Workforce Training Innovation Fund

About the WTIF

The Workforce Training Innovation Fund (WTIF) is a targeted, Skills First funding stream. WTIF creates opportunities for the joint exploration of new ideas and solutions to enhance workplace productivity.

Innovative thinking and approaches will allow industry and training providers to challenge existing practices in skills development, training methods and product design. This will result in the improved relevance of training for students, generate outcomes for employees and industry and support economic growth.

Objectives

  • Improve the efficiency, flexibility and responsiveness of the training and TAFE system in meeting industry skill needs and business training requirements.
  • Encourage partnerships between industry bodies, businesses, TAFEs, and training organisations to improve workforce productivity through innovative training programs and modes of delivery.
  • Build industry productivity and contribute to broader social and economic gains in priority sector workforces.
  • Build new insights and evidence to support the design, adoption, and implementation of sustainable innovation across the wider training and TAFE system.

Who can apply?

Applications are considered from a range of organisations. The 'who can apply' guide found here, outlines the applicant eligibility requirements:

Grant funding

Funding up to $5million across four categories is available for collaboration between industry and training providers to deliver innovation in training, workforce development and applied research and emerging industry skill development. (duration of up to two (2) years).

For more information download the grant funding guidelines below.

Categories funded

Funding is available over four categories:

  • New training, products, and methods
    Innovation in course development, product design and training delivery, supporting training and TAFE system improvements that drive social, economic, and global success.
  • Applied research
    Research solving ‘real world’ industry and business productivity challenges and the study of innovation in training design and delivery and product development.
  • Workforce training and skills development
    Improving accessibility, relevance, and delivery of workplace skills to support business productivity and learner employability.
  • Priority sectors
    Design of skills development approaches for new and emerging industries, key priority growth industries, and the Victorian government priority sectors.

Expression of Interest (EOI) 

Information Sessions

The department scheduled a range of 60-minute information sessions. The sessions have now been delivered, however a video recording of the WTIF Information session can be found here. 

 
Audio transcript

ROSALIE STAGGARD:
Good morning. So, welcome to the Workforce Training Innovation Fund information session. I'd like to commence by acknowledgement to the Traditional Owners. Our information session is being held on the lands of the Wurundjeri people. I wish to acknowledge them as the Traditional Owners recognizing their continuing connection to land, water and community. I would also like to pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and to Aboriginal Elders of other communities who may be here today. We might start with just some housekeeping. My name's Rosalie Staggard. I'm the senior manager of industry initiatives within the Department of Education and Training. I am recording this session at the moment. The way that will (INAUDIBLE)

SPEAKER:
You've just gone on mute, Rosemary.

ROSALIE STAGGARD:
Sorry about that. Not sure what happened then. Yes, I'd ask if people could turn off their camera during the presentation. If you could also keep your microphones on mute. If you have any questions, please put them into the chat functionality. At the end of the presentation, will actually go through the questions, but you'll also have an opportunity to ask questions directly. You can put your hand up using the little icon at the top of your screen. You'll see a little smiley face with a hand. If you click on that, it'll show that you've got a question that you'd like to ask. So, what we're going to cover this morning is quite a bit. It will look at what is the WTIF Fund, and I will refer to it as WTIF, the Workforce Training Innovation Fund. It's a little bit of a mouthful if I keep repeating the full title. What is innovation or what we consider might be innovative. What does the program fund? Partnerships. Who can apply? How to apply. Eligibility, budgets and some lessons learnt. So, the fund itself, the Workforce Training Innovation Fund, is a targeted skills first funding stream.

It was designed to create opportunities for exploring new ideas and solutions that lead to the training system, delivering high quality skills training. There are a number of expected outcomes from the fund. Firstly, it's expected that the grants will improve the flexibility and responsiveness of the training and TAFE system to strengthen the relevance of training to industry and workforce needs. This will ensure students develop the high quality skills that are crucial to industry and Victoria's economic recovery. And I think most people would relate to that over the last 12 to 18 months, that with response to COVID, we have had to adapt and be flexible in how we deliver training and meet the needs of the students. Secondly, it encourages partnerships between industry bodies, businesses, TAFEs and training organizations to improve workforce productivity through innovative training programs and modes of delivery. And this is actually a critical aspect of the particular fund. It does focus very much on those partnerships between industry and training providers.

