Australian Public Service launches new professional development academy

By on 27/07/2021 | Updated on 27/07/2021
Time to hit the books: the APS has launched a new professional development academy. Credit: Kimberly Farmer/Unsplash

The Australian Public Service (APS) has launched a new, service-wide learning and development (L&D) hub to build capabilities and set standards for professional training.

The APS Academy aims to foster a “culture of learning” across the service, develop core skills and “drive high performance”, according to plans released last week.

“The launch of the academy delivers on an important element of the government’s APS reform agenda to invest in APS capability,” said APS commissioner Peter Woolcott AO.

“The academy is a place for all APS employees to learn, develop, discuss and share,” he added.

The academy forms part of the new APS Learning and Development Strategy and its accompanying action plan, both of which were also published last week.

A new approach to professional development

The strategy sets out two new models that will affect L&D across the APS: a “continuous learning model” and a “one-APS learning ecosystem”.

The former acknowledges that formal training is not the only means by which professionals learn, and widens the focus to include learning methods that professionals use more regularly. These include people (connecting with other professionals); resources (toolkits, guidelines etc); work (on-the-job development); and courses.

The APS Academy will offer learning across these four methods to ensure professionals “can take control of your own learning and development”, according to its website. Indeed, the strategy shares the responsibility for L&D between individuals, managers, and leaders.

The second model – a “one-APS learning ecosystem” – acknowledges that responsibility for building knowledge and skills across the APS is shared amongst many parties. This includes teams, individuals, and managers alongside senior leaders, agency L&D teams, the APS professions, specialist development hubs, external partners and others.

Learning the craft

The APS Academy is a “new addition to this ecosystem”, according to the strategy.

Alongside helping professionals and teams to collaborate, share knowledge and network, the academy will also collaborate with agencies and other partners to deliver L&D on the skills and behaviours that are required across the APS.

These cross-service traits have been named “public service craft capabilities”.

There are six APS “crafts”: integrity; working in government (including a “willingness to serve” and understand the context in which the APS works); engagement and partnership (collaboration to develop policies and services); implementation and services (“identifying, designing and implementing beneficial services”); strategy, policy and evaluation (analysing challenges to “deliver excellent advice to government); leadership and management (increasing productivity and inspiring individuals and teams).

The academy will be based in Old Parliament House in Australia’s capital Canberra. It will host live events and workshops, as well as online learning options so that Australian public and civil servants based around the country and the world can take part. The APS Academy website also says it has “craft toolkits” that contain a “curated suite of resources including frameworks, methodologies, tools, templates, networks and centres of excellence and research.”

With the academy focused on service-wide capabilities, “agency L&D teams and other L&D ecosystem contributors can focus on developing agency-specific, professional and specialist capabilities,” the action plan notes.

The academy will also lead a working group to create standards for L&D in the APS. It will then support other teams that deliver L&D to adopt these.

Over the next year, as part of the action plan, the APS Academy will also help to create an L&D evaluation framework to assess the impact of the continuous learning model.

It will be overseen by an APS Learning Board. This will be chaired by Woolcott AO, alongside several other internal executive members. The external members are yet to be announced.

About Kate Hodge

Kate is a journalist and editor, holding roles at both the Guardian and the Financial Times. She specialised in education and combines writing, commissioning and editing with social media and audience engagement. If you have any ideas you would like to pitch, or suggestions to improve the website, feel free to email her on [email protected].

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