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Workforce Development - a whole-of-system model for workforce development

Maret StaronTHINKPIECE | Maret Staron, Manager, TAFE NSW ICVET

What is workforce development?  What does it include? Who does it involve? Why is it important? Finally, how it is different to traditional vocational education and training?

It is critical that any approach to workforce capability development is embedded within a robust workforce development model and that practitioners understand the concept of workforce development.

Defining workforce development

Workforce development necessitates a broad, comprehensive and multifaceted focus that is on the entire system.  It covers a wide range of key activities, strategies and policies impacting on individuals and teams, the organisation in which they operate, the systems that surround them, as well as on the broader industry, regional business and community environment.  A suggested definition that encompasses these factors is:

Workforce development is a holistic concept that integrates workforce analysis and planning, human resource management and capability development to strengthen organisational success by aligning the workforce to both current and future service demands.


Workforce development requires a focus on the customer and making whole systems adjustments in accord with customer needs.  From a systems perspective, it may include business analysis, policy, job design, recruitment, attraction, retention and separation, as well as resources, support mechanisms, capability development and incentives.

Many people are not aware of what workforce development means, what it includes, who it involves, why it is important and how it is different to traditional vocational education and training (Roche, 2002).  Many still have a limited view of workforce development, seeing it as:

This lack of focus on the policies and practices needed to support the whole system (NCOSS) has resulted in ad hoc approaches that have not been integrated across organisations and therefore are not sustainable. 

Industry workforce development

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) of New South Wales has argued strongly that there is a need to ‘shift the focus from vocational education and training to workforce development’ (2006).  The need for this change in the way we work with industry has been comprehensively adopted as a vision by TAFE NSW in ‘Doing Business in the 21st Century’. 

The Hon. Julia Gillard MP in her address to the House of Representatives on 13 February 2008 in relation to the Skills Australia Bill 2008, stated that ‘part of the problem in increasing our national skill levels has been that training has not sufficiently matched industry’s needs. Businesses have not been provided with enough assistance to enable them to diagnose, predict, and tailor training to their future workforce needs’.

IPART views workforce development as involving the vocational education and training (VET) system working closely with individual firms, clusters of firms and other partners, to:

(IPART, 2006, pp 44 - 53)

A Workforce Development Model

A workforce development model needs to take all the elements of workforce development into account.  The strength of the following model (Figure 1) is that it is a broad model which:

figure 1
Click to view full size

Workforce planning

The aim of workforce planning is to identify both short term and long term workforce supply and demand issues and needs.  It involves workforce data analysis, profiling the current workforce, forecasting future needs, planning and evaluation – as the basis for making staffing decisions in relation to the organisation's vision, goals, resources and desired workforce capabilities. 

An effective workforce planning process is constantly updated to meet an ever changing environment (Strategic People Planning: An overview of workforce planning, 2000).  It should be integrated into the organisation’s strategic plan.

Human resource management

Human resource management is a strategic and coherent approach to the management of people in order to enhance organisational performance.  It includes job design, attraction and recruitment, performance appraisal, career planning, retention and transition of staff.

Workforce capability development

Workforce capability development refers to the development of whole-of-organisation systems, processes, values, initiatives and enablers that support individuals/teams in taking responsibility for their own learning and sharing their knowledge and practice in complex and dynamic work environments.

Workforce development plan

The policies, strategies and activities within workforce planning, human resource management and capability development inform the development of an integrated sustainable workforce plan.  The workforce plan addresses the needs of the workforce and outlines the key activities, accountabilities and resources required to meet the strategic goals of the organisation.


For advice and feedback from Wendy Perry, David Kemp, Jan McIndoe, Janet Hewson, Robby Weatherley and members of TAFE NSW Reference Group for Workforce Capability Development

See Also


Capability Development and Education for Sustainability | eZine May 2008, Patrick Longfield



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