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9.8 Retraining and further education
Retraining and further education can be an important part of the vocational rehabilitation process and can be a key component to the success of a whole of person rehabilitation plan. For many injured workers, retraining and further education has become essential to securing employment at a reasonable level of income and security of tenure.
The focus of the vocational component of a rehabilitation plan is to provide appropriate assistance to enable the client to secure sustainable and meaningful employment in a civilian setting. Vocational training and education is generally provided to return a person to the workforce to at least the level of the client’s former employment. However, if, to regain employment, a comprehensive rehabilitation assessment determines that further education (including tertiary education) and retraining to a higher level is likely to result in a return to the workforce in more secure, sustainable and meaningful employment, then this must be considered. This approach applies equally to all DVA clients, regardless of the rank that they achieved during their employment in the ADF.
It is vital that client’s expectations are managed from the beginning of the rehabilitation assessment process and that clients understand that all decisions about retraining and further education will be based on evidence from a detailed vocational assessment, which will include an analysis of job opportunities in the labour market in which the client lives with the client’s current qualifications, and if they successfully gain qualifications from further education or retraining.
Where a client is receiving incapacity payments from DVA, and is fully participating in a retraining or tertiary education course which is an approved activity under their rehabilitation program, then they will continue to receive these payments. However, if a client fails to meet their rehabilitation obligations, then the usual processes for considering suspension of compensation payments must be utilised.
The vocational assessment process
A determination to approve further education and retraining must be based on evidence from a comprehensive vocational assessment. The issues that must be considered in this assessment include:
- the opportunities and type of job vacancies that exist in the client’s labour market pre and post study;
- the client’s existing skills, interests, experience, qualifications and medical restrictions;
- any barriers that the client may experience in finding secure and sustainable employment in their local labour market with their current skills, experience and qualifications; and
- the cost effectiveness of a range of retraining and further education options that may help the client to achieve their vocational rehabilitation goals.
Any assessment of retraining or education to a higher level must consider the clients prior learning and qualifications in the context of their medical limitations. Each individual’s circumstances must be considered on a case-by-case basis, based on evidence gathered during the vocational assessment process including the client’s individual needs, circumstances, prior employment and educational experience.
For specific information about vocational assessments, please refer to section 9.5 of this chapter.
Positive impacts of vocational training
Where clients are highly motivated to undertake vocational training, research indicates that they are more likely to make a successful return to work once they undertake their desired course of training. A course of vocational training will equip a client with transferrable skills and is likely to empower rehabilitation clients and give them the confidence to pursue a new career, without reliance on DVA for longer term ongoing support. Tertiary qualifications will provide a person with security of tenure within the labour market generally and even if they choose to cease employment with one employer, their qualifications and experience will be transferrable to other employers.
A period of retraining also provides rehabilitation clients with time to adjust to and learn to manage their new circumstances, prior to commencing ongoing employment. For example, participating in retraining may help a person to identify triggers that make them feel anxious or angry. This can inform activities as part of rehabilitation plan designed to help a client to address and manage these triggers more effectively.
On-the-job and work based training
Retraining can be provided through on-the-job training and work trials, a combination of on-the-job and short-term retraining courses, through to longer-term courses within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) provided by Technical and Further Training (TAFE) colleges, universities or private organisations which are accredited Registered Training Organisations (RTOs).
Vocational training can consist of short skills-based courses such as for Forklift training, Workplace Health and Safety training, or training in various IT software applications. Training within the AQF can range from a Certificate II in Security Operations, through to 6-month Certificate IV qualifications, and University level undergraduate courses.
Ideally, the full range of on-the-job or work based training, including industry based or accredited training such as apprenticeships should be explored, where this is consistent with the client’s existing interests and skills. Apprenticeships and other work based training options can be supported where detailed assessments by the client’s rehabilitation provider indicate that:
- an apprenticeship is appropriate option for the client given their existing qualifications, skills, interests and medical restrictions; and
- there are reasonable prospects of the client securing sustainable employment in their chosen occupation once their apprenticeship is completed, given the client’s local labour market.
Section 9.8.6 of the Rehabilitation Policy Library provides further information about the provision of funding for essential tools as part of an apprenticeship.
Longer-term training options
Longer-term training options like tertiary education should be supported where a vocational assessment by the client’s Rehabilitation Service Provider has identified that this type of training is the best option to help achieve a reasonable likelihood of a return to secure, meaningful and sustainable employment. This approach applies for all DVA rehabilitation clients, regardless of the rank that they achieved during their employment in the ADF.
An assessment of the cost effectiveness of undertaking longer-term training options should take into account the likely positive effects on the client’s health and morale as they work towards their goal of financial independence and a return to the workforce.
DVA recognises the positive benefits that can be gained through participating long-term training like tertiary education. These may include for example, building social connections, positive work habits and confidence. In some cases, it may be appropriate, given a client’s unique circumstances, to consider participation in study where a person is not participating in a rehabilitation plan with the explicit goal of returning to employment in the short term. Further information about study as part of a psychosocial rehabilitation activity can be found in section 6.9 of the Rehabilitation Policy Library