Same-same… but still different

In the public safety sector we frequently use standardised, unit of competency based training and assessment activities. At the big picture level across the agencies there is a lot of sameness – but yet there is multiple layers of difference that need to be considered.

Units of competency include a range statement to account for differences in workplaces and organisations, but further to this as trainers, assessors and learning designers we are expected to customise things further to suit our group of learners.  This doesn’t just mean at an individual level, but for those of us helping to create the “standard” course it also means looking at a bigger picture of organisational learner characteristics, or even characteristics across multiple organisations.

Let’s look at some considerations for each of these.

Individual learner characteristics

When faced with a group of individuals that should have their learning needs catered to, it is possible to determine individual learner characteristics such as:

  • Previous experience in work, life and training
  • Age, gender, cultural requirements
  • Motivation
  • Location and access to resources
  • Language, Literacy, Numeracy and technology levels
  • Other identified needs requiring adjustment to learning
  • Learning styles

Depending on how well we complete this process, we can then adapt our training style and focus to best meet the need of this group of individuals, while still working within the requirements of the course and organisation requirements.

Organisational learner characteristics

What about when you are designing training or assessment at a higher and wider level?

If you are developing material to meet an organisation full of learners, how do you consider and address characteristics then? Is there a generic profile of what a learner or learners are typically like to help guide your design?

Luckily annual reports, workforce planning, research and literature, as well as surveys can help build a picture of learner trends across an organisation. The information may require some digging and extrapolating, but you should be able to find statistics or anecdotal evidence that will give you organisation wide learner profiling including:

  • Average length of experience with the organisation
  • Average age ranges and gender
  • Location and access to resources (including computers and internet connection type)
  • Previous education, as well as language, literacy, numeracy levels (For some emergency services this is tested as part of the employment process. For other organisations, especially those heavily involved with volunteers, there has been some great generic research on education and foundation skill levels across communities, which could be applied to organisations that are a reflection of the communities they serve)
  •  Previous implementation and success of learning initiatives dependent on delivery method and learning approaches

By considering these factors, it is possible to design something that will hopefully meet the requirements of learners across the organisation.

Sector wide learner characteristics

One level higher again – if you are trying to engage multiple organisations or agencies in training together or encouraging use of common resources (because often the content is the same in many ways!) how do you consider characteristics and needs of learners across different organisations? This is something we should have been thinking about for a few years now, especially with the push for multi-agency training programs gaining momentum in several states.

To a certain extent, the learner needs identified at an organisational level will provide the key information. It will need to be compared across the different organisations involved, especially in areas where there are differing minimum levels of skills and LLN needs.

Consideration should be given to the differing language and slightly unique processes used by different organisations – always looking for commonality and helping to ensure learning is understandable and meaningful for all learners. In particular, look at:

  • Scenario choice – some emergency situations and events are more generic and inclusive than other emergencies
  • Graphics choice – especially anything that denotes uniform, ranks or positions during an emergency
  • Audio choice – especially applicable to online learning! This includes any music and choice of characters for voice overs. This may also include clips from radio chatter
  • Word choice – Jargon, jargon, more jargon, acronyms, lots more acronyms, some mnemonics… this is all especially hard when different organisations call the same thing different things!

This awesome logo is from

The Shift to Digital Learning

We were recently asked to explain to a client the benefits in shifting to digital learning. Realising that this is obviously a trend that is increasingly hard to buck while staying comparative with other organisations in the Public Safety sector, they wanted to  have some good reasons to promote to members and encourage them to embrace the digital option.

