RTO Doctor VET Reform Taskforce Submission – Full Submission (Edited for Public Viewing)

18 May, 2014

©  RTO Doctor 2014.

This submission is based purely on the knowledge, skills and experiences of RTO Doctor.  This submission in no way provides feedback from our clients or affiliates.  While it has been suggested that RTO Doctor, like other Consultants speak on behalf of the clients, we as a company have chosen not to do so.  Many of our clients have expressed an interest to not make their views public for fear of any potential negative consequences that may impact them in the future.  As such, all comments, opinions and suggestions are our own.

Attachments from LinkedIn Discussion Groups have been included to represent collective views from a public forum on issues relevant to our submission.  As has been widely discussed in these forums, many people are submitting these discussions as additional evidence and RTO Doctor is following this method of evidence provision to support our findings, while also providing further context to our own contributions to these forums.

For all feedback, questions or comments in relation to this submission, please contact us viaRaelene@rtodoctor.com.au or lauren@rtodoctor.com.au


In 2008, Tovey and Lawlor (p.3) wrote about training being “…frequently accused of being spasmodic, of little relevance to organizational, management and individual goals and very hard to measure…Many training programs were faddish in nature, swinging from one flavor of the month to another…Often training programs had been badly designed by unqualified individuals with insufficient experience.”

At RTO Doctor, we find ourselves asking the question, what has changed?  Through this feedback to the VET Reform Taskforce, we hope to contribute valuable knowledge, experience, research and recommendations to ensure that once and for all, Australia’s VET sector achieves its rightful purpose and is sustainable for our nation’s future.

This Feedback Report, submitted as part of the request for submissions, is based on identifying what we see as some of the core issues that are currently plaguing (and destroying) our world-renowned system and proposes some suggestions for changing the status quo.  This report intentionally provides an overview of the historical context of VET in Australia, what the purpose of VET appears to be in today’s economic market, discuss who might be the stakeholders of the VET sector currently and discuss the current perception of VET in Australia because typically, as is shown in the initial stages of our submission, history does have a habit of repeating itself in this sector.  Until these key concepts are clearly understood, there is little point in trying to improve the quality of VET.

 The report also provides discussion and recommendations about regulatory authorities and discusses the current significant This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. without the necessary due diligence being performed by the regulators and the unexpected impacts that this is having.  There is discussion about the quality and inconsistency of auditing staff around the country and the impact that this has had on the VET sector and the impact it will continue to have if left unaddressed.  An area of significant concern to RTO Doctor is the discussion that needs to be held surrounding Industry Skills Councils, the Quality Assurance Panel of the now defunct National Skills Standards Council (NSSC) and the quality of the training packages that they are required to produce, continuously improve and endorse.  Other sections that are covered in this report include a discussion about how much importance is being placed on This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. and the significant cost recovery of ASQA’s operations and how both of these activities critically impact the VET sector in Australia.

 There is a discussion regarding the accountability and transparency of the complaints and appeals process being implemented by ASQA This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.  There is a final discussion about the concept of de-regulation proposed by the current government and being touted by This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. earlier mentioned as being the most appropriate way forward.  The report will conclude with a summary of the RTO Doctor position on the reform taking place as well as summarise our recommendations for an improved system that we can all be proud of.

History of VET in Australia

In the mid 1980’s when Australia was facing significant economic challenges including new markets, technology, high unemployment, significant retrenchments due to emerging technology and a global marketplace, governments forged strong partnerships with large industry bodies, professional associations and unions in an effort to enhance employability, increase skill development and be better prepared for a globally and highly competitive marketplace.  These strong partnerships led to a vision of better career paths, work readiness requirements (work preparation) and vocational skills that the decision makers at the time, as well as policy makers felt were lacking.  The Government effectively grabbed VET and used it as a band aid upon which to build policies and frameworks in order to equip the current unemployed and new generations of workers.  It was also a measure that could be used to demonstrate the government’s willingness and attempts at getting people ‘off the dole’ and into the workforce.  The concept of continuous improvement that plagues the VET sector comes from the belief of governments that the workforce is dynamic, fluid and changes rapidly and therefore, the VET sector (the only sector) must remain current with those changes.  The knowledge, skills, attitudes and capabilities that would fill this void would later become known as ‘competencies’.

 As happened in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Australian workplace has changed significantly, which has meant that the requirements of the VET sector have also changed.  Since then we’ve seen an increase in the workforce by women, a decrease in the workforce by men, more females in leadership roles, people using more cards and cash than cheques, machines are used more and more frequently rather than hand tools, the Australian workplace context has changed significantly from cultural to employment status (fulltime, part-time, casual, subcontracting) even the typical working day and expected work hours have changed significantly.  The use of technology has completely transformed the Australian workplace no matter what industry you are in.  In effect, the Australian workforce was changing significantly and rapidly. The Government needed to find a solution and it appeared that the VET sector could provide it.

