Does Governement Regulation mean Quality Training

Government Regulation and Quality Training

(An Australian Perspective)

My blog post recently on the value of accredited and non-accredited training has generated a fair bit of discussion in some of the LinkedIn groups I inhabit.  One of the things that has come out of the discussion for me is around the value of government regulation in terms of ensuring that training which is providers is of a certain quality and standard and delivered by people who are appropriately qualified and competent to be able to deliver it.  (At this point I should apologise to my overseas readers as this post is entirely about the Australia Regulatory frameworks, sorry, feel free to comment though)

So here is my question;  Does the current Australian regulatory framework (NVR Standards)  for accredited training and the registration of Registered Training Organisations, actually contribute to the quality of training that is being delivered to individuals or organisations within Australia, or overseas for that matter, because a number of RTO’s (both public and private) have used the regulatory frameworks as a sign of competence and quality when marketing to overseas clients and customers.

In my mind the answer is NO.

The thing that has always troubled me about the regulator, be it ASQA or whoever, is their focus on this minutiae of compliance with standards that in real terms do not in any way relate to whether or not the training that is being conducted is actually quality training.  I do not think ever in all my years I have ever been asked by an auditor, can we see your training presentations, or shock horror, ‘could we sit in on one of your training sessions so we can see how you deliver the content.’ NO it is all about assessment tools and qualifications of trainers and policies and procedures, because as we all know all it takes to deliver quality training to people is to have qualified instructors and good polices.

The suggestion that any of the standards and regulations and visits by Auditors actually assists in any way to creating quality delivered training is laughable, at least until they actually start to look at, and by look I mean actually look, at what is being delivered and how it is being delivered, instead of assessment tools, strategies and policies.  In fact as I have said previously some of the best training I have ever been on was delivered by training providers who have never seen an auditor, nor have ever had the Standards applied to anything they do yet the content and delivery of their product is far superior to anything I have ever seen delivered by most RTO’s (public, private and enterprise).

Why has this training been so good and the content and delivery been of such high quality, because they are competing in real, ungovernement supported marketplace, where the only way in which they will survive and be able to continue as a viable concern is to provide such quality training.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with regulation and everything to do with market forces.  Market forces which are badly skewed by government funding and the standards designed to support it.

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About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

10 Responses to Does Governement Regulation mean Quality Training

  1. Brett says:

    Hi Paul,

    There seems to be a real disparity between compliance and competence. The terms are not interchangeable nor are they indicative that one must necessarily precede the other. It seems that, in order to get substantial Govt funding for innovative projects, one must ascribe to the tenants of the Govt inner circle. It’s a pity really as recognition for outstanding outcomes comes at the end of the bureaucratic yardstick, not the outcomes themselves.

    • pauldrasmussen says:

      Brett,

      I couldnt agree more, It seems that we spend an awful lot of time making sure we meet all of these compliance regimes which dont actually have an effect on the quality and all they expect, if anything is a smile sheet at the end or a participant survery all of which dont really do anything to speak to the actual outcomes of the programs

      • Brett says:

        Paul,
        If this be the case, and it seems to have been reflected in many of the posts, why is it that the current funding models and criteria to resistant to change? If the systems claim to be outcome focused where is the infrastructure to support it? I am currently working on a project that I believe will revolutionise the way non-accredited training is viewed as a sub-system to support accredited training program’s. I am certain that my proposition will not only enhance the outcome it will also raise the benchmark across OH&S fields yet my concern is that whilst there remains little in the way of funding to support industry it will remain just a good idea and will suffer the fate of similar innovations that precede it.

    • Brett 64 says:

      I completely agree. The regulators such as ASQA, are driven by two things only: 1. Fear, that they will fail to provide a ‘tick-box’ for (RTOs) that leads to blame being sheeted back to them; and 2. Innovation, because they don’t understand how to regulate new and better approaches to service delivery, which can in their minds, feed back into point1.
      Interestingly, the word ‘results’ does not appear in either the NVR Act or on the ASQA website. In the public mind (and those of newly regulated companies) the terms, ‘outcomes’ and ‘results’ are conflated, but as far as the real world of training and regulation is concerned, they have quite different meanings. In my experience, ASQA is wholly uninterested in results. While these two terms remained confused in the pubic mind, regulators such as ASQA can provide misleading data about what a useful job they are doing.

  2. Brett 64 says:

    Hi Paul,

    I am a bit late on this but…
    It is my own first-hand experience that government regulation does not mean quality training. The evidence suggests otherwise. The reverse is probably true. While I am aware that other RTOs have been poorly treated by the NVR regulator, ASQA, I won’t comment on their experience, only our own.

