The biggest threat to the education and training sector in Australia is bad regulation!

September 18, 2019

It is very important to evaluate the training and auditing systems to find out what is working and what is not. If true monitoring and evaluation is not happening, it will be really difficult to identify gaps in the system. 

 

Irrespective of the type of organisation (public or private), it should be independently audited at-least on an annual basis. The criteria for the evaluation should be focussed on the following main principles: 

 

  1. Transparency: All audit reports should be made public on ASQA’s website. This will help establish a transparent vocational education and training system. 

  2. Consistency: ASQA should only make decisions within the regulatory framework. There also needs to be a definition of what constitutes a minor non-compliance and what is major. There is a need to adopt a strategic risk management approach and clearly define risks as low, medium and critical. 

  3. Low and medium breaches like minor technical issues within resources, website, trainer documents, industry feedback or operations, should be rectifiable and must not interrupt the operations of the training organisation or the outcomes for the students. 

  4. Major breaches can be constituted as major non-compliance and organisations should be suspended and/or cancelled where there is evidence of financial mismanagement, fraud, or criminal activities. 

  5. Fairness: As a first instance administrative breaches should be rectified by employing a series of non-litigious channels. For example, use an internal appeals mechanism as a step before an AAT application. Engaging an independent party with knowledge of the sector in question; including compulsory co-conferencing. 

  6. Professionalism: The VET regulator must work with the VET Sector not against the VET sector. A single point of contact for all communication enables the RTO to be able to work closely with the regulator to rectify any issues. All minor non-compliances needs to be handled quickly and efficiently ensuring that the RTO is able to continue delivering quality training.

  7. Adaptability: We need to understand that times have changed and there are many different ways learners access information and learning. There needs to be adaptability and acceptance on the regulators' behalf to online or distance delivery modes as valid modes of study. 

  8. Equality: TAFE and RTO’s need be treated equally and have the same principles applied to them. There must be consistency in decisions. 

  9. Independence: The system should be based on quality principles only. There cannot be ever changing decisions influenced by the personal or professional interests of the regulatory officers or politics of the day. 

  10. Quality: The focus should be on quality, not just compliance. ASQA and other regulatory bodies must focus on all aspects of the VET system and not only compliance. 

  11. Conflicts of interest: ASQA officers, auditors and other regulatory officers cannot be allowed to also operate in the VET sector in positions where there could be a conflict of interest. Officers working with a government regulatory body cannot run their own VET business, whether as a consultant or as part of an RTO, or be an RTO board member.

  12. Responsibility: ASQA has a responsibility as a government department. They must develop Regulatory Guidelines that allow RTO’s to understand the processes of an audit without any grey areas in either the directions or audit processes and outcomes.

  13. Review rights: All RTOs irrespective of when their applications are lodged, must have rectification and reconsideration rights at their own costs. 

  14. Accountability: If a regulatory body and their representatives are not held accountable they will continue to damage Australia and the VET sector. Auditing practices should be reviewed against industry standards. 

 

If any of these principles have not been followed, the integrity and usefulness of the organisation must be questioned. 

Some of the main issues in the current regulatory environment, because of not following the above principles, have been identified in this article below: 

 

An auditor-centred audit model not a system-centred 

 

The current regulatory system is becoming more and more ‘auditor-centred’, where the auditors sometimes ‘do not follow’ the regulatory guidelines and framework which they operate under. 

 

66% or more turnover of staff 

 

The total regulator workforce in 2016-17 was 162 staff, with a turnover of 109 staff since 2014/15. This is a 66% turnover.  There are rumours that ASQA auditors go out cancelling competitors and then after some time either start their own training organisation or select a high-managerial agent job at a training provider. 

 

A regulatory body that gives very little support or contradictory information 

 

When a regulatory body itself can not identify the effective use of the current regulatory environment, then how can training organisations? 

One example from thousands is given below: 

 

From: Sukh Sandhu <sukh.sandhu@careercalling.com.au>

Sent: Monday, 15 April 2019 8:51 AM

To: ASQA - Enquiries <Enquiries@asqa.gov.au>

Subject: Retention requirements for student's completed units of competency

 

To Whom It May Concern 

 

We would like to confirm the retention requirements for student's work. My question is around when the time of retaining the work for six months starts, straight after a unit of competency finishes or from the time the entire qualification finishes and/or the student withdraws or enrollment cancelled from the course? 

 

My understanding has always been that the complete student file (all the units of competency) need to be retained for at least six months but a number of our clients have suggested that ASQA only requires RTOs to retain individual units of competency for six months and not the complete student files. 

 

Please confirm ASQA's stand on this matter. Thank you. 

 

 

Reference: 

 

Retention requirements

 

An RTO is required to securely retain, and be able to produce in full at audit if requested to do so, all completed student assessment items for each student, as per the definition above, for a period of six months from the date on which the judgement of competence for the student was made

 

Assessment evidence should be therefore retained by the organisation in digital or printed form for a period of not less than 6 months from the date of the decision of competence.  

 

I have highlighted the section in the attached document. 

 

Please also refer to the following link (A Guide to Compliance) from ASQA's website: