The New system for Training Product Development – Some initial thoughts

The Federal Government yesterday released its new system for the development of Training Products (note the interesting change in terminology) for the Australian VET system.  The New system is very much like Option Two from the original consultation paper which I have supported as being the most sensible of the three options that were under discussion.  So what does the new package look like; below is a copy from the diagram which can be found here.

2015-04-22_093144

 

The differences between this model and the old model, in which the Industry Skills Councils (ISC) controlled both industry engagement and the development of the packages is easy to see.  Under the new system Industry engagement activities, environment scans and the oversight of the development of training products would rest with Industry Reference Committees (IRC), while the actual development of the packages and other associated support activities would rest with the Service Skills Organisations (SSO). All of these bodies and activities would be overseen by the Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC).    An outline of the new system can be found in this factsheet.

So what do each of these bodies do and what does it all mean.

The IRC’s  ‘provide the industry engagement mechanism at the centre of training product development. They provide the forum for industry engagement, an avenue for feedback on industry trends and a conduit for promoting VET.  Industry reference committees or similar representative arrangements underpin the current arrangements by industry skills councils to guide and provide input on industry demand for qualifications. Committees would be set up on an as needs basis. Some may operate on a standing basis and meet regularly given the priority of training for the sector or the rate of change to training products. Some may be stood up for a specific purpose and would be time limited’.

The SSO’s  ‘will be incorporated entities with professional boards overseeing their operations and services to industry reference committees. The organisation will receive funding to provide technical, operational and secretariat support to industry reference committees assigned to them. In addition to supporting industry reference committees discharge their responsibilities, the service organisations will also:

  • be responsible for facilitating the development of training products on behalf of their IRCs, including engagement across industry and the training sector;
  • provide quality assurance of training products and conduct the training product development process in accordance with the approved IRC business case;
  • manage the training products through the endorsement process on behalf of their IRC;
  • upload training products and other materials, including procedural information, onto ww.training.gov.au; and
  • prepare support materials and services as agreed with their IRC, to help with quality training delivery’.

So essentially what has occurred is that the industry engagement and consultation process, in particular what packages and qualifications require updating etc, has been split away from the process of the actual development of the package.  Personally I think this is a good thing, I along with others in the sector have been critical (too greater and lesser extents depending on the ISC) of the level of industry engagement underpinning the development of recent training packages as well as the make up of, and in some cases seeming lack of ‘new blood,’ for want of a better word, in the boards and executive committees of these organisations.  The IRC concept where the committee is either a standing committee (where there is evidence of the possibility of rapid change in terms of training needs), a short-term ad hoc committee, or a time limited committee which is formed for a particular purpose, allows for a level of flexibility which I feel is not currently part of the existing system as well as enabling these committees to be convened with members with substantial industry and training experience in the sector or qualification/s which are going to be under review.  This should decrease, in my opinion, what we have seen in some sectors where certain segments of that sector have been somewhat over represented in the memberships of some of the ISC’s.

So people have suggested that they can not see the space for trainers and assessors within this structure, for me though there is plenty of space and opportunity for trainers, assessors and other VET people within this system, even more perhaps than there was in the old system.  Training and Assessment people can, and in some cases should be members of IRC’s particularly where they have dual skill sets as both industry professionals and VET Professional or where the qualification is one that relates to training and assessment.  There is also space for them in the work of the SSO’s who are responsible for the development of the Training Products, products should not be developed without the input of VET professionals as well as industry.  Are they stated categorically as members in certain areas, no, but then again really no other groups of people are formally recognised as needing to have membership at any of the levels.  What this new system should provide however is better ability for input to given, by all areas relevant to the development of a Training Product.

One final word, some people have also commented on the use of the word training product, rather than training package for me the change is not something substantial it simply reflects as it notes in the fact sheet that the term training product refers to both the package and the qualifications that reside within that package.

Anyway that’s my opinion.

 

Paul can be contacted at

Rasmussen Learning Solutions or

Spectrum Training

 

What is Industry Currency?

If a person with a Certificate IV in Training and assessment had not delivered any training for say 2 years, would we consider them to have industry currency?

Why am I asking this question?  Well because the answer that we give has, I think, profound effects on what we should consider industry currency to be in the VET sector.  What if while they had not delivered any training, they had attended two training conferences each year, for example the AITD conference and the VELG conference, would we consider them to be current then?  Now when we start to extend this thinking and ask questions about what industry currency might mean in other sectors the issues start to become obvious.

Take a person who is training a Certificate III in plumbing, who has been a trainer for say 5 years, but who hasn’t actually picked up their tools and done actual work in the industry since they became a trainer.  Are they current?  This of course can be applied to all of the various parts of the VET sector, be it community services, trades, business it doesn’t matter the issue of industry currency is significant, because how can someone train a student in the latest practices and how they are utilised and applied unless they know these things themselves because particularly in some areas, while having the knowledge of how to do something is great, the actual application of that can be more challenging particularly in real work situations.

