The intention of the Disability Support Work Online project is threefold. Firstly, we are intending to develop a user friendly, flexible learning tool that will facilitate the essential skill development of new workers in the Disability Support Industry. Secondly, the outcomes of this project will provide employers with a training solution that is flexible, ensures compliance with regulatory standards, and contributes to the long term retention of skilled motivated staff. Lastly, the E-learning solution will be available for the Framework to format so that it may be shared publicly through the Learning Object Repository Network.

The disability support sector has and is experiencing a critical need to develop the skills and knowledge of new entrants to the workforce so that they can competently fulfill their job role. The nature of the work undertaken by disability support workers is often sensitive and multi-tasked as the individual works intimately with the person with a disability in a variety of settings, their families and networks according to state and federal legislative and organizational requirements. The work environment can vary greatly and the situations faced may be both physically and psychologically taxing.

As the Disability Support Sector competes with other not-for-profit organizations to attract and retain skilled staff it has experienced staff turnover rates in the region of 24.1% (as found by the Dept. of Families and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in 2002-2003) which is approximately 10.1% above the national average. Supporting this evidence is the finding by the ACROD (now NDS) NSW Workforce Planning and Development subcommittee 2006 that; it is “…difficult for agencies to provide adequate staff inductions and opportunities for staff to engage in occupational development and training”. Compounding this situation is that staff shortages often results in “…training being placed on the backburner…”

Furthermore, the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council has published its first Environmental Scan (March 2008) which adds further weight to the findings detailed above. The scan clearly identified the need to approach and shape the development of workers’ skills differently against the challenge of “systemic impediments preventing workers’ competencies being fully developed, assessed recognized and utlilised. This in turn reduces job satisfaction and thereby makes recruitment, retention and re-entry more difficult.”
An e-learning training program that engages the new staff member and provides the necessary information and skill development opportunities would ensure that critical information is being competently interpreted and skills are being developed that meet industry, legislative and VET standards.

Presently, disability support organizations tend to facilitate induction in a manner that varies widely across the industry. The content, the degree of structure and the support provided to the new staff member means that it is very difficult to determine what skills and knowledge are being developed. Whilst many services now have their own websites and intranet, the development of E-learning as a means to overcome present barriers to learning does not exist.

The project has clear benefits for our industry partners (and to the wider sector), in terms of reduced turnover, timely skill development over a range of service types that reflect the overall industry. Promoting the outcomes of the project will provide partner organizations with the opportunity to be “industry leaders” within the sector. Additionally, the development of a positive and supportive relationship with local IT firm; Evanscorp will be beneficial in the short and long term as we hope to continue and expand our e-learning range.

For the Learning Framework we aim to provide a tool that can be formatted for use through the Learning Object Repository Network. This could then be freely available beyond the disability support industry and could have value to a range of community service sectors.
Benefits to the new staff member include; the opportunity to develop essential skills for a job role that can be challenging and be undertaken in a range of settings often without the immediate access to other staff, and involve a level of risk. Developing competent core skills will lead to increased confidence to implement workplace tasks at a best practice level.

Primarily, the most important beneficiary of this e-learning solution is the person with a disability who receives services from the organization and their staff. It is for the support of these individuals that the service exists and they deserve to be supported in the most competent manner possible. Equipping new staff with essential skills quickly and efficiently will be a major factor to achieving this goal.