It has to focus on building industry productivity and contributing to broader social and economic gains in government priority sectors. This includes contributing to work forces, being equipped with the skills needed for identified priority sectors and industry productivity improvements through collaboration with the training and TAFE system. So, again, very much looking at outcomes from this particular project or that you might put forward, how will it contribute to those industry productivity gains? And also, what are the actual skill gaps at the moment? And you will find that as a result of COVID, some of those skill gaps are actually changing now in terms of what industry is looking for. And finally, it provides new insights and evidence to support the design and the adoption and implementation of sustainable innovation across the wider training and TAFE sector. So, it does focus very much on sustainability, post funding. There wouldn't be any additional funding that would be provided to keep your particular project moving forward.

And there is a strong emphasis also on sharing any innovation, whether it be training modules or resources, even the lessons learnt. So, one of the things out of this particular fund is that whatever is produced, there is an expectation that it will be shared. So, what does the program fund? We have new training products submitted, so that might be the development of a new qualification or micro credential or some form of training. They could be resources that are developed to actually support the delivery. And it's also around the method or the model. And an example that I could give in that area is that we did fund about three years ago a project where the partnership was between a university, a TAFE and Mintrac, which is an association that represents the meat industry. And what the meat industry was finding is it was really difficult to attract people to become meat inspectors, that there actually was a shortage of people who were interested in pursuing meat inspection as a career.

So, the model was actually working closely between the TAFE and the university, where third year science students had the opportunity to undertake the meat inspection qualification. And near the end to their qualification, they had a placement at in an abattoir. And from there, when they finished their degree, as well as the TAFE qualification, they could pursue a range of different occupations, including meat inspection. Out of that particular project, they did find that there was quite a good success rate of people who went on to become meat inspectors. So, that's an example of a model of training that was innovative in that particular space. It can also cover applied research. In saying that though, we do have another fund within government at the moment which has been designed to support our higher education colleagues, and there is the considerable amount of money that's being made available for research by the universities. So, if you are a university representative and you're looking at opportunities to secure some funding, if the approach doesn't include training providers and industry partners, but it might be focused on a different area, you could have conversations around what might be available through the other fund, which is being made available to higher education.

There's also funding to support workforce training and skills development. So, that includes improving accessibility and the relevance of delivery of workplace skills that ultimately could support increased business productivity and learner employability and a focus on the priority sectors. The Victorian government has a number of key priority growth industries. They can be found on the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions website, or if you just Google Victorian priority industries, you usually will come up with the link. The sectors that have been identified at the moment, include construction technologies, the creative industries, defense technologies, digital technologies, food and fiber, International education, medical technologies and pharmaceuticals, professional services, retail transport distribution and logistics, space technologies, visitor economy and the Victoria's racing industry. So, there's quite a wide range there. There has also been an additional list that's been created, which has a focus on post economic recovery or post COVID economic recovery.

And there's around, I think, four key industries that have been identified. Some of them are listed in this broader group as well, such as digital technologies. But if you do consider those priority industries when you're thinking through a particular project because when it comes down to allocating the funding and prioritizing, the industry sectors will be taken into consideration. Innovation. A lot of people describe innovation in different ways. And so, for us and the fund, we're open to a wide range of project activities that may be funded under the four categories of the program. We can define innovation as being change that adds value or that it transforms the lives of Victorians and it drives economic growth. And that may be occur through introducing new or diverse concepts, models, services and products. It may be about disrupting, challenging and advancing existing practices for our future workplaces and workforces. And it's also about enriching the learner experience. What might be innovative in one industry may not necessarily be in another industry.

And so, we do have examples of projects where for a particular industry, what's being put forward is quite innovative. And particularly if you look at how technology has evolved and those industries that have a high dependency on technology compared to those that have a lower dependency on it. So, they could be things that have been introduced in a high dependency environment that have never occurred before in a low dependency scenario. And so, therefore, it would be considered quite innovative. I mentioned earlier about partnerships, and this is a really key part of this particular fund. So, with partnerships, we really want to encourage industry bodies, businesses, TAFEs and training organizations to work together ultimately to improve workforce productivity. And there are two potential roles an organization may play within a WTIF project. One is the lead and the lead is the person who is our main contact. It's the organization that will be contracted to undertake the work and therefore has ultimate responsibility and accountability for that particular project.

