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

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

Industry Engagement in Training Package Development Discussion Paper – Some early thoughts

As most of us know the Department has released its consultation paper on the development of training packages and how packages may be developed going forward now that the ISC’s are being disbanded in the middle of next year.  I don’t intend to discuss a lot of the background and supporting discussion here suffice to say that I definitely endorse the position that ‘one of the aims of the review is to ensure more direct industry involvement in the development and review of training packages.  I want to focus on the three options put up for discussion and I guess point in direction that I am tending to lean towards.

Option 1 – Purchase training package development as the need arises: Training Development Panel

While I like the what appears to be the high level of flexibility of this approach I am concerned about a number of things, most importantly the perception that large or well-funded sectors may have much better ability to have their training packages reviewed at the expense of small or less well resourced sectors.  I am generally in favour of the technical writers being independent and without vested interest, I am not sure however about how much industry engagement is actually going to happen, how it will be handled and how it will flow through to the technical writers.

Option 2 – Industry Assigns responsibilities to preferred organisations

I like this option, it is currently the one I am leaning towards it tends in my view to represent a solid mid-point between the very open first option and the third option or what is currently the case.  In this option Industry would be given the opportunity to form committees to represent their skill needs and to develop and maintain the packages.  These committees would manage and coordinate the operation of the approach.  The committees would be the engagement point with the industries they represent and would identify the skills and needs.  They would then utilise the training development panel to take these needs and skills and codify them into training packages.  This seems to me to be the approach which best marries the needs of industry, (this model should I  think provide a high level of engagement) with development needs.  It is also less like to be effected by sector size or resources in terms of recognition of sectoral need.  In addition, without a standing edifice that we currently have with the ISC’s costs associated with development may be reduced.

Option 3 – Government contracts for Designated VET sector bodies

Isn’t this what we already have albeit with talk of reducing the number of bodies.  There would need to be substantive change in the way industry engagement is done and managed in these new bodies to make me feel comfortable with this as a preferred option.  The system is currently cumbersome and slow to react to the needs of industry and reducing the number of sector bodies would I think only increase the difficulties we currently see with the system.

So there we go.  For my mind at least and from a purely pragmatic point of view I guess Option 2 is the best option.  It seems to me to be the one that has the best ability to provide robust industry engagement, which should therefore provide us with the skills and knowledge needed for workers in the industry sector in question, both current and future requirements.  These skills and knowledge can then be developed, by the training development panel into packages with meet the standards, which can then be verified by the committee as meeting industry requirements.  It strikes me as an approach which could be very agile (in the project management sense) which should therefore return solid results for everyone.

 

If not Industry Lead then what. Training packages, VET and the industry connection

With the VET reform process has come a lot of questions around the creation, development and management of the Training Packages which make up the VET system and there are currently two discussion papers released by the Department in relation to this.  Now even at this early point in the discussion there as been some robust discussion around the training packages, their content and their development.

When I start to think about this issue a couple of things come to mind for me, the first is, that I am not terribly interested in how the Training Packages were originally developed, they are what we have and the discussion should I thing focus on what is the best path forward from here.  I don’t think there is much appetite out there for the wholesale reinvention of training packages, but please correct me if I am wrong.

The other thing that sits heavy on my mind is this;

If not industry led, then what?

As most of you know I am a strong supporter of the VET system in this country and it capacity to increase workforce participation, provide a skilled workforce for the current and future needs of industry.  However the only way in which it can meet the needs of industry is if industry are the central to informing what the required skills and knowledge.  If we look at the first principle from which the reform process is being undertaken  namely;

The national system of qualifications must provide a reliable signal to employers about the skills an individual has, and must be underpinned by industry-defined occupational standards that:
• reflect the technical and generic skills and knowledge that are required in jobs;
• provide a basis for consistent assessment of competence in those skills
across the training system;
• provide a mechanism for the national portability of those skills; and
• are flexible enough to cater to the needs of different individuals, employers
and industries, including as these change over time.

A couple of really important things come out of this first principle for me and these are the ideas of providing a reliable indicator to employers about the skills of individuals, the technical and generic skills and knowledge required for Jobs and flexible enough to meet changing needs over time.

For me as I have always said, the VET system is about at its base vocational outcomes, it is about providing matching the skills and knowledge of students to the needs of the industries in which they are going to be employed and for me if the skills of the graduates do not map onto industry need and expectation then the system has failed.

The question that comes out of this for me is, if the system is related to vocational outcomes, the needs and expectations of industry, how can this be achieved without the strong, connected and engaged input from industry.  One of strong criticisms of the current system is that it struggles to keep up with changes in industry and employer  practices.  This along with an apparent mismatch (in a number of qualifications) between the skills and knowledge of graduates with the needs of employers and overly complex and bloated training packages shows what happens when is not as engaged and connected to the process of development as they could be.

So if at least part of our goal is to ensure that graduates of the VET system have meaningful employment outcomes from their qualification and that industry and employers get the skilled workforce that they need both now and in the future it seems to be absolutely necessary for industry to be a the leader in the development of what is required in the various units and qualifications that make up the training packages and that means that there needs to be more, better, consistent and real, actual engagement  and consultation between industry and whoever ends up developing the packages themselves.