Benefits to highlight

  1. Personalising learning – the ability to access desired content at the time and location that meets the needs of individual learners, and to move through the content at their own pace, focusing on what is most relevant to them.
  2. More opportunities – learners can access content previously not available in their area, or use content from other organisations/locations around the world that meet their learning needs. Heaven’s above, some is even free!
  3. Engagement of new generations – for the learners who have grown up with technology and internet connection, digital learning and strategies such as game based learning and interactive activities online increases engagement and motivation. It may also appeal to other generations who have also embraced this type of interaction.
  4. Tracking progress – for trainers, assessors and organisations, digital learning makes it possible to see how learners progress through materials and where their strengths and needs lie by tracking completions and responses. For learners, things like Experience API (TinCan) mean learning in a broader sense can also be recorded and recognised by their organisation.
  5. Opportunities for social and collaborative learning across the organisation – helping to break down silos of organizational structure and geographical locations, digital learning can include social media platforms (such as the really great Facebook Workplace platform recently implemented by Ambulance Victoria).
  6. Preparing learners in our organisations for larger digital trends – opportunities for learners to gain confidence and skills in navigating digital devices and interfaces will support them with other tasks that are increasingly more digital – easily seen as more pictures of Incident Management Teams, Control Centres, response vehicles/equipment and the focus of AFAC and groups such as Bush Fire CRC  are circulated online and in the media. An interesting article on some of this is available from The Australian  if you want a quick read. A Day in Your Life 2020 is also an older but still eye opening video (although maybe still slightly ahead of the general times!) There are lots of other videos that show other technology that will be changing our sector, such as this look at Firefighting in the Future.

We hear you say BUT! What about…

These benefits above don’t eliminate the challenges that digital learning also presents to our organisations. Lots of members will be quick to highlight these when you start talking about a digital shift. Change is rarely easy, cheap, well implemented or the solution to all problems…

  • Issues of cost and infrastructure are common, but organisations are slowly overcoming these, as has happened with other changes through history in the sector.
  • Challenges of interoperability, security and authenticity are being increasingly addressed by developers.

The challenge you should be talking about

If we are going to focus on and talk about any of the challenges, lets work out ways to address the risk of organisations developing “More of the same”. There is minimum benefit gained by layering technology on top of the same old way we have done things. Let’s face the challenge of developing new paradigms and models and finding ways to shift people’s training and assessment practices at the same time we shift to digital learning.



New Buzz Word Alert: LXD

It wouldn’t be the training industry without the introduction of new buzz words every year! Here is a new one if you haven’t heard it yet:

LXD: Learner Experience Design

What is it?

LXD is about applying principles of User Experience Design (often referred to as UX Design) to the learning process.

UX.jpgUX is a term that has been used for a while to explain an approach to design where diverse fields such as psychology, service design and graphic design are brought together to understand a user, their context and what they want to achieve. This helps put them at the centre of design in order to create the best overall user experience – making things work for the user, and not the other way around. I always thought this picture helped explain the potential mismatch of not doing UX well.

So LXD takes things one step further and applies the same ideas to the learning environment. We need to ask ourselves “how do learners best reach the desired learning outcomes?” And this is not just about online learning – it should be applied to every context that is being used including face to face training and any social learning.

How do I use it?

As is often the case with new buzz words, you may already be doing this (and now you know what it is currently being called). You are using LXD if you are:

  • Considering the target learner group for any training: background experience and previous training, demographics, preferences, motivations, needs
  • Putting yourself in the learner’s shoes and experiencing the training from their perspective
  • Mapping out progression of learners through different training and through this particular training – seeing how the parts and the whole fit together and support each other
  • Including some learners, some subject matter experts and other trainers in the design process. Too often we end up designing in a vacuum and fill in any gaps with what we assume to be right or think will work.
  •  Testing training ideas by observing learners complete the training to see what sticks, then refining or changing things based on the learner’s experiences of completing the training. Real user testing is crucial!
  • When creating online learning or print materials considering not just content, but also the visual design and using brain supporting strategies such as colours, grouping, white space, images and learner interactions
  • Allowing learners freedom to determine what they complete or what they skip, based on their own assessment of their abilities… (as long as they can do it, does it matter how they learnt it?)
  • Focusing on what creates behaviour change and skills development rather than content (I love this diagram below! It really explains what needs to be included in training and what we can live without/put elsewhere). Click on the picture to go to a great presentation by Julie Dirksen from Usable Learning that explains it more.