The partner is someone that is working closely in the project. They're going to generally make a contribution of some shape or form, and that may be through staffing allowances. That might be through the provision of facilities or equipment, knowledge, subject matter experts. And generally, there would be a memorandum of understanding or MOU in place that actually confirms that there is a partnership that's been formed. And while the lead has ultimate responsibility and accountability, the partner also has a certain degree of responsibility and commitment to the project. Who can apply? Within the application guidelines and they are available on the website, so I'm assuming that most people registered today have been to the website. It's possibly how you actually registered for the session. We do have this little table that's in the application guidelines and it indicates who can be a lead and who can be a partner. So, if you work through that list, you will see that there are certain categories of organizations that are unable to be a lead, but all of them would be able to be a partner.

So, just work through that and give it some thought when you're putting your application together. The process for applying for a WTIF grant. So it starts with an expression of interest. We opened the grant last week on the 16th of August. If you have an idea, there's an expression of interest form that you can actually download and fill in. It doesn't require a lot of detail. A lot of it is more about you as an organization. And there's three or four questions that we ask you. And they basically followed the line of thinking of what's the problem or the opportunity that you have? What solution are you putting forward? How would that solution actually work? What would the benefits be from it? When you lodge that, and you do it via email, so the email address is on the website, it's also on the form, we'll have a department representatives that will make contact with you and have a bit more of a discussion around what your idea or concept is. And if it meets the application, the criteria, the fund criteria, you'll then be invited to submit an application.

And that application can be submitted online. Again, if you go to the website and look at the application guidelines, you will see near the end of that document that we do have the questions and the criteria for the application. And we have some comments there for each area, for each criteria that actually fleshes out what we are looking for when we're making an assessment of the application. All applications for the first round need to be lodged by the 1st of October, and that is online. With that application, there's some subsidiary documents that we ask for. One of them is a budget and a template is provided to you online. Another is a document that we call Project on a Page. So, it's a very high level project plan. And we also have an evaluation plan template. And this is something that is relatively new. What we're asking is that at application time, you actually start thinking about if you were funded for this project, how would you evaluate it? It's far easier to think about that at the beginning.

And if you're awarded funding to collect data and information along the way, then wait till you get to the end of the project and then undertake an evaluation. So, the plan is there to assist you. And it's around about three quarters of the document that you complete. The final section is if you're successful it's actually undertaking the evaluation and providing a report back to the department. When we receive the applications, we have a team that goes through and reviews them against the criteria. And then the recommendations as to whether they are approved or not is put before a panel for their consideration. And the panel is the group that decides whether the application has merit and it will be funded or not. After we have that presentation to the panel, we then come back to the applicants and we'll notify them as to what the outcome has been. So, anything that is submitted by the1st of October, the assessments will be finalized by the end of the year, by December, and we'll have feedback to you.

And potentially we'll start looking at contracting in December, going through to January. We then kick off the project with an initiation meeting. And at that meeting, we go through and to have a better opportunity to discuss the project, how you're going to approach it, what the milestones are, etc. Three months after that particular meeting, there is a document that you'll need to submit, which is a project initiation document, and that really fleshes out your project. It will include a risk management plan, communication strategy, stakeholder plan, more detailed budget, more detailed project plan. And we do expect that all projects will be completed within two years of contracting. So, most of the projects that are considered by the 1st of October or lodged by the 1st of October that is successful will be completed by March 2024. We will have a second round of applications, and that will open up in February. So, if you do require more time to flesh it out, you know, you're going to have that opportunity to submit early in the new year.

