I dont want to be a trainer all my life!

Career progression in L&D in general and the Australian VET sector in particular


Over the past couple of weeks I have encounters a number of conversations or articles, one example of which is by the ever erudite Sukh Pabial, around how to get started or how to progress ones career in the world of L&D.  While I firmly believe that L&D really is the HR sweet spot, some of the comments and issues that have been raised about the L&D industry seem quite valid both from an international point of view and from an Australian perspective.  The question I have been asked a number of times recently has been, ‘How do I get started in training?’  My initial off the cuff response, at least to those people in Australia was to go out and get their Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, but recently I have realised that I was actually embedding quite a lot of assumptions in the statement I was making, mainly I think due to the fact that I have been involved much more heavily in the management of L&D and training in the last few years than the coal face shall we say.

This minor revelation came about when myself and a long time friend were talking about how we get involved in the industry and realised that both of us started outside the VET sector, delivering non nationally accredited training in fee for service providers and that neither of us when we started had a TAE qualification and worked for a number of years quite successfully without every needing it.  But now it seems that everyone in the training industry and beyond whether involved in the delivery and assessment of accredited training or not, expects that everyone will at a minimum have the TAE qualification.  But what about an HR person with a degree and a specialisation in Learning and Development, do they need to get the entry-level qualification on top of their other qualifications.  Definitely, if they want to deliver training, or and let’s be fair here, even work in the RTO/VET sector in Australia, but more and more it is simply expected that those involved in L&D in this country with have a TAE.  Now I am not intending to argue whether or not this is a good thing or the value of the qualification or anything like that, but and I come back to my revelation, getting the qualification is not by necessity the first thing you should do if you want to become involved in L&D, what you really need is experience.

Now I am not talking here of just experience in training and L&D or HR, I am talking about a wider workplace experience, that begins to develop your depth of knowledge about how organisations and the people within them think and work.  This was driven home to me recently when I was having a conversation with a younger person who was taking part in a TAE program and when she was asked what it was wanted to train and why she wanted to do the course, she responded by saying she didn’t know what she wanted to train, but she just really wanted to train and teach people and become part of the L&D/Training industry.  I mean I wish her the best but with a Cert IV TAE, a generalist business degree and almost no experience, I think it might be a very hard road for her.

But what about when you are already in the industry, most of us involved in L&D and the VET sector are very passionate about what we do, we do it because we love it, it is as they say ‘in our blood’, but and this is what really struck me about Sukh’s post was there is little or no career progression within organisations, be they dedicated training organisations or L&D units within businesses.  Unlike a lot of other career pathways, you don’t start in a junior role and slowly progress into more senior positions, for me like Sukh, all of my career progressions have been because I have moved roles from one organisation to another.  We tend it seems to hire trainers as trainers and don’t really offer them a pathway to anything else, except perhaps ‘Senior Trainer’ or the like.  So they train for as long as it excites them and then they either leave the profession or they look for other roles outside the organisation they are in.  The same goes for Admin people and Compliance people and the works, we seem to want to pigeon-hole people and once they are in their hole, that is what we continue to think of them as.  Then as an added ‘bonus’ in Australia you have the TAFE, Training providers, organisational divide, where it would be exceedingly rare for someone to be given a role in a TAFE that had not had experience in a TAFE, though in reality there is very little difference between running a TAFE, a large training organisation or an organisation L&D department.  And the same goes in other directions as well, most non TAFE people think TAFE folk are boring, conservative and not terribly innovative, TAFE people thin commercial providers are cowboys out for a buck and corporate L&D thinks itself aloof from everyone.

So I wonder whether we can have the kind of progression in the L&D world that we might see in other professions, I think the problem for us is that there are a lot choices available to people who want to be involved in this sector of the workforce, and a lot of different avenues for people to explore and often the higher you get up the food chain and the more experienced you get the less you end up doing the things that make you passionate about this life we call L&D.

Is self regulation for RTO’s a good idea

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.

On VET reform, some observations and comments

So everyone has been talking recently about the VET reform agenda of the current federal government and the changes needed in the VET sector to better meet Australia’s needs. The demise of the NSSC and a language focusing on the needs of Industry and outcomes points to a different landscape.

So I thought I might make a couple of observations and some comments on Australia’s VET system and what changes might be useful to see.

I think one of the things that we will see very quickly and are already seeing is a increased focus on the needs of industry or more particularly a focus on industry advising government on the direction that VET needs to take. We have already seen this happening in QLD with seemingly a much stronger link between government and industry in relation to the VET sector. Is this a good thing? While I applauds the idea of stronger links between the training sector and industry, a focus on industry opinion will certainly have an effect on priorities. One of these changes is the continuing discussion from industry around the need for delivery of skill sets. The use and delivery of skills sets either as an adjunct to or instead of qualifications to needs of organisations is a completely different model both in terms of delivery, funding and the commercial operations of an RTO.

One others comment I would like to make is about the focus of compliance activities. It amazes me and always has for that matter is that an audit can be carried out on a training organisation. An auditor can spend days with an RTO before deeming them compliant and never once actually have to look at the content and how it is delivered. No one ever sits through the face to face training or does the online training before they deem an RTO to be compliant. I have always found this more than a little weird. I know that the argument is that if the assessment tools are right and they are properly utilised then of course the training must be ok, because how else could have the participant successfully completed the assessments. I also know that this argument is rubbish. If we are going to change the system for the better then in my opinion one of the ways we could make that actually happen is by having auditors actually sit through some of the training that is being delivered by the RTO in in whatever form it takes.

Remember exceptional outcomes are the result of exceptional training.

Dealing with difficult people when facilitating

Great post by Sukh

Thinking About Learning

There comes a time for most facilitators when they’re met with that person in the group who is difficult. In the context of the learning session, this is quite broad. A difficult person is someone who:
– is dominating a lot of the conversation because they have things to say
– are openly questioning and challenging the facilitator
– is making inappropriate remarks or comments to others in the room
– is cynical to an uncomfortable level
– is challenging because of recent change affected to them
– and other behaviours I’m not remembering to list

I’ve had cause in recent learning sessions to deal with these types of difficult people. And it’s caused me to reflect on what role I play in their behaviour.

First and foremost I have taken the opinion that if it is happening in the learning session, this is the right place for it. Something…

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