Taking Risks as a Trainer

Risk taking is becoming a core skill for the 21st Century. If we are a ‘risk society’ that focuses on the future and dealing with uncertainty and insecurity, then the Public Safety Sector that faces this daily should provide some great examples of risk takers!

We are in an industry where we can see historically how research, trial and error and innovation has led to changes in the way we do things. We all love finding out about innovative equipment, technology and ways to train and learn in the emergency services with endless conference sessions dedicated to sharing the ideas of others.

It is often said that if you keep doing what you have always done… you will get what you have always gotten. Our society has developed an understanding that risk is integral to innovation and that advances are dependent on experimentation. It is acknowledged that taking risks can be demanding on resources and effort, but the rewards can be great when it leads to success.

So when it comes to actually making the leap, why are so many of us trainers reluctant to take more risks and try new things?  (Hint: probably similar to why our learners are also nervous about trying new things!!)

Why don’t we?

Research would suggest that maybe one or more of the following is influencing our decision to try:

  1. As humans we don’t want to fail, and we want to avoid criticism.
    A feature built into our brains! Elbert Hubbard said, “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Yet this is obviously not the way to discover innovative or improved ways to train and work. This is the way to be stale, boring and complacent. If we are encouraging the right culture in our training and organisation, then we should not be afraid of trying something.
  2. We like to think we are “masters” of what we already do… and maybe we haven’t yet embraced a growth mindset.
    When we try something new, high probability is we will not be perfect and things will go wrong. This is a bit of a hit to our self-image. Maybe we need to remember what Kim Collins said – “Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.” In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. Rather than thinking about revealing a weakness, you embrace a chance to grow.
  3. We lack confidence in ourselves – we don’t think we have the skills or knowledge to do something new or innovative.
    Yet as Carl Jung said, “Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.” Talking with anyone who has ever made a discovery or developed an innovative technique or piece of equipment will tell you about how they used partial ideas, guesses, trial and error to eventually develop their knowledge and skills to create something that worked. You just have to get started and try… multiple times.

How could we?

Here are some suggestions that may encourage you to try and take a little bit more risk:

  • Make a conscious effort to change your attitude
    Override your natural instinct to stay quiet or just do what you have always done. Try delivering a different topic or course. Look for opportunities where you can try an activity a little bit differently, or put into action that idea you have been brewing in the back of your mind. If it doesn’t work out, reflect and try again.
  • Observe and reflect – when you are not the trainer
    Anybody who pays attention can see things that can be improved. A little tweak to a process or a change to the way we explain things could improve things for everyone. Watching other people train or do tasks on the job or at an assessment is a great opportunity to gather data and consider changes to your training.
  • Ask others
    Just because you are the trainer does not mean new ideas need to come from you. Maybe one of your learners or another person in your organisation has an idea or a possible innovation. You can help support it and test it. As a start to taking more risks, try including questions in your training such as ‘How else can we do this?’ or ‘Today we are going to do this but what will happen if we change this one thing?’

Remember that this type of risk-taking is a chosen and often learned behavior. (It is not something to be managed and minimalized or avoided.)  We can find the balance between working outside our comfort zones and still retain good judgment about what is safe and best for our learners.


Technology Skills Resource for Those With a ZERO Budget

If you work in an organisation where there is a large enough budget to support external delivery of material or online subscription databases such as that support independent learning, lucky you!

If you (like me) work with a more restricted budget… say anything from $0 to even $100 a person per year for Professional Development, you will likely have experienced frustrations with trying to source external support, or gotten exceedingly good at the skill of pleading, bargaining, bartering and sharing.

While all of these methods are often necessary and usually effective, it’s also nice to occasionally come across an external resource that is:

  1. Focusing on an area where you have no or limited internal resources
  2. High quality and user friendly
  3. Free!!!!

When gems such as these are found, they should be shared with your fellow L&D community and enthusiastic learners. So, let me share with you my latest find.

