So you need to Hire a Trainer? – Qualifications and Skills or a lack there of.

My recent post on the issues raised by the Review of Standards for the Regulation of VET around the area of Minimum qualifications levels for trainers has raised some interesting issues and quite a bit of chatter, so I thought I might make some further comments around some of the more interesting areas,  and look at it more particularly through the lens of someone needing to hire a Trainer/Assessor.

The first thing I found interesting was the number of people we suggested they either knew of or had experienced the situation where the people training the Certificate IV in TAE (or an old version), had only just completed their own Cert IV, or whose experience in terms of training and assessment was all related to the TAE.  So essentially they had become a trainer to trainer other people how to be trainers.   If I was hiring a new trainer, even one whose job role was going to be training and assessing TAE qualifications  I would want them to have some other training experience, other than just training the TAE.   If I did then decide that I wanted to bring them in for an interview, my first question would be so why did you want to be a trainer, why did you go down this career path?  The reason is that I am not sure how you could decide that you wanted to train people to be trainers without first having been a trainer yourself.  (I might be wrong, but it seems a bit weird to me).  I could understand if their response was that they been delivering non-accredited training for a substantial period of time, but even then it would be need to be outside the training area, because (and again I might be wrong here) it would seem that developing presentation skills, and the like happen as a result of training people, not as a result of being trained.  If there is someone out there for whom the vast majority of their experience in terms of Training relates to training others to be trainers, particularly in their early career I would love to hear how and why it was you decided on this career path.

The other thing that came out of the discussions was the number of people who, had undertaken, knew of, experienced the result of, TAE training with no presentation component.  Where there was no requirement for the participants to actually stand up in front of an audience and present material.  Again this is a situation that I find bizarre;  how is it possible to deem someone as competent to be a trainer, if you have never seem them present training to a group of people.  This is why whenever I have interviews for trainers, everyone is told that they will need to do a 15 minute presentation to the interview panel.  They get to choose the topic, but presenting is mandatory and it is the first thing they do before anything else takes place in the interview.  The reason for this is simple, if you can’t stand up in front of a small group of strangers and talk about a subject of your own choosing for 15 minutes and do it well, then as far as I am concerned you shouldn’t be a trainer.  It is to my mind as simple as that.  There are two things about this process that have always amazed me;

  1. The number of people who look good on paper who are challenged by this process, who ask questions like ‘what do you want me to present on?  To which I answer ‘Anything you want it’s not about what you present by how you do it.  Others then suggest that they are not comfortable with the process, that they have never had to do that before to get a job, etc.  (I usually suggest at that point that if they are that uncomfortable presenting to people that they are probably not right for the job anyway and that unless they are happy to do the presentation then there won’t be an interview.)
  2. The number of people who are awful presenters, I don’t just mean ordinary, run of the mill, functionally competent or even nervous, it mean really awful.  Boring, uninteresting, full of um’s, ah’s and something I am seeing more of ‘like’s’, not confident, and the worse sin of all, given that they got to choose the topic, inaccurate, mistaken or wrong with the information they provide.

Sitting through interviews like this is an enlightening if quite challenging experience, because you come to know that for all of the good, high quality trainers out there, who are way beyond competent and who can create learning environments no matter what their surroundings there are a whole lot of people who call themselves trainers and have pieces of paper attesting to their competence who are just awful and an embarrassment to the industry.

QLD Skills and Training Taskforce – TAFE recommendations

I promised a little while ago that I would make some comments on the recommendations made in the Queensland Skills and Training Task force in relation to TAFE in Queensland.

The recommendations that struck me most were those around the employment model for TAFE staff (Recommendation 3.5 in particular) and the ‘New TAFE Queensland recommendations (Recommendation 3.12 in particular).

Recommendation 3.5;

The Government pursue a revamped industrial relations arrangement which addresses at a minimum the following:
– the need for a wider spread of hours and contact time, including removal of the in-built systemic barriers to evening classes
– the current practice of non-attendance time becoming de facto additional annual leave
– implementation of industry competitive overtime arrangements
– the ability of management to have full discretion in engaging casual staff
– greater class size flexibility.

