April 16, 2014 4 Comments
As most people in the VET industry are no doubt aware by now, the spectre of self regulation, at least for a number of ‘low risk’ RTO’s has raised it head again. So my question today is a simple one and that is, is self regulation of a Australia’s Vocational education and training (VET) industry a good idea.
Before I start to consider this however a couple of caveats. I intend to consider this question for a logical, purpose driven, objective viewpoint, so I won’t be considering or arguing whether a particular RTO could self regulate, I will be looking as whether, given the purpose of the VET system in this country, self regulation of training providers is something which is aligned with that purpose. Nor will I be entering into arguments about the current state of the VET system and whether or not it achieves what its purpose is.
One of the key issues here in my mind is the link between nationally accredited training and licensing. You can’t be a plumber for example without having a particular set of qualifications under the VET system. The same goes for being an electrician. It is hear that for me the rubber hits the road with respect to regulation and points to the problems with self regulation. In order to ensure that the electrician who comes out and wires your home up there needs to be some form of regulation, some form of standard levels of competency around the skills and knowledge possessed by that person and by that group of people who call themselves electricians. We achieve that through the assessment of such skills and knowledge against standardised performance criteria which form part of the relevant qualifications. Who is authorised to deliver such qualifications and deem a person competent is regulated by a third party system which is by law allowed to sanction any delivering organisation who fails to meet the standards.
Without a third party to regulate the standards of competence and to enforce sanctions on those agencies who do not comply, it seems difficult for me to see why there would not be those who would seek to shorten, abridge and just plain not enforce the standards for competence which are deemed to have to apply. In fact we have already seem numerous examples of this kind of activity in a system that is already regulated by a third party. Any suggestion that removing the third party and sanctions even for a select group would improve that situation does not appear at least in my opinion to be logical.
Now some might suggest that the trades are a special case and there would still need to be some sort of third party regulation of those qualifications linked to licensing requirements and qualifications such as for example the Certificate IV in front line management could be self regulated. There are two problems I see with this kind of thinking, one is of course that organisation which deliver both plumbing and management courses would have to treat the regulation and compliance around those courses differently, which may actually increase the kinds of administrative burdens we currently see. The other problem of course is that from my perspective if I have a staff member who has a Certificate IV in front line management, then I have certain expectations about what the skills and knowledge of that person are, and under a system where training organisations were self regulating the level of faith in someone having a qualification would I think certainly decline.
I find it difficult to see how a self regulated system could provide the levels of quality that the current third party regulated system does.
Anyway that is my opinion.