VET-FEE HELP, Diplomas, Certificates and actually getting a job

If you have no other skills or experience is a Diploma going to get you a job!

 

There had been a lot of talk recently about VET-FEE Help programs, the cost of the Diploma and above qualifications and the way in which these courses are being marketed by some RTO’s and their Agents, but in addition to all of the other things that trouble me about this issue, Debt, quality, outcomes, what really worries me is that it seems that a large amount of the marketing of these programs is being done to people who do not have any other formal qualifications and little who possess little or no experience in the area in which they are commencing study.  Which leads me to today’s question,

Is that Diploma that you spent $10-20,000 on actually going to help you get a job if you don’t have any experience or would you have been better spending $3000 or less (and much less if you are eligible for government funding) on a Certificate III or IV?

I think if we are being really serious about this, the answer is pretty straightforward; if you don’t have relevant experience or other qualifications a Diploma is not going to get you the job you think it will.  Lets look a scenario or two shall we.  So you are in your 20’s and unemployed, your friends say you would make a good counsellor, so when you see an add on Facebook to become a counsellor for no upfront charges and not have to pay until you make a certain amount of money you jump at the chance, particularly when you get a free Ipad as well.  So you do your course (which in reality ends up costing you nearly $20,000, but you don’t really notice because it is on VET-FEE Help), get your certificate and go and go and look fora job.

Now the real question here is is this person going to actually find a job as a counsellor?  My initial reaction is probably not, (ok they could set themselves up in their own business, if the course they have just finished is accredited with one of the registration bodies for counsellors, bet they didn’t ask that before they signed up) I don’t know many organisations who are going to employ someone with just a Diploma of Counselling and no other experience in the Community Services sector, particularly when there are a lot of people out there with higher qualifications and better experience.  So in the end the person takes a role in an organisation as say a support worker, or an admin assistance or intake officer, if they can get one, over people who actually have a qualification (which is likely to be  a cert III or IV) relevant to the role.

This is of course not just the case in the community sector, is just having a Diploma in Project Management is going to land someone a role as a project manager, probably not, again they will probably end up in a role like a project officer or something similar.

Of course the real problem with both these scenarios is that the person in question has accumulated a massive debt, to get (if they are lucky) a role they could have got with a qualification which would have cost them much less.

Unless you have some relevant experience, or at least some other relevant skills, then a Diploma by itself is not going to necessarily help anyone get a job, and they may well have been better off in the long run, doing a government-funded Certificate III program and saving themselves $10-20,000 in Debt.

But you know, that’s just my opinion.

Stop doing Training for the sake of Training – and stop funding it as well

So as some of you are already aware I attended the first of the QLD Governments Industry Skills Forum today. Firstly I am going to say if you get the opportunity to attend one of these forums (and apparently there will be more to come) you should.  If for no other reason than to ensure that you know what is going on.

The morning was hosted by Brett Schimming from  Construction Skills Queensland, and I will come back to what Brett said a little later.  Assistant Minister Saxon Rice spoke, outlining the government’s position on training  and TAFE.  The keywords were;

  • Engagement,
  • Accessibility, and
  • Quality

with the main engagement piece being around the creation of the Ministerial Industry Commission, an independent body providing advice directly to the Minister for Education.  Assistant Minister Rice and every one else who spoke, pointed out quite strongly that this would not be a representative commission.  It would not be a table around which all of the industry groups and sectors and other interest groups sat.  Its purpose would be rather to look the evidence are training and employment needs in the state and on the basis of the evidence it would advise the Minister, in particular on skills and workforce development priorities.

So where will that evidence come from the various sectors and industry and other stakeholder groups, through consultation and submission to the commission which will then utilise that and a range of other data to decide on priority occupations and other workforce development needs.

The biggest takeaway if you will from the morning came from Brett, when he said and I am paraphrasing here a little (sorry Brett feel free to correct me if I have got to badly wrong)  ‘the VET system is not the main game, it is not the center of the universe for business, it is the benefits derived from training not the training itself that is important, we need to stop doing training for the sake of doing training.’

This position seem strong through everyone’s talks and hits the nail on the head at least in my opinion.

There are too many RTO’s out there who continue to say that they cant stay in business because the government has changed the funding model.

It is not about you (or us as an RTO) it is about industries, the organisations, the business and the individuals, who derive value from the training.  Training for the sake of training, (at least funded training in the VET sector where there are supposed to be employment outcomes) provides very little benefit to industry, organisations or the individuals who utilise it.  Giving someone a Diploma of Management just because there is government funding available to do it (and trust me that is the pitch of almost every RTO that has cold called me in the last 2 years) is pointless unless there is going to be some benefit derived from that training and some tangible benefit, not one of these oh so common increased productivity calculations that are nothing by trumped-up nonsense.  There must be strong, evidence based reasons for the funding of training, we should be able to show what the benefits to the business or individuals are in terms of employment or productivity or workforce participation, we should have strong and robust evaluative systems that allow us to actually show this value.

If training is not linked to an actual employment outcome and strongly linked (and let’s be serious is a personal training certification really an employment outcome when I can’t walk to the train station without tripping over people currently doing the qualification) then why should it be funded.

%d bloggers like this: