (NDIS, 2015). This rapid expansion will require co-ordinated initiatives to support and retain existing workers in a range of professional and non-professional occupations, and to ensure a supply of workers to support people with disability into the future.

In addition to the profound implications for the number of workers demanded by the disability sector, the roll-out of NDIS will affect the type and mix of skills required, the connections with other sectors (most notably aged care, and also health and education) and the employment and training arrangements that are needed to underpin it. The disability workforce will also need to build capacity to provide person-centred supports, involving adapting the skills-base to ensure capacity to effectively promote client choice and control. Transitioning to the NDIS will require care workers to develop and use new skills, including identifying and responding to a wider range of client needs relating to health, leisure and wellbeing (CSHISC, 2015). In addition, as more people with disability look beyond specialist disability services, workers in mainstream services will need to expand their capacity to address the needs of people with disability.

The workforce will also need to respond to a new market dynamic within the sector. The anticipated entry of new providers and the withdrawal of the public sector from providing some services will result in a change of employment arrangements for some workers and require many frontline workers to develop business skills to attract and retain clients.

National policy responses

Policy efforts are being undertaken to help the disability sector adjust to the new NDIS, including strengthening the foundations of careers in disability services. The sector, led by the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (CS&HISC) has developed and launched new broad-based vocational qualifications at the Certificate III and Diploma level, which provide workers with a theoretical underpinning of the client-centred approach while also promoting mobility within disability services and related fields (aged care and home care).

National Disability Services (NDS), the main employer association in disability services, develop a recommended a website called care careers ( to encourage potential workers to consider a career in the disability services sector. The website also incorporates a jobs board. NDS also developed a career framework. The structure provides a pathway for workers in the sector that incorporates the requirements of qualifications and industrial relations arrangements.

As valuable as supply-side developments are, the scale of the change means that initiatives to engage employers in skill development and utilisation initiatives are also essential. At the national level, a disability workforce innovation network (DWIN) was established by NDS Services and the CS&HISC with funding from the Australian Government. To support the implementation of NDIS, the specific objectives of DWIN are to:

  • Build the skill of disability enterprises to commence evidence-based workforce planning through customised training in the relevant skills set;

  • Support disability enterprises to build, implement and monitor workforce planning as a continual process through routine data collection and analysis against a core indicator set;

  • Coach disability enterprises to undertake their own workforce development projects and use common elements to create localised workforce action plans;

  • Develop communities of practice that identify, describe and disseminate good practice from within the disability and adjacent sectors; and

  • Encourage enterprises to increase their investment in quality training that is targeted to critical skills needs.

While national in scope, the Disability WIN is implemented at the regional level. Regional planning based on the collection of consistent workforce data at the regional and enterprise level was expected to facilitate development of regional and enterprise solutions, including collaborative models that better enable the local supply chain to respond to steadily increasing demand for disability support. Workforce planning skills were intended to build capacity at both enterprise and regional level and were tailored to enterprise requirements in the context of the NDIS.

Finally, in June 2015, the NDIS Integrated Market, Sector and Workforce Strategy was released by NDIS, detailing the vision of what disability services will look like and how they will function. The workforce component of the strategy has three components (NDIS, 2012), including both supply and demand side interventions:

  • Assisting the sector to build a sustainable and diverse workforce

  • Encouraging innovative and efficient use of the workforce

  • Enabling the development of a workforce with skills, knowledge and values to support the implementation of the NDIS.

The strategy foreshadows a workforce transformation programme to develop and promote “new work roles and related models of supervision” (NDIA, 2015).

Box 7.1. Background on VET in Australia

Participation in VET in Australia is high: in 2014, there were over 3.9 million VET students, in a country with a population of 22 million (NCVER 2015).

The governance and delivery of VET in Australia is impacted by the division of responsibilities between the national (Commonwealth) government and the governments of the states and territories. Formally, VET is a constitutional responsibility of the states and territories. However, the Commonwealth Government is a substantial contributor to VET funding, both directly and through grants to the states and territories.

VET qualifications are contained within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), with most VET qualifications occupying levels 1-6 (Certificate I to Advanced Diploma). The AQF specifies the learning outcomes to be associated with each level and qualification type. Students may be entitled to a subsidised place at the Certificate-level or have access to an income-contingent loan provided by the Commonwealth Government for a Diploma or Advanced Diploma qualification. Further subsidies or scholarships may be available for study in particular fields (such as areas experience skill shortages) or for particular students (such as Indigenous students or students with disability) (Bowman and McKenna 2016). Apprenticeships and traineeships are fully integrated with the VET system. In 2014, approximately one in ten VET students was undertaking their studies as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship (NCVER 2015).