So what do I think industry currency is, well lets start with what I don’t think it is.  I don’t think going to a couple of conferences or attending a webinar or a course is satisfactory, neither do I think that being a member of an industry association (unless continuing membership is through a CPD process) makes the grade either.  I certainly think they are a start and for someone who has only just moved away from working in their industry to becoming a trainer, this might be enough for a little while, but the longer it has been since a person has actually worked in the sector in which they are training, the less I think these sorts of activities count as valid examples of industry currency.  If you have been a trainer for 10 years and haven’t work in your sector in that time, I struggle to see how you might still be competent.

One of the key components of industry currency for me, and one which I see is often missed is actually going back and working in the industry again, getting a feel for it and the changes around how things are done.  It is easy I think, for us as trainers to get somewhat comfortable in teaching what we know and how we did things, but in a lot a sectors now, best practice, applications, processes change rapidly and while yes we can gain knowledge of these things through seminars, courses and conferences as I said above, sometimes there is a significant difference between the knowledge and the application of that knowledge in an actual working environment.  To give a personal example, I used to do a lot of training in the area of enterprise level applications, particularly in the project and contract management space.  Now it as been 5  or more years since I actually worked in that space at the coal face of project management and the enterprise systems that support billion dollar projects.  Now I have kept up with the literature, attended the odd conference, still possess all the relevant qualifications, played with new products as they have been released and the like.  However I would not and have not for a number of years now considered myself to have industry currency and it would in my opinion take me a significant amount of time to get that currency back.  Why, the simple reason is that I don’t work in that industry any more, I am not immersed in the how and the why of things every day.

Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to be involved with training providers who have been either part of organisations delivering services in a particular sector or who had very tight links to organisations who do, which has given an insight into what real industry currency looks like.  It looks like staff who not only work as trainers but also as professionals in the industry (maybe only once a fortnight or once a month, but still actual work with real clients).  It is being embedded in the sector that they work in, seeing and interacting with clients every day they are in and around the office, whether they are working as trainers or as industry professionals.  It is strong links to the provision of services and how that is achieved; currently for example, the general manager of our disability and mental health services sits in the office next to me and almost every morning we sit in our outdoor area, have a coffee and talk about what is happening in each of our areas and across the sector, which provides both of us with insights, information and actual real world examples of a range of issues which we probably would not get if we weren’t so connected.  In previous roles my counselling trainers either volunteered on crisis phone lines or work directly with clients face to face or both, disability trainers worked with people with disability and youth work trainers were youth workers.  Everyone was essentially an industry professional first, even the staff who had been trainers for 20 years.

Now I acknowledge that for these kinds of organisationally embedded training providers it is perhaps easier to achieve this level of industry involvement, engagement and currency and that for a TAFE or a private RTO where they are not tightly part of an organisation, achieving this may be more difficult, but we have to do better than thinking that a couple of conferences and some PD count for currency.  If you haven’t done actual work in the sector you are training people in more than 2 years I personally think you probably don’t have currency.

Anyway that’s just my opinion.

Paul Can be contacted through

Rasmussen Learning Solutions or Spectrum Training

Marketing Vocational Education – Matching ethics and finances

No matter what anyone would like to think , Learning is a business, a business worth 100’s of billions of dollars worldwide and unfortunately where ever you have enormous sums of money involved there are always going to be those who seek to take advantage and utilise unethical practices in pursuit of financial gain.  We have over recent months seen the effects of this in the Vocational Training industry in this country, particularly with respect to VET-FEE HELP and the Educational Brokerage Industry but also in other areas as well.

It also doesn’t matter whether we are talking about public providers (TAFE) or non-public ones, there is still always going to be a need to work within budgetary constraints, ensure there are sufficient students in courses, make sure that the business you are running (and lets no kid ourselves TAFE is a business whether they want to think of themselves that way or not) is sustainable and can provide for the needs and expected outcomes of students and stakeholders.  So the question becomes how do you manage to do all of this, provide a high quality service, a sustainable business and still uphold your ethics.

My number one rule is a simple one

Don’t use Brokers or Educational Consultants

 

So why not, well from my point of view Brokers or educational consultants bring nothing to the table except either the necessity to increase the cost to consumer of your course or decrease the amount of income that comes to you.  Of course the argument for their use is that they bring in far more students than would be possible without them.  However the question which need to be asked is are the students appropriate for the programs you are offering.  Do they come to you already properly pre-screened or is all that is happening (and I think this is more often than not the case) they are simply getting a name on a form and directing the person to you and then you, the provider, is having to do all of the work.  So the question really needs to be asked, what is it that they are actually providing, are they doing something which the provider can not do internally and what is the quality of what they are doing.  If it is just a numbers game, trying to get as many people on the books to generate as much income as possible then why not, but if  the provider is actually interested in quality students and quality outcomes for those students then in my opinion they are much better staying away from brokerages.

