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Everything You Need To Know About CTAS

The Career Transition Scheme (CTAS) is a program run by the Department of Defence. It is designed to give Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel support as they prepare for a civilian career. The program offers job search preparation workshops, approved absences to attend things like interviews and coaching sessions, training funding, career transition coaching, CV coaching and even financial counselling.

In this article you will discover:

  • Who is eligible for CTAS
  • How CTAS benefits are determined
  • The purpose of CTAS
  • CTAS for RPL
  • How to prepare your CTAS application for RPL funding
  • How to complete your CTAS application
  • Planning your career beyond CTAS
  • Action steps to take right now

Who is eligible for CTAS?

Permanent members of the ADF can apply to access CTAS and there is even some allowance for eligible Reservists to benefit from the scheme.

However, there is not an automatic entitlement to CTAS and therefore, application must be made for the support.

CTAS can be accessed in the 12 months leading up to separation, and for 12 months after separation.

If you already have a job CTAS is not available, as its focus is on supporting personnel into successful transition.

How are CTAS benefits determined?

Your level of CTAS benefits is determined by two factors:

  1. Length of service
  2. Reason for leaving ADF

There are three service lengths that are used as a measure:

  1. Less than 12 years
  2. Between 12 and 18 years
  3. More than 18 years / reached compulsory retirement age

If your reason for leaving the ADF is due to medical retirement, redundancy or management-initiated early retirement, CTAS benefits can be extended, regardless of your length of service.

The longer you have served, and if your reason for leaving is one of the above special categories, the greater the benefits you can potentially access. From time to time, these benefits and the amount of maximum funding change, so it is always best to check in at the CTAS web page to understand the benefits available to you.

The purpose of CTAS: Justification vs Entitlement Mindset

Some people have misunderstood CTAS as their entitlement, and that the dollar amount set out in the CTAS table of support is automatically going to be approved by the ADF Transition Unit, to be spent in full on whatever has been requested by the applicant.

This is not the case.

In order to be granted CTAS funding, you must justify the reason for your request. Keeping in mind that the purpose of CTAS is to support your transition from the ADF into a new career.

The ADF Transition team are guided by the governing provisions for this scheme.

Approval may be granted to access CTAS in whole, in part or disapproved.

So, it is best to view CTAS as an opportunity rather than an entitlement.

In order to access this opportunity, you are best to approach your application with a justification mindset. Which means you need to clearly demonstrate how your application meets the intent and purpose of the CTAS scheme in supporting your successful transition.

Accessing CTAS for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

One of the transition supports provided by CTAS is funding recognition of prior learning (RPL) qualifications. RPL is the process of being awarded nationally recognised qualifications, in recognition of your skills and experience. You can find out more about RPL here.

A common misunderstanding is that CTAS is an accreditation process. This remains the responsibility of the chosen registered training organisation (RTO).

Another misconception is that CTAS is designed to make sure your service history is translated into a full set of matching qualifications.

Instead, CTAS focuses on training and qualifications that will help you secure employment in your chosen career after separation from the ADF.

CTAS approval may be granted for RPL where the qualification/s meet the minimum standard required for you to be competitive in your intended industry, post-separation.

For example, your ADF service may map across to four qualifications on an RPL assessment; let’s say:

However, in looking at your post-separation career, you may be interested in being a Senior Investigator for a State Government, such as the Queensland Office of Fair Trading.

If you were to apply for CTAS and list this as your desired post-separation employment, it would be likely that CTAS would be approved to cover only the Diploma of Government Investigations, because this directly matches your intended career.

The other qualifications may be desirable and may even make you highly competitive in a shortlisting and interview process for the job. However they are not going to meet the standard of the minimum required to be competitive in your intended career. CTAS would therefore be unlikely to be approved to cover the other diplomas.

Sometimes the qualification cost may be greater than the amount that CTAS would provide. In that instance, you can take advantage of the amount approved by CTAS and pay the difference yourself.

Preparing your CTAS Application for RPL – Clarity Counts!

It is always important to understand the rules of any game if you want to have a shot at taking home the win. When it comes to CTAS, there are rules that apply. Unfortunately, many people don’t take the time to understand the rules and end up feeling disappointed with the result.

If you want a favourable result for your CTAS application, it is worth understanding some of the key rules that will apply.

Start by remembering these two simple rules:

  1. This is your application.
  2. CTAS is decided in accordance with a set of criteria.

The onus in a CTAS application is on you – you are making a formal request to be allowed to access support from CTAS for RPL.

The ADF Transition unit are completing their assessment with your application as their primary document.

Before you make your application, take the time to think about your post-separation career direction. Getting qualified is an important asset in the employment market so it can be a good idea to choose an industry that goes with it to start with and then be ready to be flexible down the track if you change your mind.

Some people are clear about where they want to go next. If this is you, state that clearly in your CTAS application, e.g. – “I want a Work, Health and Safety Investigation role in the public sector”.

However, it’s not always easy to get specific about what new role you’re interested in applying for. It reminds us of the question we used to answer so easily as kids – “what do you want to be when you grow up?” But this time, it’s tough to know where to start.

In this case, you have two options:

  1. Tap into some career guidance services. You can book in time with any of the great services that support ADF personnel – including Mates4Mates, Soldier On or the RSL – to get some career advice.
  2. Instead of using your CTAS application to help you get qualified, you may instead ask for CTAS to support career transition management coaching.

Either way, it is vital to have a plan for your future before you commence your CTAS application. This is because CTAS applications are assessed against the criterion in accordance with the Pay and Conditions Manual (IAW PACMAN). If you aren’t clear about where you are going or the help you need, you won’t have success on your application.