I was actually shocked when I saw the conditions of the TAFE Teachers’ award (and I know I am going to be criticised for these comments), while the remuneration rates are definitely on the high side particularly when you look at rates within organisations and commercial training providers, it is the conditions which strike me as way out of line with what I would consider to be reasonable and expected practice.

Teaching more that 21 hours (3 days) in a week incurring overtime payments as not more than 21 can be programmed in any one week for teaching is ridiculous.  Not that I am suggesting that you would want to have your trainers doing nothing but delivering every day of the week, for any extended period of time.  There have been plenty of occasions where I have done nothing but deliver training every day of the week for in some cases up to 4 weeks in a row.  (A major project roll out which also included substantial travel around regional areas and then assessment).

I am not even sure what ‘five weeks of non-attendance time’  even means, particularly when it is in addition to annual leave and when it ends up with the situation where ‘TAFE teachers only undertake scheduled work of 32 hours for 39 weeks a year, and less if overtime is worked’ some of the issues surrounding costs and availability to delivery become abundantly clear.  These conditions seem definitely not in line with what would be expected of a trainer/assessor with a commercial RTO or an organisational setting.

Recommendation 3.12;

The idea of rationalising TAFE campuses is also something that resonates with me, particularly within the Brisbane Metro area.  I have never understood (I know there are historical reasons) why there were some many TAFE’s and campuses in the Brisbane area all at least to some extent separately staffed and administered.  Surely a reduction in the number of campuses and a rationalisation of management structure, perhaps even administration at a regional level and regional pools of teachers available to work a multiple campus locations would have substantial effect on the level of base funding that was required to sustain the TAFE infrastructure.  The same can be said I think, but to lesser extents in other areas of the state as well.

These recommendations make sense to me, along with the other recommendations made in the report with respect to TAFE, they would allow Queensland’s TAFE system to be able to deliver, services that were more responsive to need, in a more competitive, cost-effective manner, that provided for the needs of both students, industry and Queensland.


Minimum Qualifications for Trainers

What is the minimum qualification a trainer should possess?

One of the things to come out of the recent Issue Paper – Review of the Standards of the Regulation of VET was commentary around quality training and assessment and the need to develop appropriate teacher, trainer and assessor standards and suggested that the standards could address three issues in relation to this;

  1. maintenance of vocational competency
  2. professional practice standards
  3. professional development and competency pathways

Personally I think all of these are vitally important issue that need to be addressed and addressed in terms of the standards and legislation.  The reason I say this is we really do need to have some minimum standards which can be enforced, not only by the regulator but by individual RTO’s and organisations as well as a means of ensuring at least the mandatory level of competence.

Anyone training in specialist or vocational areas, should have relevant industry qualifications and should be able to show that they undertake ongoing professional development activities.  I would be in support of a formal CPD points system for trainers and assessors, which could work across all three of the issues areas above, with perhaps a minimum number of CPD points required in each of the three areas in order to be able to show continued competency.  I am not sure though that a trainer/assessor needs to have the exact qualification that they are delivering (particularly in VET terms).  They do however need to have a recognised formal qualification form the field and experience/exposure to the areas they are training/assessing in.

For example;  A person with a degree in social work, 5 years recent work experience in child protection and a record of ongoing PD should be considered vocationally competent to deliver say the Certificate IV in Child, Youth and Family Intervention.

There needs to be professional practice standards to which all trainers/assessors/RTO’s/ training organisations and other organisations can be held accountable against.  This to me is simply a no-brainer.

The area where I think the most work needs to be done is that of professional competency around being a trainer/assessor.  It needs to be formally stated that the certificate IV in training and assessment is the minimum entry-level qualification, and that depending on interests and vocational pathways VET professional would be expected to continue on to further study around the education sector either at a VET or Tertiary level.

The final thing that needs to be done is to tighten up substantially the provision and delivery of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and in fact the entire TAE package.  There needs to be a solid work placement component included as mandatory in the Cert IV and serious scrutiny of providers.