So if providers are not going to utilise brokers and consultants then what can they do to ethically market their programs.  Well for a start there is the old stalwarts of reputation and word of mouth.  Now of course these two options are not going to line your coffers with gold, but then again if that is what you want you probably stopped reading much earlier than here.  As with any business the having a reputation for good high quality service will make it much easier for your business to be sustainable and it will generate the second one, word of mouth.  If students are happy with their experience and they get the outcome they wanted, then they will tell other people and those people will  think of you when they are in need of the service you provide.  To give you an example, a student who graduate from us last year, went on to be the manager of a large community services program and because of the experience he had learning with us, when he need to have 50 staff trained he didn’t even consider going anywhere else or even talking to anyone else he came straight to us and engaged us to do the work.  He also recommended us to other in the organisation which generated another 30 students for us.  That is 80 students as a direct result of one person having a positive experience and getting the outcomes they wanted.

Which brings me to my next point, don’t neglect your past students, you have got their details stored in your systems, remember them and they will remember you.  It is important to remember that this isn’t about selling to them. don’t just send them details of your upcoming training or special offers or things like that, actually remember them.  Many years ago I worked for a training provider who used to email all of their past students on their birthday and held a monthly birthday draw for cinema tickets or dinner out or the like.  85% of their business was either repeat business or direct referral from previous students.  I even saw on more than one occasion, ex students mark, friends, work colleges and family into the office  so that they could sign up for a program, and CEO’s of large companies ringing up and saying ‘I did your training about 10 years ago and it was fantastic, I still use it today and I need you to come out and deliver it to all of our executive and senior management teams.

Never underestimate the power of past students

 

Also too many training providers keep looking for individual students, isn’t it better to talk to one person and get 5 students than to have to talk to 5 people.  Build relationships and network with organisations, offer them more than just training.  Offer the L&D and HR people support with funding and training needs analysis and finding them suitable training providers if you can’t give them what they need.  When they do need what you have to offer they will come back to you, because you didn’t try to sell them something the didn’t need.  Be different, if you are the third person to call me this week offering me the same of boring diploma of management or certificate III program then you are going to get the same answer that they everyone else got.  Not interested.  Know what you are good at, explore niche markets, build a value proposition and give people what they want and need, not just what you can provide, there is a very big difference.

Ethically building a reputable sustainable business takes time, just being in this industry for the money provides outcomes for no one, so in the immortal words of Google ‘Just don’t be evil.

 

What’s wrong with just being a trainer?

I am proud to be a trainer!

I am a trainer at heart and I have been for quite a long time now.  In fact since the 90’s I have trained more than 20,000 people in subjects as varied as how to use outlook or word, how to manage multi million and multi billion dollar projects, how to help people in crisis, how to be better counsellors and support workers and pretty much everything in between.  I know what good outcomes look like and I know that the work I do and have done is valued by organisations and individuals across the globe.  But you know what,

I am sick and tired of people saying that trainers need to be better educated, or better skills or have more educational theory pumped into them!

I am particularly sick and tired of it when the people saying it are academics or researchers, self-styled educationalist guru’s or whatever pithy title they want to have for themselves, who have for the most part never or at least hardly ever actually set foot in a training room and delivered training.  The vast majority of trainers who I know and have worked with, and trust me there is a lot of people who fall into that group, are absolute professionals, who are highly skilled not just in delivering training but in their field or fields of excellence as well.  They are not someone who has just spent time at university learning how to teach curriculum from a book, but who have never actually been out in the work place doing what they teach.  No these are people who not only know their industries and the skills and knowledge that that industry needs but they also know how to pass it on.  And I am not just talking about the VET sector here either I am talking about the whole training and L&D industry professionals delivering solid outcomes to people and organisations every day.  On any particular day these people might be teachers or educators or coaches or mentors or facilitators or what ever is required, but like me at heart they are trainers.

Now teaching is typically defined as, “to cause to know something, to guide the studies of, to impart knowledge or to instruct by example, precept or experience.” where as  training seeks “to form by instruction, discipline or drill” or “to make prepared for a test or skill.” Training usually has a more specific focus than teaching, which seeks to instil a deeper knowledge over a longer period of time. Training, on the other hand, seeks to help people master a specific skill, or skill set, until they are able to execute it efficiently, and training is what I do and that is what most of the people I know do.  We give people the skills and knowledge they need to perform tasks and job roles both now and in the future, to help they get employment, improve their position or just simply be better at what they do, and here is the thing, that is what the people that we work with want, whether they are organisations or individuals, they are not particularly interested in me assisting them on their lifelong learning journey or to assist them to engage in an immersive andragological educational experience, they want the have a particular sets of skills and knowledge either for something they need to do now or something they want to do in the future.

