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.


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.

4 Responses to Issues Paper – Review of VET regulation standards

  1. ddavis2012 says:

    Paul, I totally agree with your comments regarding a framework for auditors. Auditors are but one aspect of the big picture and their mindset and actions need to be balanced and in line with the overall purpose of VET. The danger without a framework, in my opinion, is inequity of power.


    • pauldrasmussen says:


      You are exactly right I think some of the issues that are often leveled at Auditors are a definate result of the fact that the big picture around what is the purpose of VET in Australia is not clear.

  2. Nancy says:

    Paul, Fantastic analysis as always! Case in point no two trainer/assessor will train/asses in the same way irrespective of desired learning outcome, likewise no two auditors conduct an audit in the same way either.

    Defining quality in the form of objective process, tools, strategy and outcome, are all crucial and integral to any effective quality management systems of a responsive RTO who delivers quals within VET.

    Keep up the fight for better outcomes for all

    • pauldrasmussen says:

      Thanks Nancy, I agree that different people are also going to audit in different ways. The more robust the guidelines, the framework and the process for appeal and challenge the better.

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