One of the key criteria is that career transition training / qualifications must align specifically to a post-termination job that you are pursuing.

It is called “non-divergent” and it means you must be able to draw a clear line from the training or qualification/s to a particular job. The line can’t wander off to a range of jobs or leave your options completely open.

Training which is not considered to align with the job you have nominated will not be approved.

This rule has left some people scratching their heads, asking the question, “Surely, getting qualifications to cover a range of career options would be better?” And yes, that would be a real strength but that misses the objective of CTAS which is to support you into transitioning into your next specific career – not just any career.

So, putting forward an application for a range of qualifications with that scattergun approach, not identifying a specific career choice or not linking your chosen qualification/s to your specific career will fall foul of the CTAS rules. Your application cannot be approved if it is deemed non-divergent.

Instead, follow the rules by listing your post-separation occupation on the application.

Sometimes, it can be hard to know what this will be, but this is the time to make a call and get specific. If down the track, you realise you need to change career directions, then that is just a normal part of life. You are not forever after locked into the single career option you nominated on your CTAS application.

You should do some research about your intended career and look for what qualification/s are required at minimum for this career. Look at a number of positions in this category across a range of employers. This will help you identify the minimum standard. For example, it is common for a Work Health and Safety Coordinator to have a minimum training standard at a Certificate IV level.

CTAS approval tends to be given for a single qualification. However, more than one qualification can be approved if you can establish that your specific career goal requires more than one training course.

IAW PACMAN 2.2.25 (5): “Attendance at more than one training course will only be approved if the training courses lead to one career transition goal. Training will not be approved if members seek training in divergent areas.”

Completing your CTAS Application

In completing your CTAS application, take the approach of justifying your application and offering supporting materials for consideration.

The CTAS application form includes a box for sharing information about your specific course request. It says that you can attach further information and it would be a good idea to take this option so that you put forward your best case in support of your request.

At minimum, your application should clearly address:

  1. A specific career goal – what is the job you are seeking? For example, you may want to find employment as a Work Health and Safety Coordinator, an Operations Manager in the logistics industry or an Industry Assessor.
  1. Clearly align any training requests with that specific career goal. Help the CTAS Officer understand what qualification you have identified as the minimum standard for achieving this specific career goal. Take the time to provide information about the specific qualification you have identified and how this supports your career goal.
  1. Provide further information where you are requesting approval for more than one training course so that the CTAS Officer has clear information that justifies why this training package combines to set the minimum standard for this specific career goal. For example, you may want to work in Global Mobility Project Management. Your research may reveal that all jobs advertised mention the importance of holding a Human Resources qualification and Project Management qualifications. Provide information that supports this research and minimum standard if you intend asking for a Diploma of Human Resources Management, and Diploma of Project Management.

In preparing your application, ask for help from:

  1. People who understand the industry you want to join. Get some background on what qualifications or training will be required at a minimum standard. If you can locate any reports that confirm this, record the reference and include it in your CTAS submission.
  2. Career advisors who understand both Recognition of Prior Learning and how to align qualifications with career directions. As well as being RPL specialists, Churchill Education is a member of the Career Development Association of Australia. We have been helping ADF personnel to plan qualifications to align with their desired career paths since 2006.

Planning Your Career Beyond CTAS

Once your CTAS application has been submitted, you wait. Timeframes for a response vary, but CTAS does endeavour to turnaround applications promptly.

You will receive a written advice of the outcome.

Sometimes you can be offered the opportunity to provide further information to the CTAS Officer. For example, if you have nominated qualifications but not nominated a specific career path, we have seen candidates advised that their application has not focused on one specific career goal and that they should refine their pathways. CTAS Officers have also invited candidates to nominate their preferred qualification for CTAS approval.

You may find that you receive approval for only qualification. In fact, this is more common than not. Procedurally, we receive advice of the approved qualification and receive payment directly from CTAS. We then work to issue your qualification promptly.

CTAS has also taken the approach of reimbursement. This applies when you pay the service provider directly. In this case you will need to provide CTAS with a tax invoice and receipt and your bank details.

Many times, candidates have felt surprised or disappointed that their many years of service only receive a single qualification through CTAS.

This is when it is important to shift your focus.

You can see the approval you receive from CTAS as a plus or a minus: something you have received that you didn’t have before (the qualification approved) or something you were ripped off (the qualifications that were not approved).

Taking a positive mindset is an important tool in any career transition.

As you are making your plans, tap into any support you can get.

Make your CTAS application and use it with the “minimum standard” mantra in mind: this will help you get a start on the path to your next career.

Then make a list of what else you need to get in the best position for the job you want:

Look at your budget and work out what options you have to get the most value for your dollar.

Organisations like Soldier On, Mates4Mates and RSL offer job readiness support and can have teaching sessions on how best to set up your resume.

Churchill Education has some great articles and a free report that will help you update your LinkedIn profile.

Take the time to get some free advice about the best qualifications to match your career options. Churchill Education’s Skills Development Advisors are best placed to give you this help.

Then select the qualifications that will boost your job applications, and consider your funding options:

  • Do you have some cash set aside to pay for these
  • Would a Payment Plan suit better (Churchill Education offers this)
  • Or should you use a Study Loan (Churchill Education offers this)

With some great advice onboard and resources in your back pocket, you are ready to start on your CTAS application and the path to Civvy Street.

If we can be of help along the way, feel free to reach out to the team at Churchill Education:

Call: 1300 793 002 / Email: hello@churchilleducation.edu.au

And if you would like to find out what RPL qualifications you may be eligible for, and gain advice on which qualifications will best match your desired career goal, apply for a free preliminary RPL assessment:

Find out what you’re eligible for:

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