VET qualifications are competency-based. Units of competency and the rules for assembling them into recognised qualifications are contained within training packages. Training packages also contain assessment guidelines but not curricula. In February 2016, there were 81 current training packages (see Until 2016, training packages were devised and reviewed by 11 Industry Skills Councils. ISC are not-for-profit companies with industry-led boards including representatives from employers, educators, and unions. (From 2016 onwards, the Commonwealth Government has transferred management of training packages to contracted Service Skills Organisations).

Industry and employers have the direct input into the design of qualifications participation in the 11 ISCs. ISCs are constituted as By international standards, the Australian VET system features strong engagement of employers (Hoeckel et al., 2008).

Quality assurance is governed by the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF). The AQTF is the national set of compliance Standards and Essential Conditions that the VET training provider must meet to become a Registered Training Provider (RTO) (Knight and Mlotkowski 2008). The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is the national regulator, established in 2011 to replace most of the state-based regulators (Victoria and Western Australia have retained their state-based quality assurance systems).

Training delivery is provided by Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes, which are public VET providers funded by the states and territories, and private and not for profit RTOs. This includes some enterprise RTOs, which are authorised to provide national recognised training to their own workers. In 2014, most students (57.6%) undertook their training through a private RTO, approximately a quarter (27.3) were enrolled through TAFE institutes and the remainder participated in VET through schools, enterprise providers, community education providers, and universities (NCVER, 2015).

Labour market context in Tasmania

This case study is based on the work of local employers, training providers and brokers in the small Australian state of Tasmania (pop. 510 000).

Overall, the Australian labour market has demonstrated considerable resilience. Seasonally adjusted unemployment was 5.9% in October 2015, a level that is lower than the OECD average (ABS 2015). The unemployment rate in Tasmania has been persistently higher than the national average over the last three years but the gap is decreasing. In October 2015, the unemployment rate in Tasmania (trend data) was 6.2%, with Queensland (6.3%), Western Australia (6.4%) and South Australian (7.7%) recording higher levels (Department of Employment, 2015). The participation rate in October 2015 was 61.0% (Department of Employment, 2015).

At the time of the last census of population and housing (ABS, 2011), healthcare and social assistance was the industry that employed the largest number of Tasmanians (12%). This was followed by retail trade (11.3%), public administration and safety (9%) and education and training (8.9%). Apart from a considerably larger public sector and a larger share of employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing (4.8% vs 2.5%) and a smaller proportion in professional, scientific and technical services (4.7% vs 7.3%), the industrial composition of the Tasmanian workforce is broadly similar to the overall Australian workforce.

In 2011-12 (prior to the commencement of the NDIS), there were 9 243 Tasmanians who accessed disability services funded by the state and federal government. Mostly this involved accessing community support (51% of users), followed by employment services (35%), community access (17%) and accommodation (14%) (AIHW, 2013: 16). This is broadly in line with the profile of services accessed by users nationally, except with a higher proportion of Tasmanians accessing community support and a lower proportion accessing employment services. In 2013-14, there were 114 specialist disability service organisations funded through state and federal programmes. The most common services provided by organisations were accommodation support (110), community access (59), and open employment (47), with many organisations providing multiple services (NDS, 2015b:7). A higher number of organisations (216) are registered with the NDIS in Tasmania, reflecting the ability of mainstream community services and businesses to provide services under a consumer-directed care model (NDS, 2015b).

Workforce development in the Tasmanian Disability Services industry


In Tasmania, disability service provider engagement in workforce development activities is organised around the Tasmanian Disability Industry Workforce Development and Skills Plan: 2013-18. The plan was released by NDS Tasmania in June 2013 after consultation with NDS Tasmania members and other industry stakeholders. The plan details four priorities for the sector and the outcomes sought.

Tableau 7.1. Priorities and outcomes sought in the Tasmanian Disability Industry Workforce Development and Skills Plan


Outcome sought

Industry capacity and capability for workforce development and training

A strategic and integrated approach to workforce development and planning as a foundation for navigating the transition to greater emphasis on self-directed funding and a “managed market” environment.

Management and leadership skills

Current and emerging leaders and managers are skilled in adaptive management and leadership, and able to effectively and innovatively navigate the transition to a managed market environment.

Attracting and retaining our workforce

An industry of choice characterised by a growing and diverse workforce that is inspired and rewarded by working with people with disability to live as they wish.

Skilling the workforce for the future

A workforce that is committed to continual skills development; that has the competency and capability that support new ways of working with consumers and their families and carers; and a responsive VET system that offers best quality training and support for the current and emerging workforce.

Source: NDS Tasmania, 2013.

