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ALGA Training & Education – Position Paper



1. Introduction

The Contaminated Land Industry in Australia & New Zealand is diverse and consists of contaminated land consultants, remediation and earthworks contractors, researchers and academia as well as local, state and/or federal regulators, legal practitioners and other service industry people.  ALGA is uniquely positioned within the industry to provide training and education as its members represent each industry sector either as individual members and/or corporate partners.

ALGA has identified a need for further education and training beyond what is currently offered.  In the first instance, this training need is to be directed towards the consulting industry, in line with the new accreditation schemes and personnel with consulting backgrounds or skills in other industry sectors such as contractor and legal practitioners.  It is envisaged that the training needs of the other sectors of the contaminated land industry will be identified in the future.

This Position Paper outlines the ALGA vision for Training & Education for the contaminated land industry.  It gives an outline of why training is required, what ALGA sees as the way forward, and a plan to achieve the vision.  The purpose of the Position Paper is to allow for further stakeholder engagement with a view to implement a wider training offering in 2019.

2. Background

The contaminated land industry in both Australia & New Zealand has grown exponentially over the last 20 years as has regulatory control, the number of consultancies and sophistication of assessment and remedial strategies and technologies.  There are now two accreditation schemes (CEnvP SCS recognised in ANZ, and CPSS recognised in Australia), developed and endorsed. For Australia this is a direct result of recommendations made in the ASC NEPM April 2013 amendment.

Over the last 10 years there has been a trend of amalgamation and growth of large multi-disciplinary consulting companies, some employing over 10,000 employees.  At the other end of the scale, downsizing and restructuring has led to an increase in smaller consultancies (many less than 20 employees) who have quickly filled a void in the market place for more cost effective assessment and remedial solutions. There has also been a corresponding growth in other sectors of the industry, including in government and industrial organisations, regulatory agencies, contractors, researchers, legal practitioners and laboratories.

What has not kept pace with these industry changes is the training and education necessary for the industry to maintain and improve standards into the future.  Accreditation has arrived but the benchmarks against which an applicant are judged to be competent currently rely on experience and on the candidate demonstrating competency through verbal and written responses, verified by referees.

In addition, that there is a process of continuous renewal in the contaminated land industry as new persons enter, and others retire. There will be an ongoing need for persons entering the industry to learn and gain competency; while training on the job has been a well established approach by many organisations, a well developed training and education program can be more cost effective and has the potential to provide improved competencies.

3. External Factors Impacting on Current Training Models

ALGA does not believe that there is an issue with the quality of existing training modules available to the contaminated land industry through industry associations or educational institutions.  On the contrary some have been developed and run by industry experts and are high quality and up to date.  The identified limitations are mainly external and affect the way the training is offered and taken up by the industry.

Some of these external factors include:
  • Irregularity of training offerings and lack of consistency on topics
  • Location format, cost and timing of courses offered
  • Training is not specifically linked to the competencies as set down by the accreditation schemes
  • The accreditation schemes and the ASC NEPM do not deal with or assess competence in the application of remediation methods   
  • Lack of provision of foundational skills in the physical and earth sciences.

In addition to programs that are set up with the specific objective of providing general training in the field, there are also many ad hoc topic-specific events that occur from time to time. These include for example: in house seminars by legal practitioners (no cost), seminars on particular topics offered by ASBG / AEBN (low fee); conferences by professional conference organisers (high fee), and short courses by universities (high fee) eg UTS CSARM course and the CRC CARE Summer School.

The question arises as to whether training programs need to be certified. Because industry practitioner and auditor accreditation schemes rely on their own evaluation of competency, it appears that training programs, conferences and specialist seminars are provided on the basis of general education and information rather than as proof of competency, and do not require certification as such. In the situation where there is a serious error made by an accredited practitioner, it would seem that the need for investigation to respond to the situation (and any liability) would pass to the accrediting body rather than a training or seminar provider.

4. ALGA Preferred Approach to Training

ALGA believes that training should be run by the industry for the industry.  The type of training offered needs to be flexible and better aligned to the limitations that most in the industry face – time and money.  Training should be affordable, be aligned to the accreditation schemes and the listed competencies, and should extend to include specialist areas of the industry.

Industry representatives are spread throughout Australia & New Zealand and consultants, contractors, regulators, other government organisations and industry are found in all the capital cities and major regional centres.  It is a fact that most training on offer is centralised where students are asked to attend courses in the major centres (capital cities).  This adds to cost for each consulting firm with travel and accommodation and time away from the office.

Below is the current thinking by ALGA and what is proposed as the basis of ALGA’s training and education scheme, which would go a long way to address the training needs of the industry:

Key role of ALGA:

To map the requirements for training and education in the contaminated land industry, to identify existing providers and how their programs fit the industry requirements, and to fill gaps where it is cost effective to do so. ALGA does not have the objective of competing and offering alternative training and education programs where existing providers are already doing this cost effectively for the industry.  

A framework and plan for training and education:

  • Development of an overall framework and plan for training for the contaminated land industry. This will systematically consider the various topics for which training can and should occur (systematically covering areas in the NEPM, the NRF and the auditing schemes), the level of training (introductory, comprehensive (accreditation level) and specialist topics), and how these various components fit together to form an overall program for the industry.
  • Timing and availability of training, including whether face-to-face training, or on-line training.
  • Availability and competency of training providers, seeking to make known and utilise existing providers, and for ALGA to fill gaps where these exist, ALGA resources are sufficient and it is cost effective to do so.
  • Liaison with ALGA members in the industry to confirm that the framework and plan will cover the areas of interest and need.

Particular training and education components:

  • Industry-specific high quality training targeted at 0 to 5 years’ experience (Introductory Contaminated Land), and 5 to 10 years’ experience (more advanced Contaminated Land suitable for accreditation).
  • Modules that cover the topics considered in the NEPM, NRF, and the competencies outlined in the accreditation schemes.
  • Specialist area advanced training, such as, asbestos, hydrocarbons, LNAPL, chlorinated hydrocarbons, PFAS, human health risk assessment, ecological risk assessment, auditing, community engagement and remediation methods.
  • Options that provide flexibility in training methods and locations, including face-to-face training, and 20 - 30 minute on-line courses, with the objective of making available training and education to persons both in capital city and regional areas.
  • Encourage the use of subject matter experts and trained presenters (Certificate IV) from within the industry.
  • Modules for certification to be assessed by an examination with issue of a certificate.
  • Encourage the development of a regular program that is available and becomes fixed in the calendar.
  • Encourage cost effective training and education, with the primary objective being to recover costs and not to make money.
5. Where to from Here?

ALGA has been discussing the requirements for training and education in the contaminated land industry with members, and this has helped shape this Position Paper. Further consultation with the industry is required as ALGA goes forward with its development of a training and education program. The objective of this further consultation will be to better understand the needs of the industry for training and education and how a program to satisfy these needs can be most cost effectively achieved and made available to ALGA members. 

We see the further steps to be:
  • Development of an overall framework and plan for training for the contaminated land industry.
  • Identifying the availability and adequacy of existing training programs against the framework, seek reviews on these programs from members who have attended.
  • Identifying gaps in the available training programs, and determining how best these may be filled.
  • Liaison with ALGA members in the contaminated land industry to confirm that ALGA’s approach accords with what the industry identified needs.

We would appreciate your feedback, suggestions and ideas.  Please contact Rosalind Vrettas at education@landandgroundwater.com

19 February 2019

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