It may also be at this stage that you've put in an Expression of Interest, but it needs a little bit more work on it. So, it does give you that bit of time to go back and flesh it out further. The application assessment criteria. The first is innovation. So, there's weightings here, 35%. It is the Workforce Training Innovation Fund. So, it makes sense. Innovation is going to feature quite significantly in your application. The second is capability and capacity. And so, what we really want to know is that as an organization, you do have the capability and the capacity to undertake the work. If you don't, what's your strategy to bring in the resources required to undertake the work? And this has been something that we've noticed with a lot of the previous projects. And we did go through an evaluation of the program early last year, those organizations that really were receiving quite large grants, but they didn't have the staff, they didn't have a project manager on board, they actually struggled with that project, particularly to get it up and running.

So, we've got a greater emphasis in that space. The evaluation plan is 20%. Governance is 10%. So, governance is really looking at where you have your partnerships, how you manage them, how you keep everyone informed. And then the sustainability and sharing best practices is also 10%. Budgets. We're not quite fortunate that we have had a number of projects that we've actually funded and we have a better idea of the sorts of costs that a project might present to us. For instance, we've seen a number of projects that have included Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality resources. One of the things I would say there is that if you are looking at technology that keep in mind the criteria around sharing, that it's preferable that you use technology that can be used by others and easily picked up rather than something that is very bespoke and also becomes quite costly to maintain and keep it current, which is that sustainability side. Program and project manager salary figures. We take those into consideration as well.

You know, we do focus in to make sure that there does appear to be sufficient program and project management included in the budget and not excessive. It is getting a balance between, you know, making sure that you have enough resourcing to support the size of the project, but it isn't over-governed. There's also information there we have around pilot delivery and assessment costs and the development of resources, etc. So, over time, we can sort of see a range. It doesn't mean that we have a definitive amount for us when we're looking at budgets, etc. It's we know that something should fall within a particular range, depending on the level of complexity and level of spatiality that's associated with the project. When you put your budget in, also note that we may ask for additional information and for clarity. It might be that if you're including some form of equipment or technology, that can you give us a quote or, you know, if you've seen the costs online, can you give us a screenshot of the costs that you're basing it on.

What the program does not fund, and there are a few things there. So, we will not consider funding for duplication of initiatives that are previously funded. That may be that there's been a previous WTIF project that we have already funded in that space. You can go on to the website and see a number of case studies for what we have funded, but also the process of speaking to a department representative. That person can also identify whether any funding has been provided beforehand. That person can also identify whether anyone else is putting any similar EIOs and whether there's opportunities of partnerships between the two proposers of projects. Duplication may also be that you've received funding from other government departments or even within higher education and skills. I mentioned before about the Higher Education Research Project. There's also another fund available at the moment, which is TAFE equipment and facilities. So, if there's been applications put in and you've been successful with those, then you wouldn't be able to request funding for the same activities or initiatives.

We won't cover capital works, the ongoing training, delivering and assessment. So, your proposal may include, say, a pilot if you've developed some new courses, but it wouldn't be the ongoing delivery of that course. It won't cover travel and accommodation, and it also won't cover business as usual activities. So, for instance, if you were putting in a percentage of shared rental for offices or something, if you already have an office, that's your business as usual. This is an additional project to what you would normally do. Lessons learnt and best practice. So, I did mention that we had undertaken an evaluation early last year and there were a number of findings from that evaluation. The first is committed partnerships. So, we found that projects were most successful when there were clearly defined roles and responsibilities between the partners. We also found that they were successful when there was skilled program and project managers. And, you know, they may be difficult to actually identify or secure, but in situations where with some projects, you had a person who was managing a number of projects and didn't have dedicated time or they may have had a role.

It might have been a smaller organization and the CEO is taking on the role of project manager. Those types of projects really struggled because the person didn't have enough time dedicated to get the activities up and running. So, skilled program and project managers, you know, a key success factor. We also found that if there was a structured and phased rollout, including sign-off milestones from partners, that led to success. So, that comes back to the project plan and really thinking about how you are going to approach the particular activity. What are the stages? What do we see as being critical milestones? And if we have partners on board, where do they actually sign-off and agree that we've achieved that particular milestone? They generally had a comprehensive communication strategy where they kept everyone informed. That included their partners, their stakeholders, but also with us in the department. We consider that once we approve and fund a project, in a way, we are also a partner in this project.

