FESA CEO Gregson is quoted as saying that he was astounded at the lack of training in FESA (The West Australian 24 October 2011). Mr Gregson is right on the money and it is time that more focus is directed by senior FESA staff to ensure appropriate resourcing, staffing and funding, to ensure the effective and timely training of State Emergency Service Volunteers.
The planned reduction of State Emergency Service training staff at Forrestfield Training Centre is not an option.
There are more than 2200 Volunteers who perform the State Emergency Service function throughout Western Australia. These Volunteers are trained as emergency service responders for the five HMA roles, key combat roles and support roles. In the pre FESA days the State Emergency Service staff trained the Volunteer trainers and they, in turn, trained the Volunteers.
This system worked well and the level of training, although only state based, was effective.Soon after the advent of FESA the development of National Competency Based training commenced. There were a number of advantages with this type of training, including consistency and savings in sharing of training development across the nation. A further gain for the Volunteers was the transportability of skills and training that could be used anywhere in the nation or workplace.
With only three staff the State Emergency Service training group at the Forrestfield Training Centre has been struggling with resources and funding to support the training and development of more than 2200 Volunteers throughout the state. Originally the State Emergency Service training came out of Emergency Management Australia’s suite of Australian Emergency Manuals.
These still exist today however some skills have been dropped out of the National Skills Series. Originally there were books for reference but they were so full of information and were not specific to any one State or territory. Consequently no-one really used these as a training resource for course Participants. There are now individual workbooks, developed at state and national levels, which cover every detail of the skills and knowledge to undertake that type of operation so they can be used for initial training and post training as a reference. Many of the workbooks are also supported with ‘Aide Memoires’ because some skills are very complex and to retain all that important information would be very hard for the average State Emergency Service or Volunteer Emergency Service Volunteer. State Emergency Service workbooks (and Training Resource Kits) have been created using a formal consultation process (a training reference group of SES Volunteers) and written by personnel who had understanding and empathy with the Volunteers in the State Emergency Service and Volunteer Emergency Service.
These were developed with passion and knowledge of good practice and rigour. All the Western Australian TRK’s are shared with other States/Territories. The National Training group (NETC) is looking at the creation of national TRKs at this time so we have approximately 90% conformity with skills across Australia in the future for core response skills. It is of paramount importance that State Emergency Service people remain on the national committees so the development of national TRK’s are progressed with the people who have experience as Volunteers in that field.
Because the State Emergency Service relies heavily on good Volunteer Trainers and Assessors they have always been the leaders in developing the required training products throughout the nation.By working this way nationally, delivery is kept in-house and we are able to maintain control of quality and ensure the correct context for our industry is used. We did try TAFE delivery in the past.
Unfortunately their lack of understanding of our business led to numerous complaints about lack of follow up and support. We Volunteers had to rely on the generosity of internal State Emergency Service Training staff to pick up the pieces and get us over the line. As State Emergency Service Volunteers we see the need to get us in and out of the classroom then on to relevant skills activities and scenarios as soon as possible. Other States and Territories are going down the paths of on-line and CD based products for training.
These are much more relevant today as younger people are joining our Units and have the on-line computer skills. We now need FESA to be involved nationally with these new products which will assist many of our Volunteers to move through the on-line training and reduce their class room time Nationally the State Emergency Service training group in WA is held in very high regard and has participated in a national program for Validation and Moderation of State Emergency Service skills with Staff attending a series of ‘Community of Practice’ workshops in Melbourne and Hobart.
Now that FESA CEO Gregson has identified the training short comings, we hope he takes this opportunity to work through issues with the representatives of the State Emergency Service Volunteers to have the correct number of staff (strongly rumoured to be decreased with the new structure) and an appropriate finance base to provide effective and timely training to all Volunteers performing the State Emergency Service role.
(Editorial submitted by three concerned SES volunteers – names withheld by request)
If you would like to provide feed back on this very important issue Phillip Petersen who is a senior SES volunteer and FESA/SES Senior Trainer Assessor and SESVA Committee Member would be pleased to hear from you. His contact details are: firstname.lastname@example.org Your comments with used to formulate a submission on SES Training in WA.