Now I know that there are going to be people reading this who go, ‘well you just have a very limited viewpoint on what this sector is’ or ‘well that because of the way things are structured, if we had more educationalists (or whatever) involved and a different structure things would be different’  or ‘You just don’t understand your just a trainer.’

Dam right I am just a Trainer and I for one am proud of that fact.

 

Anyway that’s just my opinion, Happy Easter Folks, have fun and be safe.

A registration board for the VET sector?

Do we need a Trainer and Assessors registration board?

 

After my previous post and a number of comments and discussions in a variety of forums, I got to thinking about this idea of a registration board for Trainers and Assessors in the VET sector.  Now I know this idea has been floated before, and that there are several groups out there who have or are attempting, as membership organisations, to utilise this idea to lift the general level of professionalism in the industry.  But lets face facts, unless membership of an organisation is linked to some kind of regulated authority to train, then there is always going to be a systematic failure.  There are registration boards for Teachers in all of the states, statutory bodies, set up to regulate and determine who is appropriately qualified and suitable to teach in a our primary and secondary school systems,  so do we need something like that?  A single national registration board for all trainers and assessors in the VET sector.    While I think in the long-term that might be a very good idea, I think there might be an alternative which at least in the shorter term may have a significant effect on the professionalism of the industry.

A registration board for all Trainers and Assessors delivering a Training and Assessment Qualification!

So if you want to be able to train others in the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment or above or any qualification from the TAE package, you would need to be registered by a single national board which provided you with an Authority to Train.  It should like most other boards of its ilk, charge membership fees which would be used to cover the expenses of running the board, and have clearly defined membership entry and maintenance requirements.  These requirements should revolved around skills and knowledge as well as experience.  Imagine the difference that would be made overnight if the ‘TAE registration board’ required 5 years of training experience before you were able to apply for membership to allow you to deliver a TAE qualification.  Gone instantly would be the incidents of doing a weekend TAE this weekend and then teaching the same class the next weekend.  A skills and knowledge component, perhaps an exam could be added into the mix for initial registration, as well as strong on going CPD requirements including delivery thresholds, peer supervision and mentoring requirements, then add to this penalties for non-compliance including suspension and de-registration and even just at this level, directly aimed at those teaching TAE qualifications this would have a rapid and marked effect on the quality not only of the TAE suite of programs, but a knock on effect to all other qualifications as well. This added to increased regulatory pressure at an organisational level would should see the quality of the qualification and the sector lifted quickly.

Now people might argue against this proposal in a number of ways.

This is industry is already over regulated

I am not sure of this for a start, but even so the vast majority of regulation at this point in time sits at the level of the RTO.  Trainer registration sits at a personal, not organisational level.  It is something that is managed by a person for themselves.  Individuals can choose whether or not they wish to be registered and have an Authority to Train or not.  Trainers and Assessors not delivery TAE qualifications would not be required to undertake registration, although there could either initially or over time a registration process developed for those who did not deliver TAE products.

The cost of a TAE qualification would go up

Probably, but is that a bad thing?  Is a $300, 2 day, Certificate IV in Training and Assessment really worth the money it is printed on for anyone?

Who would run it

The simple solution in my mind would be the regulator (ASQA).  Given that it needs some kind of regulatory force behind it to be effective, it either needs to be the current regulatory body or some of other statutory body.  I suppose it could be an independent organisation, but issues of continuity always concern me in these cases.

It is another expense for the Trainer 

I, as I think most reputable training organisations would be more than happy to pay the registration fees and associated costs of our TAE trainers or in terms of a new employee who came with registration, renewals of the registration for as long as they worked for us.  However that aside it would be an expense, yes, but it seems one that anyone who was interested in the quality of training and assessment would be willing to pay.

 

The single most important thing about this however, is that it needs to have regulatory force, it needs to be built into the standards that Training providers delivering TAE qualification may only employ registered trainers to deliver those qualifications.  No working under supervision arrangements or anything like that, you either have the registration and the authority to train or you don’t and if you don’t you can’t be employed in a role relating to the delivery of TAE qualification.

 

Anyway that’s just my opinion.

 

 

Fruit of the poison tree – The problem of non-competent trainers

So what happens when a trainer or assessor who is not-competent assesses someone as competent?

