AITD 2017 – Sharing the good, the innovative and the alarming!

Emma Weber

Last week I attended the Australian Institute of Training & Development National Conference in Sydney.

Always a great event. I loved the conversations the sessions generated – as an audience and as participators we were challenged and inspired. I wanted to share with you a few of my personal highlights and takeaways. The end of the conference was also a lovely way to send Elizabeth Robinson off to her next role as she steps down from being CEO of the AITD – the Australian Institute of Learning and Development. Elisabeth has made a significant contribution to our profession over the last 4 years and I’d say as the conference ended she was feeling the love! Thanks Elisabeth! Congrats to you and the team for another great event and to you for all your achievements over your tenure. So onto sharing the good (or even the great!), the innovative and the alarming!

1.From Learning Providers to Performance Focused Business with Andrew Gerkens – Lion

Always great to see under the hood of organisations. Thanks to Andrew Gerkins for sharing so openly the approach being taken by Lion to really embed the learning / capability function into the organisation. He shared how his team sits with the business functions really understanding the business needs and challenges.

Andrew talked us through a robust governance framework they use and detailed how he works with his team to identify the key capabilities required within the business and then the quarterly priorities that he and his team need to deliver on.

My key takeaway was 7 simple questions that Andrew and his team use when they are consulting to the business. Having this framework ensures that the capability team all follow the same consulting model and have an aligned approach.

What’s the situation?
Who is involved?
What’s happening now?
What should be happening?
What will happen if I take no action on this?
What are the causes and potential solutions?
Now what?

Great job Andrew! Loved the essence of ‘Solving the right problems, doing the right work and achieve real impact’ as a great philosophy for learning or capability.

2. Designing Learning and Performance Ecosystems with Arun Pradhan – Deakin Co

Well what a session! Arun was so passionate and entertaining as he took us on the journey from the ‘wrong’ turn that organisational learning took a few years back to what we can do to drive effective ecosystems for organisational success. I love how he described the learning reason for being as needing to shift from ‘packing and selling training’ to ’empowering performance.’

The stats were compelling – we need to help organisations change and perform. 65% of jobs lost by 2020, 40% of Fortune 500 companies won’t exist in 10 years time and 35% of core skills will change by 2020.

The key skills Arun shared as being essential for organisations as they move forward were –

Learn and unlearn at will
Digital and data fluency
Be more human than ever
Creatively problem solve

Arun turned to the ancient past to consider what we are required to do now – How did our ancestors hunt a mammoth? In teams, with tools, using systems. His model of learning and performance ecosystems details how we can use this principles now.

Arun shares generously on social media so I’m sure you can get access to this models through recent articles and comments. I’d encourage you to take a look for some great examples of innovative thinking in the learning space. And I loved that reflection is front and centre in what we require in the workplace to excel.

Arun also ran a follow up breakout session on … which was standing room only until the venue organised extra chairs! Design thinking in learning has to be the way to go. Great work Arun. Very innovative.

3. Preparing Australia’s workforce for the future: vocational education and training will contribute with Sara Caplan from PwC’s Skills for Australia

To describe Sara’s contribution to the conference as alarming is probably a bit unfair but it was a real call to arms for the VET sector and those involved in this area of our profession. PwC’s Skills for Australia is responsible for the vocational qualifications and training packages in eight industry sectors including automotive, mining and engineering and financial services. Their role is to ensure that training packages – and therefore vocational qualifications – reflect employers’ and students’ needs, both now and in the future.

She shared some startling statistics and my own interpretation was that while the VET sector has a long way to go they are on the journey – eyes open.

To share some of the keys Sara share future workforce trends that –

11% of our service jobs could be provided remotely
30% of Australians already in flexible working
50% of the Australian workforce are in jobs which will be effective by automation

Currently people will have 2-3 jobs in a lifetime – in the future they will have 17 jobs in a lifetime – that’s both a need for upskilling and learning, and a learning opportunity.

Sara detailed a mining example where employees who formerly had driven large, heavy vehicles were now driving them from an ipad in a control centre. A very different set of skills! This highlighted that automation isn’t a feature of the future it’s here and now in our workplaces. Likewise collaboration and globalisation are already impacting the way we work.

Considering those entering the workforce now – these were the statistics I found most eye opening –

70% entering the labour market now are doing so into jobs that will be lost or automated
60% of students are doing jobs that will be radically changed by automation
>50% of workers will need to be able to use, configure or build digital systems in the next 2-3 years

The website has more details of the plans. Interested parties are invited to get in touch and get involved to help shape Australia’s future. I’ll be picking up the phone as it’s a valuable conversation…


I’d encourage you also to check out the 2 international keynote speakers who attended Sahana Chattopadhyay and Connie Malamed – I didn’t make it to all of the sessions but there was some great feedback from both.

So that’s my wrap for AITD – next stop ATD Atlanta – watch this space!

Emma Weber

Emma Weber is a recognized authority on the transfer of learning. As CEO of Lever – Transfer of Learning, she has helped companies such as Telstra, Oracle and BMW deliver and measure tangible business results from learning. Emma has also been a guest speaker at learning effectiveness conferences worldwide and authored the hugely successful book Turning Learning into Action. Much more detail around the issues and solutions examined in this article are available in the book – please feel free to download a free chapter.