We have a vested interest to make sure that it succeeds as well. And so, working on that providers have no surprises and that we are kept informed of the activities that really contributes towards an overall success. The next one might sound a little bit strange. It's having a go-between industry and training providers, and in a way, it's like an interpreter or translator that we do have that speak in the training world. And often we forget that particular terms will have a certain connotation. And then you have the industry speak or talk as well. So, someone who can navigate between the two dialogues actually contributes to the success. And it's because it's a way of making sure everyone is on the same page when you're having a conversation. I think an easy example for me that I often hear is I'll go into meetings and industry will often speak about, oh, we need to get our own training package. We're going to develop a course and it'll be accredited and we'll have our own training package.

And so, there's a few things there that actually have specific meanings in training. A training package is something that's nationally endorsed. It's managed by the Commonwealth government and industry reference committees. Accredited training is in Victoria, we can self accredit. So, we still have the VRQA and they can accredit. But if it's something that goes into the national training package, then it becomes endorsed. And without getting into too much detail, that's just an example of two words that can be used quite differently between the VET environment and the industry environment. So, having that go-between person that can do a bit of translation, is often very valuable. There's also having appropriate and relevant evaluation strategies. So, we found some projects actually had a really good evaluation plan at the beginning of it, clearly understood what the objectives of the project were, what they considered would be key outcomes. And throughout the project could collect the data that at the end of the project, it was relatively straightforward to undertake the evaluation plan.

There were other projects where not as much thought had been put in at the front, and you get to the end of the project, and then it's like, oh, OK, what are we going to do with our evaluation now? And generally, it can take a bit more effort and work to capture the information, which means then it's going to add to the costs of undertaking the evaluation. And it may be some things that would have been good to report on. When you get to the end of the project, it's not easy to capture that information. And so, then it's not included into the plan. So, having that evaluation plan at the beginning is quite valuable. And the final one is the ability to pivot and be responsive. And again, over the last 18 months, that's been something that you've seen in a lot of or we've seen in a lot of projects that differentiate themselves. So, some of the projects and organizations have been able to adapt to a different working environment. COVID has put a lot of limitations of what we can do, when we can do it, etc.

An example there is if you were doing consultation with stakeholders, no longer could you do face to face for a period of time. So, then it was a case of, well, how do we adapt to online technology? How do we engage? How do we get that same richness that we might have been able to get out of the face to face activity? Or it could have been that we were going to do some pilot training and we can now no longer have classes, but we weren't geared up to actually be able to deliver the pilot online. And so, that then has led to delays in the project being completed. So, the ability to pivot, be responsive. Again, industry changes, too. And we've seen that particularly over the last 18 months of how the hospitality, the tourism, the health industries have all had to change, retail as well. So, from today, what are your next steps? The first is to visit the Workforce Training Innovation Fund website page, as I said. From there, you can actually download the Funding Guidelines and an Expression of Interest form.

When you complete the EOI form and you lodge it back into the WTIF inbox, we will have a department representative who will contact you to discuss the proposal. Now, for the last couple of years, our Principal Regional Advisors have been the key people that have gone out and actually had a discussion with anyone who was interested in lodging an application. That team have moved across now to the Victorian Skills Authority. They will still be assisting us. So, it may be a PRA that contact you to have a discussion, but it may also be someone else within the the department that contacts you. If you proceed to lodge an application, remember that the applications do close on the 1st of October. So, if you get your Expression of Interest in, say, on the 28th of September, we can review it but you're not going to leave yourself much time to get an application in. So, I would suggest get the EOI in as soon as possible. It's not difficult. It's about two pages, maximum, one page details and one page, which can just be in bullet points of what your thinking is.


Also, the
 presentation slide-deck can be viewed here.

Key dates and application process

  • Round One opens  16 August 2021 and closes (COB) 1 October 2021
  • EOI's received after COB 1 October 2021 will be considered in Round Two: February 2022
  • A representative from the department may contact you to discuss your proposal and suitability for the fund.
  • If your EOI is deemed viable, a link to the online Grant application form will be sent to you.  Please NOTE: All online applications must be completed by 1 October 2021.

