The state of the Australian Vet sector

Business path questions road to change and corporate career pathway as a rising highway with a 3D illustration pencil drawing a question mark on a sky representing financial direction guidance and looking for answers.

6 Changes in VET that need to happen now.

by Sally Tansley (RTO Quality Consultant and Auditor)

Ongoing change is an inevitable part of our sector with the next cab on the rank being the review of the National VET Regulator (NVETR) Act 2011 (or will that be scrutiny of international education provision as per the recent release by ASQA of its regulatory strategy for 2017 – 2018!)

Submissions for the review of VET legislation closed on 18 August 2017 and so hopefully we will see the outcomes of this by the end of 2017 and possible legislative and regulatory changes during 2018.

The focus of the review as stated in DET’s fact sheet is “the suitability of the NVETR legislative framework and its capacity to support a responsive, effective and efficient approach to regulation to ensure the quality of the national vocational education and training (VET) sector into the future.”

To this end, a specific terms of reference was identified and stakeholders were asked to provide feedback on a number of issues including in summary:

  • Aspects of VET that ASQA need to be closely scrutinised
  • Key drivers of business plans for VET providers
  • Continuous improvement
  • ASQA enforcement powers
  • Quality measurement and reporting, and
  • A stronger student, parent and community voice.

Following on from this, while there have been major recent reforms, most notably the overthrowing of the VET FEE HELP system to be replaced by VET Student Loans and a new regulatory approach focusing on the student experience, the sector is still reeling from chronic issues as is particularly evident from the number of RTOs being closed down as regularly updated on the ASQA website.

The sector is still reeling from chronic issues as is particularly evident from the number of RTOs being closed down as regularly updated on the ASQA website.

Focusing then on the key feedback sought from stakeholders as part of the National VET legislation review, here are our thoughts on the key issues and required changes in the sector.  These are just a few key points; otherwise this blog would be very long.

1. Quality training that meets the requirements of Training Package

While the Standards for RTOs 2015 brought a stronger focus on the provision of training (Clause 1.3 and requirement to show sufficient learning resources), there is insufficient focus on this aspect to ensure that RTOs are providing training that directly relates to the unit of competency requirements.  More often than not, there is careful review of the assessments to see if unit of competency requirements are met, but the same kind of scrutiny is not in place for training practices. Thus, students may not be receiving training that actually enables them to develop the skills and knowledge relevant to their qualification, or their vocation, or to meet the assessment requirements.  There need to be a much stronger focus on this, which in turn will enable quality training provision in our sector.

2. Continuing Professional Development for trainers

The qualifications and professional development of trainers/assessor are issues that have a major impact on our sector. Hopefully the new TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment will resolve qualification issues, for example through trainers/assessors having to participate in training courses that are of much longer durations and depth giving them the required skills and knowledge to train and assess. However, there continues to be an ongoing lack of participation in professional development. A regulated continuing professional development system, such as seen in a range of other industry sectors could be the answer. Trainers and assessors must then participate in professional development in order to gain the required number of CPD points.

3. Remedial actions following non-compliance

The new student-centered audit model has placed a welcome focus on the student experience. However, some of the resulting non-compliance actions are not, in our view, effective for either RTOs or students. Requiring students to come forward for re-assessment when they have already got their certificates is unrealistic. Expecting RTOs to drive this is also unrealistic.

There needs to be a happy medium between this and simply re-submitting new assessment tools for example, monitoring RTOs over time on their implementation of new tools i.e. getting them to submit student work for a specified period of time.  

4. Business plan drivers

The review sought feedback on the principles that should drive the business plan of a quality VET provider. Our view is that this is a key issue in the sector.  Applications for new RTOs are submitted to ASQA advising that the financial figures are based on a business plan but the business plan itself is often not required to be submitted. In cases where the business plan is asked for, it is not evident who is making the decisions on quality of these business plans or how this is indeed judged.

A high quality business plan should be an important document for all RTOs whether new or existing.

The following principles should be a key focus of business plans of RTOs.

  • Quality
  • Continuous improvement
  • Financial viability
  • Business and environmental sustainability.
  • Responsiveness to market trends, student needs, and regulatory changes
  • Active reviews of external environment to identify workforce development needs.

5. RTO Sector Qualifications

More professionalism in the sector is required. There is of course a specified qualification within the TAE Training and Education Training Package for trainers and assessors but there are still major gaps for other vital functions of an RTO. 

Often the senior people, and those responsible for quality and compliance in an RTO, have no formal qualifications in adult education, quality practices or compliance. Many may have completed the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment or the Diploma level qualifications from the TAE Training Package, or they may have a business degree, but these qualifications have little to do with the day to day running of a high quality, compliant RTO. 

It was with this in mind that we recently developed our Graduate Diploma of VET Quality and Compliance Management (10615NAT) specifically for quality and compliance specialists, CEOs and RTO Managers. The first cohort of students will start in October 2017 and we excited to launch our innovative approach to delivery of this qualification which gives students the opportunity to really delve into the meaning of quality. We are also rolling out a further two qualifications to meet the needs of RTO administrators and RTO operational personnel. So, watch this space!

This qualification is being delivered by RTO Leadership Institute, RTO ID: 40682.

6. Consistency in decision making by auditors

One last word! The inconsistency in auditor decision-making needs to be tackled. There is far too much variation in auditor views. This is frustrating for RTOs and damaging for the industry. Auditors say they moderate but a wide variety of views (seemingly personal opinions at times) continue to be seen in audit reports. There needs to be greater focus by ASQA on reducing auditor inconsistency.

About Sally

Sally is one of Australia’s most experienced RTO consultants, having been involved the VET sector at a senior level since 1996. She has extensive experience auditing with regulators and is also a current member of the Training Package Quality Assurance Panel.

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