Making the Case for Learning and Development Investment

This is a great post with some ideas that really resonated for me, particularly the idea of social impact as a measurement of ROI rather than financial impact.

Thinking About Learning

This first session is being presented by Kadisha Lewis-Roberts from Mitchells and Butlers (restaurants and food pub owners) and Ann Rivera of Trident Housing Association.

Kadisha helps to provide a way of starting to understand ghe business by doing a ‘scan the internal environment’. This means:
– keep your finger on the organisational pulse
– meet up with newbies
– develop a sixth sense
– be a data gatherer

Following from this she says we should also scan the external environment by:
– know what’s going on
– find out what your competitors are doing
– build your social capital
– develop yourself

She goes on to describe how to be the missing link between the organisation’s goals and what L&D/OD can deliver. This is done by connecting the two priorities together. I like the next piece about getting the biggest bang, where Kadisha talks about understanding which programmes are…

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ERTOA and National Training Awards

So I know I have been a little slack with my posting this week but I guess as you all know some times life and work intrude and have to take precedence.
So today and tomorrow I am down in Melbourne at the Enterprise RTO association AGM and the attending the national training awards. I will be talking about both events over the next couple of days. There should be lots of interesting things to say I think.

Issues Paper – Review of VET regulation standards

A look at the recently released Issues paper stemming from the Review of VET regulation standards

The National Skills Standards Council (NSSC) have just released their Review of Standards for Vocational Education and Training Issues Paper, so today I thought I would have a look at the paper and some of the issues and suggested actions that it outlines.

Seven Key Issues are identified in the paper, they are;

  • The purpose of the standards
  • Quality of training and assessment
  • Engagement with industry
  • Reducing unnecessary regulatory duplication
  • Responsive regulation
  • Consistent interpretation and implementation of the standards, and
  • Transparency of the VET sector

While I am not today going to go through each of the issues in details there are some things in the paper that struck me as I read through it which I think are worth commenting on.  On page 5 of the document when discussing suggested approaches to the issue of the purpose of the standards  we find the following statement;

“It may be necessary to firstly identify what outcomes VET is trying to achieve and using this to guide the development of the standards for the regulation of VET. Consideration may also be needed to define what constitutes ‘quality’ in the context of VET and how can this inform the development of standards.”  

For me the idea that there needs to be a serious discussion about what the actual outcomes of VET should be is long overdue.  If you were to listen to some researchers, commentators and government folk you would think that the only thing which mattered was completion rates for full qualifications.  Completions is not in any way a metric that provides any real information about the importance of VET or its outcomes from either a student or industry/employer point of view, except in those areas where the qualification is linked to a licensing outcome and even then I am dubious of its validity in providing us with any real useful information.  If we are going to have a robust VET system that actually provides outcomes for both participants and employers, then stop asking the academics and researchers what the outcomes should be and ask the students and employers, at least that way it might be meaningful.

On the issue of quality training and assessment, the following rang true for me and I think will ring true for many others in the industry;

“The standards therefore need to focus on the core function of training providers – that is, the provision of quality training and assessment. Business processes to support training provider viability and sustainability, while acknowledged as important, should not overshadow the real business of VET.”

The purpose of the VET sector is to train people,  to provide quality training and assessment so that participants can have better employment outcomes as a result of the training.  To my mind the word Vocational in VET gives it away.  The business processes around the provision of training should never take precedence over the actual provision of quality training.

I was also somewhat heartened to see mention of volume of learning mentioned alongside qualification outcomes in the suggested approach;

“Develop standards to ensure RTOs have the capacity, experience and resources to provide high quality training and assessment, including Recognition of Prior Learning, meeting AQF requirements (both qualification outcomes and volume of learning) and providing access to relevant workplace training and assessment.”

