The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) has a longstanding commitment to investing in people development to support the fishing industry (commercial, recreational and Indigenous sectors) to enhance its learning, innovation and professionalism. To date, this investment has been primarily in the form of the sponsorship of leadership development and scholarships and other awards in higher education.
The FRDC is now seeking to take a more strategic approach to funding its people development program to ensure that its investments are closely aligned with broader industry priorities and needs. A more strategic approach will assist the creation of a learning culture within the industry so that FRDC investments will encourage a broader interest in learning and development beyond the immediate funding recipients.
The consultants have made a wide range of recommendations that cover the needs of all sectors of the industry. However, while the needs of the different sectors vary, we believe that there is a good deal of commonality. The common thread is that there is an urgent need to build capability at the local and regional levels to address real and practical issues that are impacting on industry development. We believe that the Australian fishing industry, and the FRDC in particular, can learn much from the Cooperative Venture for Capacity Building (CVCB) approach of the other Australian RDCs and the Industry Development Framework (IDF) of the NZ Ministry of Fisheries. The focus of these activities is to build models of good practice and practical resources to address regional issues in a cooperative or team-based approach.
A cooperative approach in the commercial fishing sector at the regional level is also an important ingredient in the industry’s challenge to improve the value of Australian seafood through a whole-of-chain approach to the production and marketing of seafood. Building value at each stage will require the development of capability to establish networks and cooperative ventures that will advantage the individuals and the industry as a whole.
An effective people development program will benefit from a move to a strategy-based (rather than a project-based) approach to funding. This approach is underpinned by endorsement of an operational plan that clearly identifies broad objectives (or challenges) and action strategies that will determine funding priorities. Projects may be initiated by the FRDC, or proposed by external stakeholders, that will support the achievement of the strategies. Similarly, all FRDC research and development projects should contain a discrete people development component to ensure that the project has identified a clear strategy for building capability to apply the outcomes.
The consultants also believe that a strategy-based approach will help address the largely uncoordinated and fragmented nature of people development that is now occurring across the industry. The FRDC can work with the peak bodies (ASIC, NAC, SSA, Indigenous councils, Recfish Australia, AFISC) to ensure an industry-wide approach to people development that is soundly based on agreed priorities and is best placed to lever investment by all levels of government.
One clear priority is to seek greater access to vocational education and training (VET) funding for the fishing industry. A coordinated approach that builds on the labour market intelligence of AFISC and its state/territory counterparts is the preferred way of identifying needs and funding impediments. The FRDC can then support the peak industry bodies to make the high level approaches to government that are required to influence policy makers. A stronger involvement in VET will also require the industry to embrace the Seafood Industry Training Package as the basis of competency standards across all sectors of the industry.
Finally, it is crucial that the FRDC takes steps to invest in building its own capability to manage an effective people development program on behalf of the industry. The FRDC will require some immediate support as well as take steps to ensure that it can sustain the program in the longer term. The FRDC will also require the input of key stakeholder groups on a continuing basis to ensure that its people development strategies continue to reflect the priorities and needs of the broader industry.