Who will this help

Working in the Emergency Service Sector, we have an abundance of experts for technical and rescue skills. We also have a lot of ‘field’ people who’s role now includes documenting, budgeting, tracking and a heap of other office based tasks (usually involving computer programs). Techno-literacy is becoming an increasing issue across organisations, especially as more work and learning becomes device based. There isn’t usually time or suitable resources for one-on-one training, or a lot of cash for a course.

Where do you need to go

logo  Check out The Global Community Foundation International

All learning opportunities (tutorials, classes, articles, videos modules, and interactive lessons) are completely free to all users. If you register for a free account they will also track your progress and give you a transcript for work completed.

The focus is mainly on technology skills, with straightforward bite size sessions, accompanied by step by step instructions, practice documents, supporting videos and adequate screen shots to explain everything.

One quote on the site summed it up for me:

I have paid money for classes that were not nearly as well organised or as helpful.

Note: Brio has no affiliation with GCFI and there are no kick-backs for us. This is just a community service announcement 🙂

Training Tweak: Better Reflections

As trainers and assessors, we recognise that powerful learning comes not from doing something, but from learners reflecting on what they did, why they did it and how it worked out. Great trainers include reflection activities and debriefs as key parts of any training sessions. Just like a mirror – we ask learners to look at themselves and share what they see.

mirrorHowever, ask any number of people and they will tell you that some mirrors are better than others. Even excluding weird and wonderful versions you find at the Fun Parks,  ‘normal’ mirrors can give you different views of yourself. (And of course there is the magic mirrors that are happy to tell you that you are the fairest in all the land.)

So what happens when one of our learner seems to be staring into a mirror that isn’t giving a very honest reflection of themselves, or who only takes a quick glance?

You may get one of those learners who either can’t seem to see any deficiencies with their performance or, just as awfully, can’t see any of the positive things that they have done. Maybe they try and rush through a reflection with a one word answer. Maybe they are expecting you to tell them what you see and think (unfortunately a bad habit of many trainers and assessors, especially those short on time!)

A few choice questions and phrases might just tweak that reflection process.

Note: The tweak below is going to work best if you have dutifully watched the learner and thought about some key learning points to guide the reflection. Also, it works from the idea that the learning comes from the learner doing the thinking helped by your questioning – NOT by you doing the talking and stating. Have your question list handy with your note pad.

Guiding questions for effective reflections

Getting started – use a question break the ice!
  • How do you think that went?
  • How are you feeling now? Why?
  • How do you think you performed?
  • What do you think went well? What did you find tricky about this situation?

    Any of these are great open questions that allows the learner to share their thoughts without influence from you. For learners who reflect well it may be all you need. For everyone else, it gives you an indication of what personality type and skill level you are dealing with, and breaks the ice for what comes next.

Follow up questions – tunnel down to reach the points you want learners to reflect on
  • I saw….
  • I heard…

These two are all about your observations. They are non judgemental. They are not arguable. They may also highlight something the learner doesn’t remember or even realise happened. Starting with a statement is a great way to introduce something (positive or negative) to guide the learner in their reflection – particularly when followed up with questions that makes them explain things from their view and think through the consequences. for example:

  • When xxx happened, what were you thinking about?
  • Why did you decide to do xxx?
  • What do you think might have happened as a result of that?
  • What other options did you consider/could you have considered?
Make sure the learning points are clear – summarise reflection or give further guidance
  • So if you had to do this task again, what would you do differently?
  • What are a couple of key things you are going to focus on more next time?
  • What’s the best take away/lesson you have gained from this activity?
  • What do you think you need to practice more of?

Sometimes discussions can go for a while – a lot is discussed and the key points may get lost in the mix. Taking a minute to have learners summarise their main learning points is essential. Creating an action plan helps make sure the reflection time is most useful.

You may have a couple of extra points from things you observed. You can share with the learner anything they didn’t cover if you think it will really add to their learning experience (Don’t get too picky!) Your favourite line to the learner should hopefully be “During your reflection you covered off all the key things I had noticed. We are on the same page, so I don’t have much more to add except well done!”

For learners who just didn’t get to key learning points through honest reflection – even after your careful questioning, here is your chance to just give it to them straight. Give feedback in a simple way – including a couple of things you thought went OK, before telling them a couple of things  you want to see happen differently and why.

If you are short on time, rather than falling back into the habit of telling, just keep the reflection focused on one or two learning points.


Training a Wider Membership Spectrum

volunteering-reimagined-banner_1366x500.jpgAs part of the AFAC 2017 conference held in Sydney last month, I saw a presentation by NSW SES about their new vision for membership types – aptly named Volunteering Reimagined. For further information check out:

Many Emergency Services in Australia already have different types of members for which they need to manage training, assessment and currency:

  • Full time
  • Part time
  • Retained/Casual
  • Volunteer

NSW SES now highlights the further variety of volunteers that can support the organisation during emergencies, including:

  • Spontaneous Volunteers (as also highlighted by recent Australasian research)
  • Corporate Volunteers
  • Community Action Teams (casual volunteers)

While there is much to be appreciated about their reasons and goals for this new vision, as a trainer I immediately had a ton of questions about the practicalities of managing a new spectrum of members. In particular I wondered:

What is the impact at the local and regional levels?
  • How will trainers and assessors need to adapt training calendars and general availability of training to meet all the needs?
  • Will there be a need for more trainers and assessors (is there increased workload)?
  • Will some of these new volunteers actually not need “offical” trainers or assessors to complete their training? Is there new roles for some keen and experienced members to take the lead?
What is the impact at the State level?
    • Do existing training materials need to be recreated in different ways to meet the needs of new volunteer types?
    • What role (if any) does nationally accredited training play in any new training that needs to be developed?
    • What training and assessment records need to be maintained for new volunteer types, and will the current system manage this?

Some other ideas that excitedly started running around my brain included:

  • What a great chance to develop some training that really focuses on the ‘need to know’ rather than the ‘nice to know’
  • What a great chance to roll out training in a way that is accessible for the ‘just in time’ rather than the ‘just in case’
  • What a great chance to utilise all the buddy trainers that currently exist inside an organisation – because quite a few of these new volunteers could potentially be learning on the job
  • Here’s a good chance to see how brave members inside an organisation can be: how will everyone respond to this change? There will definitely be some real change champions and case studies to come out of this! (Maybe next AFAC Conference??)

I’m sure there will be many aside from myself who look forward to seeing how NSW SES Volunteering Reimagined becomes reality! Hopefully there are highlights and lessons learned to help others consider how things could look in their own organisation.

Velg Training: Next week is National VET PD Week

About Velg Training

velg.jpgIf you are not a member of Velg Training or haven’t even heard of them before, its time to check them out:

Even if you don’t have a paid membership, you can be a Follower for free and get regular updates on the industry that Emergency Services Training works within. The website itself has a good knowledge hub for resources to help ensure you have compliant training and assessment.

Note: there are several Emergency Services that keep an organisational Membership that you might be able to access.  Talk to your L&D team.

National VET PD Week

Next week, from 23-27th October, Velg Training and ACPET are hosting the inaugural National VET PD Week!

You can check out all the offerings by clicking here: 10 experts, 10 webinars over 5 days

For those of us with limited time and budget for getting our own development, there may be something that interests you. At $49 for the webinar, it is a small investment but cheaper than many other offerings around at the moment.

Some of the topics were sounding particularly interesting for Trainers and Assessors, not just developers! How about…

  • Effective Training Techniques – Understanding how to use C.O.R.E. – Closers, Openers, Revisiters, Energisers
  • How to change your teaching style to accommodate different learning levels (AQF levels)
  • Five challenges for Assessor

Velg Training issues certificates of attendance, so you will have evidence to help show how you are maintaining your currency in VET skills.

Note: Brio Consulting has no affiliation with Velg Training (although we choose to maintain our membership with them for our own PD purposes)

Overcoming Optimum Bias

Would you cross the road at this 80 KPH location?