The idea that there perhaps should be minimum delivery timeframes/work placements/supervision arrangements etc around the deeming of a participant competent is something that I have mentioned in other places and in principle endorse.  It has the potential to stop, the what I think is flawed and difficult to justify practice of very short delivery and placement timeframes.  In my opinion you simply can’t deem someone as competent after 5 days of face to face training and 12 hours of workplacement.  It is just not a long enough time period to ensure transfer of learning and competence across a wide enough range of scenarios.  It will also create an environment where articulation pathways with Universities may be better able to be negotiated, as the Universities will feel more comfortable that the students with VET qualifications are actually competent.

The other part of the document I found of real interest was the in the discussion around consistent interpretation of standards particularly in relation to auditors;

The VET regulator standards, in resolving issues of inconsistencies, could include standards for auditors which identify protocols and / or a code of conduct governing their work.

I think having clear guidelines, a code of conduct and a range of other protocols around the actions of auditors, how they apply the standards and what they should be looking at and for when they speak with an RTO is vital.  Without this the process of audit will be seen as something that is entirely at the whim of the auditor, rampantly inconsistent, and not producing any kind of valuable outcomes for any party.

Queensland’s VET Skills and Training Taskforce (Some More thoughts)

Some more thoughts on the recommendations of the QLD Skills and Training Taskforce

Today I want to continue on from yesterdays post and look more closely at some of the recently released recommendations of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce and I thought that I might start off with the second set of recommendations (Recommendation 1.0 really just reaffirms the importance of the VET sector and Training in general) around and Industry Engaged VET system.  There are three main areas the recommendations look at;

  1. An Industry led Skills Commission,
  2. Government VET investment, and
  3. VET in Schools and links to Higher Education

So lets look at each of them separately, starting with

An Industry Led Skills Commission (Recommendations 2.1-2.5)

Recommendation 2.1  The Queensland Government establish a truly industry-led Queensland VET sector characterised by the creation of an independent statutory Queensland Skills Commission directly accountable to the Minister for Education, Training and Employment.  I really think this is a great idea particularly when linked to 2.3 and 2.4 which would hopefully see the commission have control over the funding and contracting arrangements themselves.  This was and I think that I echo the thoughts of a lot of people here, one of the big issues that faced Skills Queensland they did not have any real power in relation to the funding etc which reduced their ability to be as effective as they could have been.  (This should not be seen as  criticism of Skills Queensland whom I think have done and do a fantastic job in terms of their connection with industry.

The only criticism I would level at this recommendation comes from 2.2 and is around the make up of the commission.  While I understand the Governments viewpoint on wanting the ‘4 pillars’ represented to suggest that the largest employment sector in the state (Health and Community Services) should only potentially have representation is ridiculous in the extreme.

The Health and Community Services Industry:

Injects more than $16.2 billion to the Queensland economy each year

  • Pays more than $13.5 billion in wages and salaries
  • Attracts volunteer and carer contributions, estimated to be worth $10.5 billion annually
  • Purchases around $2 billion worth of goods and services annually from other Queensland industries and businesses
  • Created 20,400 new jobs in Queensland in 2011 representing more than 80% of Queensland’s job growth of 25,400
  • Created 71,900 new jobs or 28 per cent of the state’s total employment growth over five years to 2011

There should without a doubt be at least one representative of the Health and Community Services Industry and I would suggest two (one from the Health Industry and one for the Community Services industry) as despite any assertions to the contrary it is the biggest employment area both currently and into the future and has and will continue to have incredibly high need for training of staff and unlike some other industries (mining in particular) does not have the wealth of self-generated funds to put towards training staff, relying heavily on Government subsidy.

Transforming VET Investment (Recommendations 2.6-2.8)

There is really nothing out of the ball park here, the only thing I would say echo’s my statements above, about the need to ensure that the Health and Community Services Sector is not left out of the ‘selected Certificate IV and above qualifications, skill sets and other specific priorities.’  There is a significant need for the Health and Community Services to be able to access funding for training at levels above a Certificate III level.  I would however like to add here that there needs to be some focus on how funding is handled.  I have made the point before that a model focussing on Units of Competency rather than full qualifications may in some areas by incredibly useful from both an employee and employer perspective.   In order to obtain the best results in terms of completion rates and employment outcomes, more of the funding needs to be funnelled to organisations (employers) and less to individuals.  This gives employers the ability to recruit, train and retain staff, at levels that will be achieved without tight employer involvement.  I say this because when you consider completion rates from Enterprise RTO’s (that is employers who have their own internal RTO to train primarily their own staff) they are in the area of 90+%, because it is in the interest of the employer to ensure that they recruit  the right people and give them all of the assistance necessary in order to complete.  This is simply not the case with external providers who are training individuals who are hoping that on completion they will be able to gain employment.

