In the past four years, 240 professionals from Australia, New Zealand and beyond have graduated with an IPWEA Professional Certificate in Asset Management Planning. Among them are Jo Haw from regional Victoria and William Cuthbertson from the northernmost council in Australia – two people from very different areas, who are both using the AM Planning Certificate to create real benefits for their councils and communities.
When Haw was promoted from Project Coordinator into the role of Strategic Assets Coordinator at Gannawarra Shire Council in 2014, she was yet to compile a single asset management plan.
“I’d been put into this role of Strategic Asset Manager, but I really didn't have a great deal of knowledge about the information needed to create an asset management plan,” the IPWEA member says. “I’d never had anything to do with them.”
Recognising an urgent need in 2015 to upskill as the council moved toward a more sophisticated asset management system and the State Government moved to introduce capped rates, Haw signed up for the AM Planning certificate. “I was looking at doing a one-day course, but when I looked at it I thought it was money better spent to do the whole course,” she says.
The Professional Certificate in AM Planning is delivered through eight online modules over 11 weeks. With Gannawarra situated three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Melbourne, Haw says the course’s online format made it possible and practical for her to participate.
Haw points to the service levels and risk management modules as key learnings from the course that will give her the confidence to be able to create her own asset management plan this year. For Haw, the emphasis on customer service levels was an important part of the course. “I was looking at service levels from purely an asset perspective – now we’re looking at service levels across the board,” Haw explains. “Now I’m looking at writing asset management plans properly, so the certificate was really good to get my head around how things sit together.”
Thousands of kilometers north of Gannawarra, Torres Shire Council Director Engineering and Infrastructure Services William Cuthbertson used the AM Planning Certificate to up-skill a team of seven employees across water and sewerage, roads and drainage and finance areas of the council.
Torres Shire covers a large section of the Torres Strait Islands, and the northern tip of Cape York Peninsula. With the local government area covering almost 20 islands, travel around the shire is more likely to be by boat than car.
Cuthbertson says although this created something of a logistical nightmare when it came to getting all the staff in the same room every week for the certificate, the benefits of collaboration made the effort worthwhile.
“When we got to the point where we were all in the one room, we were able to talk amongst ourselves with regards to examples that were being discussed,” he says. “It was great, because the majority of the staff have had no exposure to the asset management planning side of things.”
The council had an urgent need to create more sophisticated asset management systems, Cuthbertson says.
“The council did have registers for assets like roads, buildings and sewers, but those spreadsheets were not being managed,” Cuthbertson says. “We needed to comply with the legislation in relation to our asset management plans and budgeting and forecasting. At the same time, we also needed to be able to have our staff undertake the fieldwork and to understand precisely when they do that fieldwork how that’s used, in regards to the asset management planning and budgeting.
Cuthbertson says the certificate was challenging for some of the more hands-on staff members. “We even had to run them through basic excel spreadsheet training through the local TAFE college to help them move forward with the course,” he says. “But as a team we all managed to get to the end and submitted the relevant assessment documentation and everyone has been awarded the certificate, which is an excellent result.”
“They now know how to achieve this planning exercise, and now in the future they can share their knowledge in their particular areas of expertise, and generate appropriate plans.”
Cuthbertson says the diversity of participants, who come from areas as far away as Canada, makes the live chat section of the course incredibly interesting and informed.
“The webinars were really interesting, and the number of participants and where they were situated around the world whilst these webinars were going on was interesting,” he says. “The staff really appreciate the opportunity to see what happens in other parts of the world and to join in some of the conversations.”
The next IPWEA Professional Certificate in Asset Management Planning kicks off on 15 March.
Do you know what makes a great asset management plan? JRA trainer Steve Verity discusses here