What about if a 10 year old child was crossing the road with you?
What about if you knew that two pedestrians have been killed at this location?

Would you stand unsecured on the edge of a 12 storey building?


What would you change in your thinking if someone told you that getting hit by a car travelling at 80kph as you crossed the median strip was equivalent to falling off a 12 storey building?

Sometimes our perceptions and risk assessments look on the bright side of things…

Let’s talk about Optimum Bias

Optimism bias (also known as unrealistic optimism) is a cognitive bias that causes a person to believe that they are at a lesser risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others.

I first heard this term at an Ambulance Service NSW training session on risk assessment, and have not heard anyone refer to the term since… but the concept is so true, and gives a label to an idea I know some trainers and assessors try to raise awareness of in any training and risk assessment they are involved in.

Research says that optimum bias transcends characteristics such as gender, race or age. Each of us have this bias, influenced by the following factors:

  1. Our desired end state (goals)
  2. Our style of thinking and decision making
  3. The beliefs we have about ourselves versus others
  4. Our overall mood

While this concept can help our thinking in positive ways, research shows that it is more likely to have negative effects – leading us to engage in activities that hold more risk, or us not taking the right precautionary measures for safety.

What might this look like in the Emergency Services?

Do you (or someone you know) display any of the following?

  • Responders who tend to focus on finding information that supports what they want to see happen, rather than what will actually happen to them
  • Team members who are overly confident about their skill set… until they find out they are going to be tested on it (then they get quite modest)
  • Officers who believes they will not be harmed in a car accident if they are driving the vehicle because they are in control
  • Officers who tend to think in stereotypes rather than the actual targets when making comparisons, e.g. bad drivers cause crashes (discounting all the average drivers who also are involved in crashers), or low socioeconomic demographics have higher levels of heart disease and heart attacks (discounting all those people of high socioeconomic backgrounds in other areas that also have heart disease)
  • Team members who bases risk assessments on their own specific experiences and feelings, while ignoring what may be experienced by others and the average person
  • Responders who thinks the risk is lower or “it won’t happen to me” until a familiar person, such as a friend or family member, is involved in an incident or has that problem

These are all examples of optimum bias.

What might be key consequences be of not considering our optimum biases when we work?

  • Less effective risk assessment of situations we are putting ourselves and team mates into
  • Not taking enough preventative measures to ensure the safety of ourselves and others
  • Getting ourselves into tricky situations or causing further damage when we overestimate our ability
  • Missing possible causes of situations (or health conditions) from having a selective view of things

What can we do to reduce optimum bias in our work?

Studies have shown that it is very difficult to eliminate optimistic bias; however, raising awareness of and reducing this bias could encourage people to adapt to more risk-aware behaviours. More specifically, we can try to:

  • Keep it close to home: encourage comparison and thinking of ourselves and those close to us. This heightens our emotions and our level of concern about risks
  • Increase experience and exposure: actually experiencing an event leads to a decrease in optimum bias. This is hard to do in many Emergency Service situations – so think about the importance of simulations, scenario based training and purposeful sharing of experiences to help build memory slides in individuals. At the very least having an awareness of the previously unknown will reduce the optimism of “it will never happen to me”
  • Make sure you consider the big picture: stand back and take a situation in – don’t focus too early on specific theories, or don’t eliminate other possibilities until you have more data and observations to give you a good picture of what else might be happening
  • Expect the unexpected: just because you haven’t seen it happen before doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t happen. Look up “black swan” theory if you are interested in this idea.

Language, Literacy, Numeracy (LLN) in Australian Emergency Services

The Challenge

Historically the emergency services have conducted a high percentage of face to face, hands on practical training.  However with the move to nationally accredited training and the introduction of the Public Safety Training Package  in the late 1990’s (as well as changes in community expectations, legal pressures and changing technologies) there has become an increase in written training materials, pre-course work, self-directed learning and online training. While creating opportunities for flexible learning, this increasingly raises the issue of Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN).

