The Australian Public Service now has its own academy.
Designed to usher in a new era of learning and development for the entire sector, its aim is to foster a culture of excellence in education for public servants.
With a highly qualified APS Learning Board and faculty, an action plan, and learning and development strategy, the Australian Public Service Academy is up and running.
Launched on Thursday, but in operation since the beginning of the month, the academy is housed inside Old Parliament House and offers a comprehensive curriculum of in-person and online courses and tutorials.
Learning pillars include culture, governance, capabilities, and technology — all with the view of building an upskilled workforce prepared to meet the challenges of a changing world.
Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott said the academy would be a place for all APS employees to learn, develop, discuss and share.
“Working in partnership with APS agencies and external industry experts, the academy will focus on developing ‘APS craft’ capabilities to equip our workforce with the skills, tools and knowledge to shape and deliver effective outcomes for government and the Australian community,” he said.
“The launch of the academy delivers on an important element of the government’s APS reform agenda to invest in APS capability.
“In our ever-changing operating environment, the public service needs to adapt, develop, and operate as one APS in order to continue to deliver for all Australians.”
A networked learning hub hoping to connect the best of public service knowledge, resources and experience, the academy’s purpose is to future-proof the APS.
It will provide practitioner-led learning and offer a broad range of contemporary teaching approaches so as to facilitate study anytime, anywhere.
Participation in the courses will come through a mix of self-nomination and supervisor selection. The academy aims to have study recognised and qualifications accredited through partnerships with academic institutions.
And it is designed to complement rather than compete with education opportunities currently provided by groups such as ANZSOG and IPAA.
There is a fog of confusion, however, over how much the academy is costing the taxpayer. Its budget largely sits across individual agencies, with nine secondments also having been made to the Australian Public Service Commission and the academy.
The APSC has not been able to provide a picture at this stage of the whole learning and development spend.
It did acknowledge that in the vicinity of $450,000 has been spent on external contractors to establish the academy.
The academy’s establishment is partly as a result of the blueprint for reform of Australian government administration prepared a decade ago by Terry Moran, former secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
That 2010 report, Ahead of the Game, recommended that learning and development of the APS be expanded and strengthened.
Recommendations included: identifying core service-wide development needs; endorsing a principle of annual professional development for all APS employees; delivering core learning and development programs that are centrally procured; and evaluating a range of courses and negotiating the best rates.
The 2019 Thodey Review focussing on APS capabilities, again highlighted the need for development in the sector.
And the onset of COVID-19 simply accelerated the need.