VET in Schools and Links with Higher Education (recommendations 2.9-2.12)

I think recommendation 2.9 definately sets the scene here “There is a clear role for VETiS into the future, within a strictly applied framework that supports achievement of the Government’s economic goals, however, Government’s VRG investment in VETiS needs to be focused on employment outcomes and aligned to the skill needs of industry,” and is on the money.  The need for stronger links between the vocational course offered to and taken by high school students become abundantly clear when you see that the biggest increases (between 300 & 800+%) in course has been in entertainment and fitness qualifications.  However again (and I know I am banging on about this a little) just going back to offering trade qualifications without reference to other industries with equal or more demand for workers would be a definite mistake.

The need for better dialogue between the VET and Higher Education Sectors (recommendation 2.12) is something that almost self-evident and needs to be improved.

So there you have my thoughts on specifics of the recommendations in section 2 of the report.  Tomorrow I am going to have a closer look at the recommendations around TAFE.

As always happy to hear what you have to think on any of these subjects.

Final Report Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce

Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce Final Report

So it is out; the final report of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce.  If you are involved in VET in QLD or anywhere in Australia for that matter this report is definitely worth looking over, and in some cases reading quite closely.  While we have yet to see exactly what the QLD Government will do with the results of the report it is clear that particularly around the restructuring of TAFE campuses in QLD to reduce their overall number, that some of the recommendations put them at odds with the Federal Government (though this is not surprising really).

What does the report say and is there anything in it that we did not really expect it to say.  At first reading I don’t think there is.  There is certainly nothing unexpected about a contestable industry demand driven model, nor the need to restructure TAFE and make it more commercially viable and the criticisms of Skills Queensland simply represent the fact that they were not given the power they need to have in order to be effective, by the previous government.

Let’s then have a look at some of the recommendations of the report;

Recommendation 2.1 –  The establishment of a truly industry led Skills Commission for Queensland.  I think  this is a good thing particularly given recommendation 2.3 which would see the Commission take over all of QLD’s funding functions.  My only concern here is the make up of the Commission, and the potential under representation of the Health and Community Services Sector.  Why; well it is simple we can talk about the wealth generated by the mining, construction and tourism industry, but even when you look at the figures in the report itself (on Page 27) the Health and Social Assistance Sector in the year to August 2012 had employment growth more than double that of the Mining industry.  Regardless of the amount of money the mining sector makes, it is the Health and Community Services Sector then is and will continue to be the biggest growing employer in both the State and the Country and any approach to funding of qualifications, skill sets (Recommedation 2.7) and like should be representative of that fact. The other point to be made about 2.7 is that if more of the funding is targeted at organisations rather than at individuals there will I think be an overall better result in terms of completions and employment outcomes.

Stronger links with VET in Schools (Recommendation 2.9) and a better link to employment outcomes for High School Students by alignment of qualification outcomes with industry need is something I have been advocating for a while now.  Again particularly when you look at the figures that show massive increases in some areas (800+% for arts and entertainment and 300+ for fitness related qualifications) and again Health and Community Services not even being in the top ten.  And I get it being a fitness instructor or a game designer is a much sexier career at 17-18 than being a counsellor or a support worker, but again that is where the jobs are going to be and if we are going to invest and encourage school students to look at career options and qualifications lets link them seriously to employment outcomes.