 

So I have been involved in a number of discussions recently about the quality of delivery and assessment of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and the resulting competence of ‘trainers’ as a result of that.  Now before I go any further here it is important to note that this is not just something that is occurring in the non-public sector, but across the board, we are seeing it seems just as many people coming out of TAFE lacking the skills and knowledge they should have as we are from the non-public providers.  A lot of the conversation has been around the problems of finding good, competent capable staff out of what seems to be these days an absolute tidal wave of rubbish.  People who can’t present, don’t know basic things like the principles of assessment, or how to unpack a unit of competency.  Now of course over time some of these people are going to become competent despite their original non-competence, but there still exists of course the problem that at the time the certificate was issued they weren’t competent and therefore should not have been given the qualification in the first place.

Now there has been much discussion about what should be done about this and how it can be addressed, but there seems to be a consensus that at some point the regulator must have to step in and cancel or withdraw a whole pile of qualification which were issued where they should not have been.  Now whether or not this will actually happen is certainly a matter for conjecture, however a recall of this nature would have quite a significant effect on people who had built careers on these qualifications which have been found to be soiled.  This is even more problematic for those who were actually competent in first instance but whose qualification is called into question by association or for those who have become competent since the issuance of the certificate.  Now the argument could be made that  given that they are now competent or were competent originally the withdrawal or cancellation would not prove to have an adverse effect because they  would simply need to provide evidence of that competent to acquire a ‘real’ qualification. The big question which pops up then however is who is going to pay for that. If the person in question undertook their qualification in good faith, and then at a later date the regulator removes that qualification then it would seem that either the company that issued it (which is probably then out of business) or the government should be responsible for the costs of re-assessment. Of course it could also be suggested that very few people do a 2 day certificate IV or a 5 day diploma in good faith or that they can be unaware that after a 6-12 month program where they are struggling that they are not actually competent.
On top of all of this though sits the issue of ‘Fruit of the poisonous Tree’ as they say in the US. If someone who has a qualification but who is not competent, assesses the competence of another person then it is not a reach to suggest that that persons competence and resulting qualification may also be questionable.  We have already seen a significant number of qualifications from one provider cancelled and a range of others from both public and non-public providers called into question, now not to question the competence of those people who assessed these qualifications, but it would seem to me to necessary to investigate that issue as well as the providers from which they gained their qualification.  Now let’s explore what might happen is ASQA starts to cancel, withdraw or recall certificates from even one Certificate IV TAE provider, let alone more than one.  Even if not all certificates are ‘recalled’ it throws into question the veracity of all of the qualifications issued by the provider even those non-TAE qualifications.  Further it must call into question two things,

  1. The competence of any person deemed competent from someone with a ‘recalled’ qualification
  2. The hiring and assessment practices of any providers which employed a person with a ‘recalled’ qualification

It is as I have indicated above a ‘Fruit of the poison tree’ scenario, none of the decisions about competency can be taken at face value and from there it is ‘turtles all the way down’

So what can be done about all of this, well , one solution (which will probably never happen) is to license only a very select number of providers both public and private to assess VET sector competence, rather than the almost open slather that we have at the moment and support the sector (through funding) to have everyone re-assessed. It would be a mammoth and costly task.

Another solution would be a formal licensing process for VET sector professionals assessed by an independent 3rd party with strong ongoing CPD requirements. This would also solve the problem of PD and currency for trainer and facilitators.

The other thing that sits in my head along side of all of this is the skill and knowledge sets (and qualifications) of those in education management roles an what we expect them to be. Ethical, experienced and appropriately qualified CEO’s and education managers in training providers would not allow the delivery of poor quality or substandard qualifications, and not hire non-competent people thus over time improving the quality of the training being provided and the industry as a whole.

Anyway that’s just my opinion.

 

Customisation of Learning – Connecting L&D and VET

A lot of training providers talk endlessly about their ability to customise a program to meet the needs of an organisation.  However, how many of them actually do it or do it in a way that really meets the needs of the organisation?

 

 

I think unfortunately, or fortunately for those who do, not many.  Often in the VET sector customisation means little more than choosing different electives, although not too different or there might not be someone able to train them. Unfortunately in most cases, just changing electives is not really customisation, it is far more a case of here are the options we are offering what would you like to choose. This of course is not something that is just confined to the VET sector, a great many licensed and proprietary training programs offer very little in the way of real customisation, however it is the ability to customise training to suit specific organisation and even individual need that is a strength of the VET system.