These priorities address both skill supply and skill demand and utilisation issues. Active engagement with employers to review and transform their human resources and general business strategies is essential to making progress with the first three priorities. While the disability service sector in Tasmania encompasses a range of provider types (supported accommodation, day services, supported employment, etc.), the plan does not target any particular type of provider.

In addition to these overall priorities, seven skills development priorities were identified: management and leadership; change management/adaptive management and leadership; business management skills; support work; social care professionals; collaboration; and functional literacy and numeracy. Three of the seven skill development priorities that are set out in the plan have a strong relationship to business operations and strategy. These are described in more detail in Tableau 7.2.

Tableau 7.2. Skills development priorities with a strong relationship to business operations and strategy

Management and leadership

  • Attracting and maintaining business from self-managing consumers;

  • Adapting to emerging trends, leading adaptation;

  • Consumer need analysis;

  • Consumer engagement in service design;

  • Competing on quality and effectiveness;

  • Innovating for and adapting to changing consumer interests and needs; and,

  • Transparency and accountability that builds consumer confidence.

Change management/ adaptive management and leadership:

  • Determining assets and barriers, innovating, testing and confirming new practices, integrating new practices and aligning people;

  • Cultural change within organisations and working productively with continual change;

  • Adaptation to new business models;

  • Adaptation to new work practices and skills needs; and,

  • Supporting consumers, their families and carers to understand and adapt to change.

Business management skills:

  • Contracting a diversity of roles;

  • Contracting for flexibility in combination with rewarding conditions and quality overheads;

  • Co-ordination of a variety of contractors to meet person’s goals (if person is not self-managing);

  • Collaborative service models through networks of providers/associates;

  • Offering specific roles/ services to self-managing person – maybe a tiny slice of the person’s overall plan and approach; and,

  • Capacity to innovate and respond to consumer need and interests and organisation’s corresponding ability to compete in a market environment.


The following activities have been established in accordance with the plan:

  • Disability Industry and RTO Roundtable, and HR Managers network. A Disability Industry and RTO roundtable was established in September 2013 and as at August 2015 had met eight times. At each session, between 15 and 23 service providers participated. The roundtable involves primarily Operations and HR managers, rather than CEOs and Managing Directors, which is more common in roundtables. Operations and HR managers have demonstrated themselves to be more directly involved with workforce issues. The format of the roundtable has been flexible, and four sub-groups were formed to look at various topics: language, literacy and numeracy; strategic level engagement; student work placements; and recruitment guidelines.

  • Rather than being driven by the NDS and the co-ordinator, the roundtable appointed its own leaders. Even though this meant that the roundtable momentum was sometimes negatively affected by workload constraints of the leaders, it gave the roundtable members more ownership of the activity.

  • An HR Managers network has also been formed, to enable sharing of information between different employers. Meetings may be general or address specific topics (such as guest speakers on qualifications from universities or information on traineeships and apprenticeships). The network meets quarterly, before or after the roundtable. The HR Managers network was initially separate (meeting before the roundtable) but has now been folded into the roundtable because of high overlap in participation.

  • Training in management and leadership skills. A strong investment has been made in strengthening management and leadership skills. Workshops had been held on the following topics: 1) Business disciplines in a changing market; 2) Learning English; and 3) Valuing the role of the frontline worker.

  • Accredited training in Change management and leadership was also co-ordinated by NDS and State Enterprise Training. The programme was run of four months, with a day‐long workshop at the end of each month. The goal was to upskill managers in change management, adaptive management and other leadership skills.

  • Non-accredited training in Designing and implementing change was also co-ordinated by NDS, with participants joining in a Melbourne-based course via videolink from NDS’s Hobart office.

  • Support worker conferences. These well attended annual events (172 delegates in 2013 and 140 delegates in 2014) bring together a range of presenters. Topics are targeted to support workers, focusing particularly on how their roles will need to adapt to support the objectives of the NDIS. Topics at the 2013 and 2014 conferences included: Systems reforms; person centredness; supporting mental health and wellbeing; reducing restrictive practices; managing serious incidents; self-care strategies; employment pathways.

The conferences were the result of a collaboration between NDS Tasmania, the Mental Health Council Tasmania, the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services and the NDIA. In addition to activities organised through NDS Tasmania, the Disability WIN funded a separate set of activities to assist in meeting the Plan’s objectives. These activities include services engaging in organisational workforce planning (via a tailored training programme); regional workforce planning; and collaborative projects on topics like managing casual workforce, high performance work practices, training quality and creating literacy-friendly organisations. More specifically, the following additional activities have been co-ordinated by the DWIN Workforce Adviser:

  • Workforce capability framework: NDS has commissioned the development of a national Disability Workforce Capability Framework. This robust, consistent and transparent framework is designed to assist providers to: Design jobs to suit their future service requirements; Align employee performance with organisational strategy; Identify workforce development priorities.