Examples of completed grants  

Health

Transforming nurse education

Jasper: cutting edge simulation

Grampians Regional Health Work Readiness program: investing in our future

Primary industry: Health care and social assistance

Lead organisation: Federation University (TAFE)

This project responds to a current 'crisis' for local health care and social assistance workers. It will train young people in the region, stemming the outward flow of emerging workers to the larger metro locations. Acknowledging many in the target cohorts will need to 'earn-whilst-learning', a key element of this project is to trial a traineeship model that allows participants to work/train concurrently. Multiple training options/pathways from entry-level to bachelor qualifications will also be offered. Training options will be coupled with a 'YGEIA: Your Grampians Education Interactive App' and Ballarat Health Service's existing mobile simulation van to support learners.

Male family violence TAFE training

Primary industry: Health care and social assistance

Lead organisation: No to Violence

This project has two themes: growth and development. It will grow the size of the specialist men's family violence services, by increasing industry engagement and quality of the course and addressing barriers to expansion. It will also expand family violence 'literacy' in the broader community sector by developing and implementing appropriate units within existing VET courses, and working with other peak bodies on family violence content in their professional development calendars. In addition, the project will develop  existing specialist workforce through design and delivery of a professional development calendar for workers and managers in specialist men's services, including training for working with Koori men who use family violence; and develop VET sector capacity and capability to deliver content on family violence through a collaborative practice network, support and mentoring.​

Construction

The Maker Immersion Project

VR Tunnelling Training Project 

Primary industry: Transport, Postal and Warehousing

Lead organisation: Cross Yarra Partnership

The VR Tunnelling Training Project builds on CYP D&C and Holmesglen's partnership on MetroHub and the Victorian Tunnelling Centre (VTC) initiative and draws on decades of civil construction project delivery and industry education expertise. This project has been developed to address identified skills gaps and harnesses new tools and technologies with the potential to revolutionise workplace learning and challenge deeply held notions about how people learn and apply that knowledge, how industries evolve and how major projects are delivered.

Industry Wide Up-skilling Training and Assessment Model for the HVAC&R Industry 

Primary industry: Professional, scientific and technical services

Lead organisation: GOTAFE

This project aims to develop a model of training to meet the anticipated need required by the mandatory transition of ozone-depleting and high global warming potential (GWP) gases to low GWP greenhouse-friendly refrigerants and associated technologies. Innovation include new resources and training methodologies, mobile HVAC&R Training and Assessment Facility pods, STEM outreach support platform and web-based Virtual Training and Assessment Platform, HVAC&R Stakeholder Workforce Engagement Strategy and Action Plan.

New Energy Technology Systems (NETS) Project 

Primary industry: Electricity, gas, water and waste services

Lead organisation: Future Energy Skills Ltd

The project aims to deliver high-quality responsive skills training to the new energy technology sector, equipping the workforce to safely assess, design and install new energy technology systems. It will develop a blended learning training solution that integrates the latest visual learning innovations, an online platform for professional development and post course updates, a new unit of competency to bridge the gap in stand-alone battery storage systems and a consumer and industry awareness campaign to increase awareness and minimise potential risks to consumers, essential services and the workforce.

Technology

Using drone technology

Virtual train driving

BioPathways Partnerships Project

Primary industry: Manufacturing

Lead organisation: Paper Australia Pty Ltd

This project seeks to develop the resources and products for delivery of innovative pre-vocational and vocational training through practical learning experiences and real-time work in an applied research context. It includes accredited certs II, III, IV, diploma, and advanced diploma in biomanufacturing. The project also targets reskilling opportunities for workers transitioning from the Hazlewood Plant in Gippsland. It will also provide pathways style development of skills in productive work environments producing and commercialising new bio streams and products.

Agriculture

Virtual mushroom picker

Sunraysia horticulture and agriculture future workforce

Primary industry: Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Lead organisation: Sunraysia Institute of TAFE

This project seeks to respond to the significant workforce challenges in the Mallee agriculture and horticulture sector, requiring an expansion of the local workforce, increased capabilities, resource re-use, STEM and entrepreneurship skills; utilising new discovery technologies, real world problem based learning approach, and international capacity building. The project will establish a Smart Farm concept with the development of a suite of 22 capability development programs and initiatives.

Find out more

For general queries, information on facilitation support, online information events or to register for email notifications and updates email wtif@education.vic.gov.au.