Customisation is building the training program in such a way that it achieves the goals that the organisation wants.  It is about using their documents, their policies, their procedures.  It is about building a program that produces a participant who has the skill set that the organisation requires, and who is able to utilise that skill set in their work.  The common complaint about this kind of customisation from providers is that you still have to do what the training package says, they have to be assessed on the performance criteria and you have to make sure that the skills and knowledge which are taught to the student are not so workplace specific that they are not easily transferable to other workplaces and roles.  Now of course, this is true, but I don’t think that anyone ever said that what was listed in the performance criteria was all a program could to contain.  It doesn’t say anywhere in the packages that you cannot add additional information or assessment or training.  What it says is that this set of skills and knowledge, assessed against this set of performance criteria is the evidence that is required to deem this person competent in this Unit of Competency.

The other issue that is often bought up is where there is something in the performance criteria that for whatever reason the organisation doesn’t do or does completely differently.  An example of this is a unit of competency around strength based practice in support work and counselling.  There is a process mentioned in the performance criteria which while correct and used by a lot of practitioners, is probably not used, described differently, or used differently, by equally many practitioners.  So (leaving aside questions whether or not the criteria should actually even be in the unit) often staff undertaking this unit end up being trained in something that their organisation does not use and in some cases is actively opposed to the use of.  This also then tends to mean that where that unit is an elective and can be left out it is, which may dilute the overall strength of the qualification from the organisations perspective.  It may also mean that the organisation may then have to go out and source additional training or develop it themselves, around the content which is contained in the unit.   So what does customisation look like here, for an organisation that doesn’t use the particular segment of the unit of competency, given that we know that in order to meet the performance criteria it can’t be left out, and it needs to be assessed.  Having done this on numerous occasions the answer is in general remarkably simple, do both and assess both.  Assess the accredited unit according to the performance criteria and the other according to what the organisation wants.  It is then a case of explaining to the students that while you have provided them with two options, one is the preferred method where they work now, but there are other organisations which may prefer to use the other method.  Is it a little more work?  Yes, but it will also makes the organisation much happier than saying well we have to teach them this method because that is what the training package says and then let them come up with a solution around how to train their staff in their preferred method.

Customisation is also about little things,  like making sure that when you are talking about documents and policies the examples you use are, where possible, from the organisation itself.  It is about using the language of the organisation as well, particularly if you are talking about reporting lines, hierarchies and business processes and software.  It is about sitting down with the manager, the L&D person or whoever you are working with and saying, what are the skills and knowledge you need your staff to have at the end of this and what tasks do you expect them to be able to undertake and then structuring the course around that.  Take the time to cluster and structure delivery and assessment so that it makes sense in the context of the work environment.  There is very little point in training someone in a skill they are not going to use for 6 months.  It is better to provide them with the training in proximity to when they will use the skill, to enhance the retention of the skill and knowledge.

Customisation is actually an enormous strength within our VET system.  This becomes particularly evident when it is compared to many of the other proprietary training programs that are out there, most of which can’t be changed or customised to suit particular circumstance, because the material is copyrighted and licensed and often, because of this the people delivering the training have no say in the content or its delivery.  So in order to meet the criteria of the provider that owns the program they have to deliver it in, often, a very particular manner which unless you are training large numbers of people or spending large sums of money on the training are probably not going to be altered by the program owner.  This ability to customise should not be taken to mean that we can and should ignore the rules of the VET sector, things like Volume of Learning, and the rules relating to assessment and evidence, however the space circumscribed by those rules allows us much more latitude to be able to develop and deliver a program that meets the needs of our clients than most licensed training would ever be able to do.

The real problem is that most providers seem very reluctant to do it.

Anyway that’s my opinion.

 

Paul contacted via;

Rasmussen Learning Solutions

Spectrum Training

Time to competence, vocational assessment and organisational need

So in this post on better connecting the L&D and VET sectors I want to look at time frames and how the concept of time to competence may encourage L&D people and organisations to look at professional development training over nationally accredited (VET) qualification.

Most L&D departments are under pressure to deliver programs in quite short timeframes, (Can I have that as a half day?) which I have explored in other works.  There is almost always a pressure from the business to ensure that staff are not taken ‘off the job’ for more time than is actually necessary.  In this way a program that runs over even five consecutive days and then is finished may be preferable to a program that runs for 6-12 months even if it only runs one day a month.  The logistics around making staff available are easier for one-off programs, in a lot of cases particularly where the person works in direct client facing roles, other staff have to be moved around or rostered in order to allow for a staff member to go on a training course.  It is also often the case with VET training that there will be work that the staff member is required after the delivery of the program itself to meet the assessment criteria of the program.  This in turn then, in a significant number of cases, leads to the staff member applying to have some of their work time allocated to completing their study which in turn puts additional time and resource pressure on the business manager.