    Using ASQA as an example, the level of work now required for compliance is so high that a business owner must decide between putting high levels of funding and other resources into compliance OR into improving training.

    The logical decision to make is to divide the resources and try and satisfy both. The reality for small to medium size RTOs is that this amount is usually not enough for ASQA. They will tie an RTO up for months while the RTO diverts large volumes of money and employee time into compliance.

    Unfortunately, what ASQA or their contracted auditors deem to be compliant is by nature very rubbery as there few or no proscribed ‘proofs’ with which an RTO can work with. This results in endemic subjectivity leaving the RTO in a permanently high risk financial position.

    Delivering high quality training while enjoying a good reputation with employers does not it seems, give you any safety from ASQA suspending or cancelling an RTO’s registration.

    The correct financial decision then is for the owner to put all available funds into compliance and trust that the training staff can cope.

    ASQA cannot possibly be expert across all the multitude of industries it is required to regulate. So it uses implied threats especially to private sector RTOs who rely on their reputations and registrations to survive financially.

    ASQA’s approach to regulation appears to be a shotgun approach with a similar likelihood of precision in who it attacks and the level of damage it does

    In our case, ASQA suspended our registration, and the attendant orders meant that we had to cease all training operations and stop any activity that allowed us to generate any income associated with our scope.

    All our staff lost their jobs.

    We had trained over 7000 people over a period of more than a decade. Literally hundreds of employers Australia-wide regarded us as the best provider in our sector scope. Despite ASQA’s statements to the contrary, we discovered through FOI, that there were no substantiated complaints about our training from either employers or students with either ASQA or the previous state based regulator. ASQA itself found that we were compliant the NVR’s related to training delivery.

    But, they suspended our registration and forced us effectively out of business anyway.

    Why? We don’t really know. We do know that they refused to cooperate with us in any meaningful way from July 1, 2011 despite our repeated attempts to do so. Many questions exist that ASQA have so far refused to answer.

    How? In our case it is clear that ASQA breached the NVR Act, 2011 repeatedly in their dealings with my company. Most of them were very serious breaches. The NVR Act seems quite good in that there are good protections in it so that RTOs are not damaged the way we were. The problem occurs when ASQA fails to comply with its SVRs and the NVR Act.

    I have learned a great deal about the NVR Act and laws relating to the interface of private organisations and government agencies. I certainly wish I had known then what I know now on this subject. I could have prevented a lot of trauma (yes really) and damage if I had.

    My advice? If you are in a position where you have to decide between allocating resources to either better training or ASQA’s compliance requirements; get a lawyer.

    As costly as that sounds, it will save you far more money and stress in the long run, and might even save your company. After all, if ASQA uses lawyers, why not you?

    Finally; I have been pursuing redress on this matter since February this year but government agencies can be very slow. I however, will never give up.

    Government regulation does not mean quality training based on our experience.

  3. Michelle Schofield says:

    Definitely not; re-branding government agencies ANTA; VETAB; ASQA; TEQSA etc etc so much money spent and so little achieved, so a few rogue VET providers have been closed down, now a few great VET providers have also been closed down……what is the incentive to do business in Australia? Auditors need training and mentoring on what their job outcome is to be; even government departments have time to appeal the findings or to correct them. Too much power with too little direction, no regulation of the regulators. A business disaster.

    • pauldrasmussen says:

      Michelle,

      I agree all of the changes over the years haven’t achieved as much as would have been hoped, however I maintain the hope that ASQA will be an effective and fair regulator

      • Michelle says:

        That is fantastic Paul, we all really hope so, we just need to see it in practice, show us who work in RTOs some professionalism in the way the auditors talk to us, show us they can listent, show us they know more about the auditors’ handbook guide than us about the process and that they do the proper follow ups and communicate with us appropriately, that will be fantastic if the auditors can be real “professionals” then we will all stand up and listen.

      • pauldrasmussen says:

        Michelle,

        One of the real issues around auditing for me is inconsistency. There really needs to be a lot of work done on auditing guidelines and frameworks to address this

        Paul

  4. Michelle Schofield says:

    Yes Paul, that is my point, this is the area I am most passionate about and would love to work in more, I don’t see how we can blame RTOs and close them, unless we lead by example (as regulators) for instance, if we are going to put a black mark against an RTO for not having version control, then the regulator should be able to show by example that they have version control in place; if the regulator is going to mark the RTO down for lack of communication in their processes, then they should at the minimum record the communication and be able to find it when dealing with us; these are basic but there are many more) This is the leadership in regulation that has been lacking, and therefore the trust is never built up; and the relationships break down and the regulator has to be re-branded, and now re-invented. So if ASQA is prepared to LEAD, everyone will be behind it.

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