So what about TAFE, Recommendation 3.4 really stands out; the need to address the award agreements for TAFE workers is long overdue, both in the direct training area and in the administration areas.  Better management of assets (Recommendation 3.7) and a rationalisation of Campuses is also something that is badly needed in a number of areas as is the move to a more commercialised viewpoint the establishment of a new parent entity (Recommendations 3.8 and 3.9)

While the recommendations around the streamlining and the ability to transfer training contracts between employers and others (Recommendations 4.2 and 4.8 in particular) will assist in a number of areas, providing more funding to organisations to be able to recruit, train and retain, their staff would see much better outcomes I think.  This is evidenced by the Enterprise RTO experience where completion rates in the high 90% are the norm due to the fact that it is in the interests of the ERTO and the Organisation itself to hire the right staff in the first place, train them correctly and retain them.  Again the Government needs to look carefully at the Traineeship and Apprenticeship model and understand that it is no longer simply trade qualifications that are necessary components of this system but things like Aged Care, Community Services, Disability and Nursing Qaulifications that underpin and continue to underpin the Governments Four Pillars.

So if you haven’t managed to read the report it is definitely worth a look over, and I would really like to hear other people’s thoughts on the recommendations.

Niche Marketing your Organisational Learning Offerings

Niche Marketing your Internal Training To External Stakeholders

What is your core Business?  For us it is Community Services Activities, in particular crisis support, counselling, Individual support work and Suicide Prevention.  One of the challenges I had when I first came into this role was around how to fund all of the training that it was necessary to deliver (both internally and through external providers) to staff and volunteers.  This was a particular challenge for us as a substantial proportion of our income comes from the provision of services for Government, with the rest being made up through donations and other income generation where necessary.  This meant that while training was both very important and highly valued by the organisation there was a significant challenge around how to fund both a fully functioning L&D unit as well as provide access to externally provided training where it was required as the vast majority of our ‘income’ goes to the delivery of client services.

It became obvious quite quickly that there was a subset of the internal training that we ran for our staff, for example ‘Psychological First Aid‘  that possessed a commercial potential in terms of its content.  It was just packaged in a way that wasn’t necessarily appealing to a wider, external audience.  It also became obvious quite rapidly that given the high regard for and visibility of a number of our services, particularly in the counselling, suicide prevention and mental health arenas, that we were often asked by organisations to come and speak to their staff about these areas.  It was an added bonus that we were also a registered training organisation (RTO).  It also got me thinking that given it was a challenge for us, a fairly large organisation to be able to provide the necessary training to our staff that other, smaller agencies and organisation in the sector might also be facing similar if not larger difficulties.

We therefore decided to look at the prospect of commercializing the training we did internally for our staff, around our core business (and this I think is a key idea if you are thinking of doing this) and offering not only to other agencies within the sector but to organisations and businesses outside of the sector as well.  Has it been worth it; I think that it has, we have managed to build a commercial training and training consultancy business, that while not large, provides us with an income stream to supplement the funding given to us by the organisation to provide training for our staff, which in turn frees up funds for the delivery of services to clients.

So I challenge those of you in organisational L&D units and the like to think about your organisations core business and training that you deliver around that and see whether or not there is a niche market there that you can utilise.  Remember though it should be about that core business, the things that you are known for and are good at, they are the things that are going to give you the best results.  So think about it, you never know just how good your bottom line might look next year.

Friday Linkfest

I thought today I would just throw out some love to some of my friends and some of the great content I have seen over the last few weeks.  Hope you all enjoy it.

Velg Training – If you run an RTO or work in an RTO then these lovely folk are definitely worth a visit, particularly  their 12 Webinars of Christmas

ASTD –  10 Best Practices for Engaging Live Online Learning 

–  A nice discussion on the differences between ROI and ROE

Chief Learning Officer Magazine (CLO) – How to Build a Business Case and Measure the Effects of Leadership Development Programs

Learning Elite 2013 – The Deadline for entries has been extended until 15 November

IQPC Australia – 2nd Annual Organisational Learning and Development Forum – If you haven’t registered you should, the bonus is you get to hear me speak.


Thats all for this week folks, Have a good weekend.

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