The other time related factor which often comes into play here as well is that of the time commitment necessary from any managers, supervisors or team leaders involved with the staff who are undergoing training. With most professional development programs as opposed to nationally accredited programs, there is little or no involvement needed from the supervisory staff of those undertaking training.  However this is, in most cases, not the same situation when we look at VET training.  There is almost always in the case of VET training a requirement of ‘on the job’ observation or training which needs to be undertaken with the staff members in question.  This is often further exacerbated where the manager or supervisors are not in the same workplace as the staff requiring supervision and observation and by the by the fact that often these activities have to happen on more than one occasion for each participant.

In addition there is also the issue of the time involved for the individual L&D staff members, with professional development style programs there is often not a lot of additional work which they are required to undertake.  Again this is often not the case with VET training, in particular where the training program being delivered is not simply a generic program.  There is time spent consulting with the RTO around the content of the program, looking at what needs to contextualised to the particular business unit or units who are being trained, signing off on paperwork, which it of particular relevance where VET training is being delivered through a funding or subsidy program such as an apprenticeship or traineeship scheme.

The other side of the coin is that one of the things that organisations like about VET is the robustness of the assessment and the competence that results from on the job training and rigorous training and assessment practices.  This is particularly attractive to organisations who work in areas which could be considered to be high risk or where parts of the business deal in high risk areas.  Should something tragic occur within an organisation which results in the serious injury or death and the organisation needs to testify about the competence of its staff, being able to say that staff had undertaken nationally accredited and been deemed competent, is far more potent than saying that they attended a 2 day course with no assessment of competence.

Now of course this should not be taken to suggest that RTO’s need to shorten their time frames, forgo ‘on the job’ observation and assessment or compromise the integrity of the training and assessment.  Remember it is the robust assessment of competence that organisations value about VET.  What it does mean however is that we need to understand and work with the needs of the business.  This means asking questions like, do thee need a full qualification or just some units, is their training already being done in the organisation that we can map to accredited outcomes.  Make the observation and ‘on the job’ processes as simple for the managers as possible, create good checklists, not just the performance criteria, give the staff journals to fill in themselves, explain to everyone how the process works and what is expected.  Map out everything so the process makes sense for everyone.  The more that both the managers and the staff understand and are engaged in the end to end process the easier it is for everyone to get the result that they want.

Also the easier we can make the process from the perspective of the L&D staff the easier it will be over all.  If L&D can see that the time requirements for them in terms of staff undertaking an accredited program can be minimised, allowing them to do other value add undertakings the more like they are to champion the program and the easier it will be to get those successful outcomes.

 

 

Branding Vocational Education – Connecting L&D and VET

So today in my continuing series of pieces on connecting the Vocational Education and Learning and Development communities I wanted to talk a little about brand.  Now I have spoken about the VET Brand before and the need for us to ensure that the VET Brand in this country is a strong and vibrant one, that is both attractive and well-respected.  Now given the current climate and negative press that has been circulating around the sector it seems an appropriate time to talk about it again, all be it from a completely different angle.  Before I go any further however, last time I talked about this there was a number of people from the public provider side of the fence who shouted to it shouldn’t be about brand, it was education and just providing people with a quality education was what was required, almost as if everything else would then simply take care of itself.  As I said then however, in my mind learning is a business, a business which is worth in excess of $150 Billion worldwide and if we don’t start treating the vocational education sector as a business then we will see it eroded on a range of different fronts and despite calls to the contrary brand and the value and perception of that brand are vital ingredients in the equation.

So what do I mean?  Well if we look at the example of Prince2, which I have talked about before as well; why would an organisation or an individual choose to spend $3000 on a Prince2 course when they could spend the same amount and get a certificate IV or even a diploma of project management through the Australian VET system?  While as some commentators have rightly pointed out, part of the reason has to do with the time frames associated with the completion of the program, however one of the other significant reasons behind this choice is BRAND.  Prince2 is a powerful brand, it is an internationally recognised and accepted certification of knowledge of the Prince2 project management methodology.  It is a ‘requirement’ for employment in an ever-increasing range of government and public service positions, as well as in the private sector, so strong in fact is the brand that often experienced project managers with degree level study in the field, find it difficult to obtain roles without it.

So given the choice of sending your staff or yourself to a certificate IV in project management or on a Prince2 course, which one would you choose?

Now we can was lyrical about the quality of outcomes and education in the VET sector.  We can discuss at length, how it should be structured, what components it needs, whether it should focus on immediate job role skills or knowledge for future roles, BUT if there are no students there is no VET sector.  If organisations choose international qualifications and programs over our home-grown accredited training system, then we won’t have to worry about who pays for TAFE infrastructure costs or how much profit is being made by gigantic private RTO’s because there wont be any students and there won’t be a vocational education sector.  Now I am being a little melodramatic here, but sometimes we need to realise that without students there isn’t sector and if students see more value in doing a certification from an American or European training organisation, because it has a stronger brand or is better recognised, and employers and organisations see it the same way, then the value of our sector will continue to erode.

