The Australia Pacific Training Coalition is an Australian Government-funded initiative in partnership with the Pacific. As Australia’s flagship technical and vocational education and training (TVET) investment in the Pacific region, APTC has trained over 16,000 Pacific women and men since its commencement in 2007. Like other regional training providers, the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted APTC’s operating context. However, APTC continues to respond through its ongoing localisation approach, which has seen an increase in local trainers, a significant modification to different country contexts and investments in strong relationships with country and regional stakeholders to support adaptation.
Despite the resulting economic and employment downturn, APTC remains focused on investing in training and skills development to ensure that the Pacific workforce has the skills needed for the modern economy. In 2020, APTC graduated 1,298 Pacific people, of which, 40 per cent were women, and 3 per cent were people with disabilities. It also provided a further 430 people with non-accredited qualifications, mainly targeted at workplace skills. This included training for 138 participants in two micro-credential courses in response to COVID-19 – Communication Technologies for Business Success and Digital Literacy Essentials. These new courses are in addition to the Australian accredited Certificate I, II, III and IV and Diploma qualifications that APTC offers across nine Pacific Island countries; Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu, Tonga and Kiribati.
Part of being adaptive and responsive to emerging opportunities has meant a focus on looking at re-skilling employees displaced from sectors badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the Australian Government is also supporting the Fiji Partnerships for Recovery through APTC. Under the partnership, three core activities help support economic recovery. These include the delivery of COVID-safe operational practices to the Fiji tourism industry with a focus on small to medium resorts and associated support workers; 10-day training for Fiji’s unemployed agricultural workers to find employment in the meat processing sector under the Pacific Labour Scheme; and team leader skillset targeting emerging women leaders from the private tourism sector in rural and remote areas of Fiji.
APTC is also advancing labour mobility opportunities in response to the pandemic. This includes identifying qualified APTC graduates interested in working in Australia and supporting their registration in national work ready pools in consultation with national labour sending units and the Pacific Labour Facility (PLF). This collaboration with PLF and national labour sending units also extends to supporting more women graduates accessing labour mobility opportunities. Additionally, APTC provides upskilling in anticipation of emerging market demand when borders re-open, for instance, supporting interested alumni with refresher training to maximise their chances of securing labour mobility opportunities when they do arise.
New training closely aligned to supporting Australia’s initial response to COVID-19, such as the national COVID safe business guidelines, was offered in Vanuatu. Specific courses in biosafety and biosecurity were developed in Papua New Guinea. APTC shifted to different delivery modes with a high emphasis on flexibility and remote learning delivery, such as the rollout of the Moodle Learning Management System – My Village, to support distance learning outcomes for our students, including those from small island states.
Across the region, APTC continues to work closely with chambers of commerce, industry and government bodies to address changing labour needs as industries begin their recovery. APTC will continue to collaborate with others to advance the digital skills economy and see increased Pacific innovation in agricultural technology, marine technology and the creative industries. With these shifts, APTC supports Australia’s strong commitment through TVET and skills for employment for the recovery and economic development of Pacific island countries.