The Workforce Capability Framework consists of: 1 x 3-part introductory recorded webinar; 1 x Implementation Guide; 10 x Job family capability frameworks; and 20 x Template position descriptions. The job families and template position descriptions are designed to provide services with concrete examples of how roles can be adapted to both meet client-centred care objectives and provide career progression for employees.

Twenty-five Tasmanian providers participated in workshops to learn about the framework. In a follow-up survey to which 13 providers responded, 7 indicated that they are using the framework to assist with job design, workforce planning, performance appraisals, interviews, learning activities and professional development.

Box 7.2. The Workforce Capability Framework

The Workforce Capability Framework was designed by NDS with support from the NSW Government, It defines the skills, knowledge and capabilities required of all major job roles across the disability sector.

Rob roles are grouped into 10 job families. For each family, the functional requirements required of roles at each level (levels 1-4) are set out. The ten job families are: 1) Business enterprises; 2) Business growth and positioning; 3) Corporate and service support; 4) Corporate services; 5) Direct service delivery; 6) Employment services 7) Employment services deliver; 8) Executive management; 9) Management; and 10) Specialist and professional services.

As a further resource, the Framework includes 20 template job descriptions and an implementation guide for services. The framework was developed with input from 65 sector representatives with experience in person-centred approaches to job design and workforce development. Feedback from organisations that have implemented the Framework indicates that it is useful not for identifying what organisations want their workforce to achieve, but also establish clear expectations from clients about what roles employees should play.

Workforce planning training: Training was provided to 27 sector workers in workforce planning, as part of an accredited skillset in Change management and leadership (a skillset is a collection of units of competency that forms part of a vocational qualification). As a result of the training, 8 Disability service providers have developed a workforce plan.

Validation and moderation network: The quality and reliability of assessment practices by registered training organisations (RTOs) issuing vocational qualifications has been an ongoing concern for the community services industry (Halliday-Wynes and Misko, 2014; ASQA, 2013). A network with RTO, industry members and participants commenced in 2015 to improve the quality and consistency of training assessment practice, with ongoing support from the DWIN Adviser. It has proved effective in bringing together client-facing, disability workers with training organisations with the aim of strengthening the quality and consistency of training and assessment practice to better meet the needs of the workplace. (Alcorso, 2015).

Assessment and learning resources: From mid-2015, the sector’s existing Certificate III in Disability Services is being replaced with the new Certificate III in Individual Support. The DWIN Adviser was successful in achieving State Government funding application for disability industry-developed learning and assessment resources to accompany the new qualification. The resources will be used by Tasmanian RTOs and will ensure that graduates of the new qualification meet the needs of disability service providers. They will be available nationally.

Literacy, language and numeracy (LLN) training in disability workplaces: The Tasmanian workforce has workforce literacy and numeracy rates that are lower than the Australian average (Duff, 2014: 2). The DWIN Adviser was successful in securing State Government funding to provide LLN training at several organisational levels across multiple disability workplaces.

Virtual network: a virtual network, facilitated through the DWIN e-newsletter and webinar series, facilitated the active engagement of 36 service providers. NDS is currently considering how the network can evolve. One option being considered is to develop it into a national network, with more specialised events and topics.

Through the national DWIN activities, Tasmanian employers also had access to a growing number of online resources:

  • A web-based Workforce Wizard data collector. The tool is designed to track workforce trends over time and has two objectives: 1) to assist services with workforce planning; and 2) to facilitate national workforce data collection by NDS on behalf of the industry

  • Short video clips on Innovation for High Performance. The clips feature speakers from organisation in the UK and Canada that use radically different service and workforce models to current practice in Australia. They were based on national workshops held in Melbourne and Canberra in June 2015.

Box 7.3. NDS Workforce Wizard

The Workforce Wizard is NDS’s online tool which allows service providers to enter disability workforce data and a quarterly basis and benchmark themselves against other similar workforces. Launched nationally in October 2015, as at March 2016 Workforce Wizard has already collected data for over 190 workforces (a collection of employees specified by the user and defined by region, occupation and service type).

Users enter information on the size, aged, gender, and employment status of their workforce as well as questions on labour flows (new recruitment and turnover). Data is collected separately for the direct care workforce and for allied health professionals.

Workforce Wizard data so far suggest that casual employment is the most common form of employment for the direct support workforces in the disability sector, while permanent employment is most common for allied health professionals. Results from the wizard also suggest strong (double digit) growth in the number of casual direct support workers over the first two quarters.

Workforce Wizard users are able to view their workforce data against sector and industry benchmarks for employee and employment characteristics and turnover rates.

