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“Vocational education and training focuses on outcomes relevant to modern workplaces, and gives learners practical and transferable skills that helps them to develop and progress,” Amanda Swards
In this month’s newsletter we continue a series of profiles featuring the Chairs of each of the 11 Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) we support.
This month we profile the Chair of the Corrections IRC, Amanda Swards, Senior Learning and Development Officer for Strategic Youth Services, Department of Communities, Tasmania.
How did you come to work in your industry?
Back in 2003, I applied for a role as an Executive Assistant with the then Director of Prisons and was successful. I have remained in custodial corrections in one form or another for the last 16 years.
I was an Exec Assistant for about 18 months, and then moved into a policy and recruitment role. I loved the recruitment aspect and was fortunate enough to be part of a team that were willing to let me try other tasks not technically connected to my role. One of these was training staff. Eventually, I became a Learning and Development Manager for the Tasmania Prison Service. Little did I know when I first started at the Prison Service that I would ‘fall into’ a role that I would become very passionate about.
What is your current role?
Today, I am the Senior Learning and Development Officer for Strategic Youth Services, an output of the Department of Communities in Tasmania. This role is specifically around the learning and development needs of staff employed in a Youth Detention Centre.
In the very near future I will be moving back to adult corrections, but this time as the Learning and Development Manager for Community Corrections.
What is the best part of your job?
The interaction with staff who have very difficult roles on the ‘front line’ and seeing them grow and develop both personally and professionally. This has been the case in both adult and juvenile corrections, and I am expecting it will be the same when I move into Community Corrections.
Why are you an advocate for Vocational Education and Training?
Workplaces favour candidates with transferable skills who are open to continued learning. Vocational Education and Training prepares people for work. It focuses on outcomes relevant to modern workplaces, and gives learners good, practical and transferable skills that helps them to develop and progress. VET also takes into consideration the skills and knowledge a person already possesses and gives them credit for those.
Personally, I have eight VET qualifications, all gained through the course of my employment with the Prison Service. Some of those qualifications helped me to gain promotions, and some have helped me to move into other related areas.
What has your organisation done to develop the skills of your workforce?
The Department is strongly focused on the training and development needs of staff. It is doing a significant amount to develop the skills of Youth Workers at the Detention Centre. I have been brought in, on contract, for 12-18 months specifically to develop, implement, broker and coordinate training and other development activities and targeted programs for staff. I provide advice, support and assistance to management and employees on a range of learning and development issues.
The Department has also formalised a training officer role at the Detention Centre.
What are you passionate about? What makes you smile?
On a personal level, my grandchildren, and working with Tasmanian timber (I have my own lathe and love creating wooden items).
On a professional level – I am passionate about helping those who want to grow and develop in their career.