Peter Harkin, Emergency Management Coordinator for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, shares why he thinks it is so valuable to periodically transform skills and experience into qualifications through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).
Peter was Churchill Education’s first ever RPL graduate. In the following case study Peter shares some of his career history, the value of the qualifications he has gained through RPL, and what causes him far more stress than natural disasters and global pandemics!
Listen to Peter’s Interview
Read Interview Transcript
Peter first met Randall back in the 80’s when they both joined Queensland Police Service, then worked together in the late 90’s. After 16 years in QPS Peter left and set up an investigations company. Meanwhile Randall also left and set up Churchill Education.
Randall and Peter started talking about what qualifications Peter might be eligible for.
Peter says it was something he was very interested in, having left school young to join the Police force. When he left police and the senior position of sergeant, he had very few qualifications to reflect his depth of experience.
It’s something we hear again and again from people in a range of industries. Particularly those in their 40s, 50s and 60s who worked their way up based on experience, not necessarily qualifications, and now find themselves in a world that demands qualifications that formalise experience.
Peter was in a senior role within his company and tendering for work with the government and insurance companies. He therefore felt it was important to portray professionalism through qualifications that benchmarked his experience and expertise.
He and Randall discussed the RPL process and what Peter might be eligible for. He was able to take into consideration some of the work he’d done with police and also the private sector investigative and managerial work.
On being awarded qualifications through RPL Peter says it was,
“Recognition for the hard work that I’ve done over the years. Which not only felt good from an individual perspective, but also provided a high level of professionalism when it came to selling our business and operating a professional environment.”
Peter goes on to say,
“Nothing is ever forever, and you just never know where you’re going to be. So, if you can consolidate your experience, into a qualification, then my view has always been that you should while you can, because you never know what's around the corner. And in my case, certainly that's been so true.”
What Peter is alluding to here, is the fact that the RPL process can only take into consideration what you’ve been doing in the last five years. This is because you must be able to prove ‘currency’ of competency.
Peter eventually moved on from the investigations business to work with the Department of Transport, dealing with disaster and incident management, then onto his current role with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
Peter’s current role is as an Emergency Management Coordinator. Once again working with disaster management. With the fires, storms and current pandemic, Peter has had plenty to keep him busy!
And after his initial qualification 15 years ago, Peter recently felt it was time to have a fresh look at his eligibility and was awarded PUA60112 Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management) which he says fits in nicely with what he’s doing right now.
Most recently Peter has also been successful in obtaining BSB80215 Graduate Diploma of Strategic Leadership through recognition of prior learning with Churchill.
This is a very high-level qualification (higher than a bachelor’s degree). A great reflection of Peter’s extensive experience.
Is now a good time to invest in qualifications?
With the future more uncertain than ever, and many either out of a job, or on shaky ground, would Peter still recommend spending money on qualifications through RPL now?
“Yes. I think it’s even more important because things are uncertain. Even more reason to leverage your current skills, bolster your resume and make yourself as attractive as possible should the day come when you might have to look for a new job.”
He goes on to say that although it can be difficult to find those extra dollars in the household budget, that it should be thought of as an investment in you as a business.
Was the RPL Process Difficult?
Peter says, “There’s work in everything you do, so yeah there’s some work in it. But it’s worth it.
It’s sometimes a task to put this stuff together, but I get a little bit better at it now because I start keeping things aside that I think might help. I categorise stuff and put it away. It’s important to keep those examples.”
Peter makes an important point here… Start banking evidence asap! Although we have spent years making the RPL process as smooth as possible for our clients, it does of course still require some work on your part. If you’ve already started gathering evidence of your experience, skills and capabilities it makes the process so much easier for you. Ask us about setting up an RPL Evidence Portfolio for you… It’s free, and will give you a convenient place to deposit evidence over time. Then you can apply for qualifications when you feel ready.
Mental Health in the Workplace
Given that Peter’s daily job is to manage emergencies and deal with disasters we wondered how Peter takes care of his mental health. How does he deal with stress? And does he suffer job related anxiety, like so many of us do from time to time?
Peter starts by saying that it’s something he has been trained to deal with… From his time in police, to his current position. And part of his job is to train others on how to handle stress and keep mental health steady.
Peter says, “I think we just try and take stock, and be realistic about what’s going on. We apply what’s in front of us. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but you just have to break it down and look at what’s important.”
He finishes with a chuckle and says it’s a lot easier than dealing with 16-year-old twin daughters!