Source: NDS (2016).

Governance and funding

Implementation of the Tasmanian Disability Industry Workforce Development and Skills Plan occurs through two co-ordinated streams of activities. The plan is “owned” by NDS Tasmania, which has employed a Project Officer – Industry Development to lead these activities since July 2013. There are approximately 50 NDS members operating in Tasmania. NDS operations in Tasmania are overseen by a State Manager, who reports to a State Committee. In practice, the roundtable functions as a regular accountability mechanism for implementing the plan, with a core group of ten service providers participating in most meetings.

NDS has a memorandum of understanding with Skills Tasmania, recognising NDS’s role in providing an advisory service. Another role for NDS is as a broker for training funded by Skills Tasmania. Skills Tasmania is working with NDS to assist with collating data on participation by the sector’s workforce in nationally recognised training, particularly the uptake of the new qualifications (Certificate III in Individual Support, Diploma of Individual Support).

Activities under the plan have been funded through a mix of streams: the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Skills Tasmania (the state government agency with responsibility for vocational training and workforce development), and the National Disability Insurance Agency. NDS also makes a contribution through its staffing and facilities. To develop the plan, Skills Tasmania provided AUD 20 000. DHHS provided AUD 117 500 to support an Industry Development Project Officer for 12 months. A further AUD 144 500 was provided by DHHS and AUD 100 000 by Skills Tasmania to implement the activities listed in the plan. This amounts to a total budget of AUD 382 000 over an approximate 30 month period.

The largest expenditure item was salaries and overhead costs (approximately 75%). The Project Officer – Industry Development is funded from this budget. Other costs included consultants, meetings and workshops; and communication and IT. Consultant costs primarily relate to an independent evaluation of the programme, the commissioning of research by specialists, ICT development and expert presentations.

The second stream of activities occurs under the umbrella of the DWIN project. These are aligned with the activities co-ordinated by the NDS Workforce Advisor, but have separate funding, reporting and governance arrangements. The DWIN project is managed nationally but also overseen by the State Manager and State Committee. A requirement of the funding is that there be a local group that oversees it. Any additional non-core DWIN activities get signed off by the State Committee and the NDS National Manager (Workforce Development). Through the Department of Education and Training, the Australian Government provided approximately AUD 3.7 million over two years (June 2014-April 2016) to National Disability Services to run this agreed set of activities nationwide, with the CS&HISC acting as intermediary until its demise (Alcorso, 2015). NDS has been able to extend the life of the project to December 2016, within the current funding to enable implementation of the lessons from the interim evaluation; more time to extend or complete a range of workforce development projects from the NDIS trial sites; and inclusion of 12 months’ Workforce Wizard data. Tasmania DWIN activities for literacy, numeracy and language development; and training resource development specifically also received funding from the Tasmanian Development. Joint activities with the Tasmanian Government to promote positive behaviour management, as is another joint programme with Primary Health Tasmania targeting work practices aimed at reducing lifestyle risk factors of people with disability.


This section draws heavily on a mid-term review of the current Plan that was produced in August 2015 (NDS, 2015c). The report includes evidence that many employers have benefited from the local activities, including utilising the relationships with Workforce Advisers, networking and workforce planning training opportunities. A more extensive evaluation is currently underway, which will result in a new plan being launched for the sector in Tasmania. It will be a workforce strategy and action plan and is expected to cover the 3 year period coinciding with the NDIS rollout.


The range of activities occurring in Tasmania, spanning both activities covered by the plan and those sponsored by the DWIN project, achieved the following outputs.

Overall reach of activities

Overall, the activities conducted have had a very wide reach, involving the clear majority of providers in the state. In total, 36 service providers (out of an estimated 75) have actively engaged in the DWIN e-newsletter and webinar series. Twenty-five service providers were introduced to the Disability Career Planner and Capability Framework produced by NDS, providing a foundation on which to base other workforce development activities. Twenty-five was also the number of service providers that participated in the engagement forums for the next Workforce Strategy and Action Plan.

Workshop participation

A diverse range of workshops have been held, with the best attended involving 124 participants from 39 organisations. Further details are provided in the table.

Tableau 7.3. Workshop attendance

Workshop topic

# of participants

Business disciplines in a changing market


Employing a flexible workforce in a person-centred environment


Easy English workshop


The Change Room: strategies for positive change at the front line


Person-centred active support


Online human rights tool


Brinkerhoff Masterclass


Brinkerhoff – Mission based marketing and leading change


Organisational Readiness tool


Valuing the role of front line workers


Source: Workplace Research Centre (2013) and author’s own elaboration.