If you accept that the members of our emergency services are a representation of the Australian community they serve, then it is possible that 13.7% of the members have literacy levels of 1 or lower (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013). This figure is consistent with other research into volunteer emergency services, which found that of those surveyed, 15% indicated that literacy was an issue for them. The sector is increasingly facing LLN challenges due to the diverse nature of our workforce.

The History


Despite there being Government policies and programs for decades, many expert groups have felt LLN skill development has not been given the value, funding or attention it deserves.  More specifically,  programs that have been developed are fragmented, contradictory and contain ad hoc strategies.

After 20 years of no new policy, 2012 saw the long-expected release of the National Foundation Skills Strategy (NFSS) which introduced a change in LLN terminology – no longer being referred to as LLN skills but as Foundation Skills – which was defined as a combination of English language, literacy, numeracy and employability skills. The introduction of this strategy and the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF), has seen qualifications for trainers and assessors updated to focus more on meeting the needs of adult literacy and numeracy needs. This was acheived through the inclusion of an additional compulsory competency (currently TAELLN411).

Actions Taken

This competency has been rolled out to many members of the Emergency Services (specifically those required to hold the Cert IV in Training and Education) however for many more mentors, or trainers who hold only the Enterprise Trainer and Assessor skill sets, this professional development may have passed them by.

More recently, most emergency service organisations have introduced documentation of the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) levels into their training and assessment material to assist with identifying the necessary levels needed to undertake the training/assessment. Whilst some changes have been made within training materials to better reflect these levels a lot of training and assessment tasks still involve the completion of large amounts of reading, and tests such as multiple choice or written questions.

Generally all necessary documentation used by trainers, assessors and learners now includes a statement about how learners who require extra support can access this. Information is also included in learner/student handbooks if produced by the organisation. This in part links to requirements for maintaining RTO compliance.

With regards to online learning, organisations have started including the use of voice over, video support and a better percentage of animation/graphics to text to reduce literacy load of content – however online learning also presents an increased issue of digital literacy issues.

Many individual trainers and assessors within organisations have used various strategies informally to meet the learner requirements  – including the provision of practical, hands-on training, reader and writer support and spending additional time on written material where required.

Some organisations have introduced foundation skills testing as part of the recruitment process to identify learner issues that may require support – or to ensure learners hold the minimum required levels for their roles prior to being offered a position. This strategy has proved more challenging (logistically, financially and ethically) for the volunteer emergency services than services employing full time members.

Some organisations are beginning to introduce policy and guidelines to provide specific or practical suggestions to support trainers and assessors, or have identified “specialist” support personnel within the organisation that can be contacted for further guidance.

There is no doubt that emergency service organisations know that these issues exist – however without some clear cut, more recent data everyone is using best guesses to determine exactly how much of an issue our sector may have. With so many other competing demands, it’s also unsurprising that budget and time to develop support strategies and documentation for LLN/Foundation Skills is not a top priority.

Moving Forwards

So for those of us who are face to face with the learners who require extra support, what options do you have if you feel that organisationally the whole LLN/Foundation Skills thing is a bit wishy washy? Or that what is provided isn’t enough to meet the needs you have?

  • Contact someone – on a case by case basis, talk to your L&D Officer, your state level L&D Section or your identified LLN specialist in the organisation. Get some specific advice and help.
  • Look outside the organisation – within our sector another organisation may have some information that can help you out, such as guidelines or strategies that they suggest work for the type of training we all do.
  • Look outside the sector – there is a HEAP of specialist websites and organisations designed to support learners with needs and give suggestions for trainers and assessors who are working with them.
  • Encourage the individual learner to seek support and development – they can contact the Reading/Writing Hotline, or take a basic course at TAFE designed to develop adult literacy and numeracy skills.  This could be a chance to improve not just their participation in your training, but a chance to improve their future learning and opportunities in life.
  • Do some Professional Development for your own benefit – even if your organisation isn’t offering anything in this area at the moment, it doesn’t need to stop you!

Check out these suggestions:


This blog post comes thanks to the research and writing contributions
of Natalie Cassone