Of course I can hear the cries now;

  • It’s the private RTO’s that are the problem, get rid of them and give it all back to TAFE, everyone trusts TAFE,
  • If only the Training packages were more flexible that would solve all of the problems,
  • TAFE is so inflexible, they make it hard for everyone,
  • The ISC’s cause all the problems they take so long to update anything,
  • If the government didn’t stop changing the rules things would work much better,
  • and so on.

Guess what, it doesn’t matter.  All this arguing is doing is hurting the VET brand.  It is making organisations and individuals less likely to choose a VET program over some other program with a better brand and stronger, cleaner reputation.  We need to pull our socks up, all of us.  We need to stop thinking that what matters to organisations are completion rates, and free or heavily subsidies training or full qualifications, or whatever else it is we are worrying about today.  Organisations care far more about what the training their staff do means to their day-to-day business than they do about subsides and completion rates or pretty much anything else.  If the only reason someone is going on a training course is because it is free or almost free, you can bet the organisations perceived value of that course is fairly low.  If we want this sector to be strong, vibrant and to provide for the needs of organisations and individuals now and into the future, we need to build a brand that both organisations and individuals view as valuable as worthwhile and as meeting real business needs and actually providing some real tangible return on investment.

Anyway that’s my opinion.

 

Paul can be contacted through his website  Rasmussen Learning Solutions

 

 

Prior skills and knowledge and the L&D, VET intersection

Continuing on from my last post and in response to a question from one of the Linkedin Groups I am involved with, I want to look at how the knowledge, skills and experience that a person brings to a role are incorporated in this model.  My initial answer was that this is, could and should be handled through the RPL process of the Training organisation which is involved in the model.  This is I think however not the entire picture of what is going on here and why, because really there are three things happening all of which may be heading towards different outcomes.

Firstly we have the person who comes to a role with a set of skills, knowledge and experience, some of which may be directly applicable to the role in question while others may not.  Secondly we have the organisation whose goal is to, at least at a base level, ensure that all of their staff have whatever minimum set of skills and knowledge they have decided is applicable.  Thirdly we have the RTO who is trying to tie all of these threads and others together and translate that into formal outcomes.  Now I have discussed some ideas around how this third piece might be achieved here, but I will discuss additional ideas here as well.

Lets start with the organisation whom the person is employed by.  There are two issues here, the first is that all organisations have a level of expectation in relation to the skills and knowledge of their employees and seek to have all of their employees at that level.  Additionally however even with industry transportable skills, there may be quite large differences in the way those skills are utilised or play out between different organisations.  For example it may be the case and often is that two different community service providers may be ustilising totally difference delivery and care models.  Both of these models will use and rely on the same set of skills and knowledge, however those same skills and how they relate to service delivery and care, how they are used and at what level will depend on the model and the employees place within that model. So these issues then in turn lead to the need to train people in ‘how we do things here,’ it also points to one of the biggest complaints organisations make about staff they hire who have been trained ‘generically’ by a provider; while they may have certain skills and knowledge they don’t possess the organisational mindset around how these skills are used.  This in turn of course leads to over training of staff, needless refresher courses and a range of other activities that are done in the name of compliance, but ultimately just cost the organisation money.

From the point of view of the individual coming into a role with an already established set of skills, they rightly or wrongly feel that they have the requisite skills and can, again rightly or wrongly be quite adverse to receiving training in those areas they already feel skilled in, giving rise to the cries of ‘I did this in my last organisation,’ or ‘I learnt all of this at uni.’

However, and I spoke about this a couple of years ago at the Edutech conference, a lot of organisations both big and small already have a lot of the information they need to manage this interface between employee, organisation and provider much more easily than they do, but either don’t know they have it or don’t know what to do with it.  A great many organisations out there capture resume, training, and qualification data on their employees when they commence and through their time with the organisation, but few of them use this data to its full potential particularly with respect to training needs analysis, skills and knowledge assessment, or even RPL or credit transfer and competency assessment.

If this data is properly stored and mined it can provide a wealth of information, particularly when added to more formal assessment, as to what training is necessary for each individual to undertake.  To give you a conceptual idea of what I mean, we could collect a whole range of information from a new employee, including things like qualifications, training they have under taken, responses to skill and knowledge questions, any testing which took part, in essence a whole range of information.  This information could then be filtered against not only internal training requirements, but accredited training requirements to form an individual map for each employee and their managers of that person journey from induction to qualification.  Of course this won’t be all that is required, particularly at the accredited qualification end of the scale, but having a map like that would assist everyone, the employee, the organisation and the RTO to produce the outcomes that all of the stakeholders require.

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