Outcomes and impact

Eight disability service providers have developed a workforce plan as part of participating in the accredited skillset training. Feedback from the Roundtable and HR Managers Network (reported in the Mid-term Review) was that they helped to overcome feelings of isolation and provided a useful benchmarking opportunity for services. The various workshops have also had an impact on some of the providers taking part:

A report prepared by the facilitator of the “Business Disciplines in a Changing Market” workshops indicated that a minority of service providers had a good understanding of their cost profiles and market positioning prior to the workshops. At the conclusion of the workshops, service providers were much better informed of these issues. The workshop on employing a flexible workforce in a person-centred environment equipped participants to make practical changes to their enterprise bargaining agreements and rostering arrangements. In evaluation surveys after each workshop, between 59% and 95% of attendees indicated that they intended to make changes in their organisation as a result of attending the workshop.


The initiative aligns with many of the best practice principles for regional workforce planning and development developed by the Workplace Research Centre (2013), as outlined in Tableau 7.4.

Tableau 7.4. Alignment with best practice principles for regional workforce planning and development

Best practice principles



  • Regional workforce plans should encompass a balance of activities

The plan involves a balance of activities intended to make better use of existing skills, develop the skills of the current workforce and promote the disability sector to new potential workers. For example, LLN training and resources to support the new qualifications are intended to address deficiencies in foundation skills among existing workers and help them transition to new service models

Workshops in new business models, flexible employment and development for HR and Operations Managers will allow the skills of existing workers to be utilised more effectively.


  • The division of states or territories into workforce planning and development regions should be organised around commonly understood areas of economic and workforce activity.

  • Workforce planning and development regions should be intertwined with other regional structures.

As Tasmania is a fairly compact and relatively homogeneous state, it makes sense to establish a structure that encompasses the entire state, which works in well with other structures, especially the support provided by relevant state agencies (Skills Tasmania and Department of Health and Human Services). Because of the crossover of personnel, the Plan integrates well with the national activities organised by NDS, both through DWIN and independently.

Alignment with other plans

  • Regional workforce plans should set goals that are correlated with state/territory and national workforce goals.

  • Regional workforce planning and development should be integrated with other regional planning and development activities.

Skills Tasmania has not developed an overarching state workforce plan. Instead, it works closely with industries within the state to create their own plan. The plans list agreed actions, developed through consultation, with achievable timelines. The Tasmanian Disability Industry Workforce Plan is among the 15 industry plans that have been sponsored by Skills Tasmania, providing a consistent approach to workforce planning across the state.

Stakeholder involvement

  • Regional workforce planning and development should be led by local stakeholders.

  • Regional workforce planning and development should encompass a broad cross-section of stakeholders.

NDS has worked hard to develop stakeholders’ awareness of workforce planning and development as well as support the capacity of service providers to participate (and lead) the workforce planning activities. However, stakeholders from service providers have not been able to lead and direct as many of the activities as envisaged by the Plan.

The plan’s activity, notably the Industry and RTO roundtable, does bring together a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including representatives from different parts of the sector and state, education and training providers, and state government agencies. As is typical, the ongoing resource and support provided by a dedicated local co-ordinator (in this case, split across two roles) is crucial to maintaining active stakeholder involvement.


  • Regional workforce planning networks and alliances should be resourced with data from a single contact point.

  • Regional workforce planning should be informed by reliable and tailored data, including projections of future supply and demand.

Data requirements have not featured strongly in this case study but the Plan makes good use of available national and local data while also developing its own sustainable data sources. Nationally, the Australian Government has sponsored extensive modelling, including workforce modelling, to understand the likely impacts of the NDIS. Once operational, NDS’s Workforce Wizard will provide the sector with ongoing, locally-based workforce data. NDS has been working with Skills Tasmania to increase access to timely data relating to vocational student enrolments and completions


  • Regional workforce planning and development should be resourced adequately.

In this current trial phase, the sector in Tasmania has benefited from the additional resources made available through the DWIN initiative. A key issue for the next workforce plan will be how to provide resources to support workforce development activities on an ongoing basis.

Note: See Appendix A for full description of best practice principles.

Source: Workplace Research Centre (2013) and author’s own elaboration.

In addition to this overall alignment with these best practice principles, a number of particular strengths can be identified:

  • Overall, the strategy has been very effective in engaging with providers, increasing their awareness about the implications of the NDIS and associated changes (such as the new Certificate III in Individual Support qualification) and providing them with support to develop their own workforce development strategies. As at December 2015, eight service providers have developed a workforce plan as part of accredited skillset training;

  • The evaluation strategy, particularly the mid-term review, was an in-built mechanism to engage with providers and other stakeholders as well as modify objectives;

  • The Tasmanian activities relates to the design of the Tasmanian NDIS trial itself. The Tasmanian trial population is 15-24 year olds. Because this group is not the bulk of any service provider’s client base, the trial has succeeded in heightening awareness about what increased client choice and control will mean service delivery and the workforce without (yet) requiring wholesale change in operations and strategy.

The NDS DWIN project has also adopted an innovative methodology, based on complex adaptive theory (Snowden and Boone, 2007), as a tool to work with providers to generate ideas for the next iteration of the plan. Based on the premise that we cannot predict the future, the methodology provides a framework for gathering information in a complex environment to plan and implement small actions that will gradually shift the workforce toward the desired state. One element of the concept intended to support innovation is creating “safe to fail” experiments, which is now being progressed through the DWIN Extension under the name of “Innovation for High Performance Trial”.

As a further trial of the methodology, the next version of the plan will include a project to support greater uptake of information technology solutions to support a range of functions, including providing structured supervision and feedback to workers. This is an issue of increasing significance in the disability sector as the number of support workers who provide in-home care increases. Workers may travel directly from home to a client, or from client to client, without returning to base for a debrief. Current practice may involve sporadic meetings or hand written notes The project will explore how low-cost innovative reporting solutions, using common platforms such as Facetime or Skype, can be adopted to facilitate better employee support and development.

Other underlying success factors

Key to the success of many of the initiatives is the small size of Tasmania, both geographically and in terms of population and number of service providers. Consequently, it is possible to directly reach service providers across the state, especially rotating the location of some events (such as roundtables and the annual conference) on a south/north (Hobart/Launceston) basis. Technology, through teleconferences and videolink, further bridges the gap, both within Tasmania and helping to connect Tasmanians to national events held on the mainland. The small size also means that workers across providers come to know one another.

Another factor is the relative stability of the sector, notwithstanding the changes to funding principles. There are currently no very large service providers operating in the state. The biggest provider is estimated to have approximately 400 employees (headcount, with a much lower full-time equivalent as most employees are employed on a casual or permanent part-time basis). Most providers are well established within the industry. The small size, established set of operators and existing personal networks foster a climate of collaboration and information sharing.

Persistent difficulties recruiting and retaining allied health professionals, a problem shared by all providers, is also ironically a factor in the success of the initiatives, as it is a prompt to explore alternatives. The University of Tasmania, the main higher education provider in the state, does not offer Physiotherapy, Audiology, Occupational Therapy or other allied health specialisations because there is insufficient demand. And because of its small size and remote location, the state also has difficulty attracting graduates from other parts of Australia. This has led providers to exploring alternatives, such as pooling their resources to support work placements for students from the mainland (in the hope that this may increase their interest in accepting a position in Tasmania after the graduate) and trialling the use of Allied Health Assistants. Under this model, locally employed Allied Health Assistants follow a treatment plan devised by an Allied Health professional, who may fly in from Melbourne on a periodic basis. (See Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (2015:14) for more information on the training and deployment of allied health assistants). The next iteration of the workforce plan will outline further strategies for addressing the shortage of allied health professionals, such as providing bursaries and travel support to allied health professionals so that they can travel to Melbourne or Sydney for professional development opportunities. The next plan will also consider how scarce professional expertise can be shared with other sectors (such as aged care).

The active support of the state government was another success factor. Skills Tasmania has provided expertise and guidance to the development of strategies together with funding for training and other key initiatives.


Problems of co-ordination

Some of the obstacles that were encountered are common to all efforts to engage employers in co-ordinated action. For example, some providers were reluctant to contribute to the roundtable because of concerns about sharing intellectual property (particularly relating to business model strategy) and loss of competitive advantage.

A second challenge was ensuring that information about the initiatives reached the most appropriate people in each organisation and encouraging the right people from each organisation to participate. Most activities are publicised via NDS News Updates which individuals self-subscribe to. They are also announced at Roundtable meetings, while the Project Officer and DWIN Workforce Adviser would also write directly to individuals they come into contact to.

A challenge that resolved itself over time was how to strike the right balance between activities and projects that would be of relevance and interest to all service types in the sector and events and projects that were more targeted toward a particular service type (e.g. residential care). NDS is currently considering a proposal to develop national-level virtual communities of practice, resourced through webinars that would have a more specialised focus, as a complement to the locally-based activities, which will continue to be more broadly-based.

The areas where capacity in workforce management is weakest is in workforce planning, ability to integrate workforce and other service planning and costing data, change management and capacity to innovate in service and workforce models. Urgent needs are also felt in recruitment methodologies, managing a casual workforce, deploying flexible work practices within the constraints of industry awards and agreements, and sustainable data collection and analysis.

An operational obstacle that emerged related to initiatives to involve providers in more formal training for employees. Skills Tasmania is keen to see NDS take on a broker role to overcome the problem of thin markets and encourage more RTOs to make training available. However, in Australia the barriers to entering the training market are quite low and RTOs are not required to offer a wide range of courses. Government subsidies are also being made available to new RTOS beyond the traditional public VET provider (TAFE). Consequently, some providers had established themselves as RTOs and were directly providing training for their workforce. Other service providers have pre-existing direct relationships with RTOs (involving customised courses and delivery) and were reluctant to disturb those arrangements.

Problems of time

A familiar challenge was to encourage participants to take meaningful ownership of the initiative, such as by taking on responsibility for co-ordinating specialised subgroups of the roundtable. Mainly participants appeared reluctant to do so because of already high workloads. Similarly, attendance at the webinar series was lower than hoped for. It is hoped that developing a national webinar series with a bigger range and depth of topics will improve participation.

Problems of change

Other obstacles were attributable, at least in part, to the transformation underway within the sector because of the transition to the NDIS. Pitching activities was made more difficult because of the variability in providers’ readiness and exposure to the NDIS trial. Securing the ongoing commitment and involvement of participants was also more difficult in a time of ongoing change.


Lessons for other OECD countries

Four key lessons from the disability sector in Tasmania should inform future initiatives to engage employers in other OECD countries in skills utilisation initiatives:

  1. Including (and emphasising) managerial and leadership skills;

  2. Integrating workforce development with other business and service innovation changes;

  3. Genuine, contemporary employer input into qualification design;

  4. Early integration of workforce development and workplace planning development activities.

In common with many industries, managerial and leadership skills were identified early on in the development of the Workforce Plan as an important area requiring investment by the sector. Developing managerial and leadership skills also proved to be a very effective means of generating and maintaining effective employer engagement. This is true for many industries, including work done in the cotton and dairy industries in Australia (Nettle and Oliver, 2009).

Changing service delivery models mean that the disability sector workforce, in common with many social care service sectors across the world, needs to develop new skills. The Plan successfully integrated skills programmes in business skills with tools to help organisations adapt their business practice. NDS was able to provide skills training in new areas like budgeting and marketing while simultaneously launching tools, such as the organisational readiness. This is something that a peak body group representing the sector was much better placed to do than a specialist training organisation or workforce development authority.

The successful launch of the new client-centred qualifications (Certificate III in Individual Support and Diploma of Individual Support), although beyond the control of the local actors in Tasmania, was another critical success factor. Consultations for the new qualifications created opportunities for providers to consider the skills implications of consumer directed care and under the structure of Australia’s VET system, providers and individual workers in the sector can access subsidised training to undertake the new qualifications. The structure of the new qualification also aligns well with the Workforce Capability Framework developed by NDS. Employer engagement in qualification design, through the training package system, is one strong element of Australia’s current VET system (Heuvel et al., 2008), although not all ISCs necessarily did this well.

The development of the workforce data wizard provides service providers, individually and collectively, with a powerful tool to assist future workforce planning. By recognising the importance of ongoing data collection, the sector is now well placed to overcome the data deficiencies that had existed. At the same time, NDS was well placed to understand how the tool could be integrated into service providers’ daily practice to minimise the compliance burden.

Implications for wider adoption

Arguably the most important design feature of the workforce development activities described in this chapter is the key role played by the NDS, the peak body representing non-government disability services. This meant that the strategy and the activities were industry led. It also meant that it was easy to integrate the workforce development activities with other initiatives, such as business model innovation, which service providers were eager to engage with to prepare for the NDIS environment.

Dedicated government funding was an important component as well as how it was spent. The funding largely supported locally-based workforce development co-ordinators whose work priorities were determined by a Plan developed by industry and overseen by a local committee of sector representatives.

There are however some specifics of the institutional context that would limit wider adoption. First there is the geography of Tasmania as a small, isolated region. As a result, the distances to be covered (such as by a network co-ordinator) are containable, personal networks are often quite stable and established, and there are small and responsive government agencies with broad responsibilities, making it easier to co-ordinate activities and avoid silos. Remoteness also served to exacerbate shortages especially for allied health professionals (which are not catered for by the University of Tasmania), prompting more creative thinking and willingness to collaborate for solutions.

Second, there is the scale and ambition of the NDIS. Notwithstanding its phased introduction, the NDIS will greatly expand the size of the disability sector in Australia as well as change delivery models. Services providers, workers, and clients are all largely aware of the broad implications of the changes and government has also committed additional resources to assist with its implementation. Although many social services across the world are moving toward more client-centred approached and individualised funding models, few changes will generate the same sense of urgency as the NDIS has.


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