 Additionally in the mid 1980’s, despite government intervention to attempt to make training accountable and produce the outcomes it needed, training reform did take place to focus on the needs of commerce and industry and ensure that certain individual abilities required in the workplace were personally attained by those involved in the training.  Various pieces of legislation were developed and enacted to force companies to spend a certain amount of money annually of training which also brought with it some flexibility in what type of training was permitted.  All relevant and related legislation was finally repealed in the late 1990’s as it became clear that the government was not achieving its objectives.

 VET’s presence in Australia has been mostly reflective of Government responses to economic issues and public outcry.  As reported by the NSSC (2013, p14):

 The AQTF 2007 review was in reaction to criticism of AQTF 2002 that the standards were too prescriptive.  The standards were therefore re-focused to support continuous improvement and reducing the regulatory burden, as well as reflect outcomes based objectives.  The AQTF 2010 review was in reaction to provider collapses and concerns about low-quality providers in the vocational education and training market.  Subsequent changes focused on financial management, governance and consumer protection.’

 Currently, the VET sector is waiting to see if the proposed Australian Vocational Qualification System (AVQS) will be implemented or whether something else entirely will be determined.  What is demonstrated through the AVQS is that again, it has been developed based on Government’s reactive response to the economic and political climate, public outcry that the system is too prescriptive and de-regulation should become a key feature and that new and higher level skills, as well as certification for those skills is the supposed driver behind these reforms.  It suggests that the implementation of the AVQS will provide the integrity of the qualifications deriving from the VET sector that is currently missing and this will ‘…support individuals on the career pathways, and ensures employers have the relevant and current skilled workforce to make them productive.’  This all of course sounds very familiar and a step back to the review of the AQTF 2002 standards that were too prescriptive, moving toward the AQTF 2007 which supported continuous improvement and reduced the regulatory burden.

Purpose of VET in Australia

Historically, according to the ‘Kangan Report’ (1974; p23) the purpose of VET in Australia was (and should (author’s addition)):

“To include all programs of education with a vocational purpose…whether the individual is using the program with employment as a primary aim or with the aim of gaining additional specialised knowledge or skills for personal enrichment or job improvement. It includes what is usually known as ‘adult education’. It does not include activities which have no direct educational purpose, and which are not planned as a systematic sequence, for example, social and corporate activities such as meetings of clubs, associations, or work camps having no explicit educational aim.

It should include all programs of education with a vocational purpose…whether the individual is using the program with employment as a primary aim or with the aim of gaining additional specialised knowledge or skills for personal enrichment or job improvement. It includes what is usually known as ‘adult education’. It does not include activities which have no direct educational purpose, and which are not planned as a systematic sequence, for example, social and corporate activities such as meetings of clubs, associations, or work camps having no explicit educational aim”.

As it is today, technical and further education has too often been thought of as something different from mainstream of education – primary, secondary and university. Opportunities for recurrent education should help individuals who wish to repair inadequacies in their initial formal education or add to their knowledge and skills in order to change the direction of their vocational interests.

The Kangan Report (1974) also states that relevance is the key factor in courses and that content must be relevant, that meaningless or underused knowledge and skills should be removed. Despite all of this historical knowledge, nothing has really changed since 1974.  As Tovey and Lawlor (2008, p.31) rightly state ‘Governments, commerce and industry pay scant attention to the qualifications and expertise needed to facilitate the type and nature of learning required to deliver the results of which they constantly talk”.  If they did, there wouldn’t be such significant unrest in Australia’s second largest export industry.  Effectively, what it boils down to is that the purpose of VET will be different for different people.  For the government it means one thing, for the community another.  For TAFE it means one thing, for the private RTO it means another.  For the employer and the student, it can often mean something very different again.  How can we develop a basis for a new system when we don’t actually understand its true purpose?  Maybe there is more than one purpose and it depends on whose needs we are trying to meet.

Stakeholders of VET in Australia

In analyzing the historical context and purpose of VET in Australia, it becomes apparent that for many decades, the key stakeholders of the VET sector in Australia have been:

  • Government
  • Unions
  • Industry
  • Associations
  • Unions
  • Unemployed
  • Unskilled workers

 While some would argue that the ongoing reference in the Kangan Report to technical and further education is not synonymous with what we now know as TAFE, others would potentially argue that this is why today the acronym VET in the majority of circles does equate to TAFE.  A vast range of other stakeholders who are not adequately consulted about VET or even the efforts of reform undertaken by this current government include (but are not limited to):

  • Registered Training Organisations (Public & Private)
  • Students themselves
  • Small businesses who send their staff to training in the VET sector
  • Parents / Guardians
  • Secondary Schools
  • Universities
  • External accreditation bodies including for example the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) & Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), Road Traffic Authorities, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Police agencies across the country, etc.
  • Resource providers such as publishing companies (one of Australia’s largest publishing companies ceased providing resources in 2013 due to the constant change to training packages requiring updates to their resources on a more frequent basis than was financially viable).
  • Trainers and Assessors, administration staff, student support staff
  • Education & Training Support Services including Consultants, Resource Developers, Accountants, Lawyers etc.

 Yet the question must be asked, how many of these stakeholders are accurately and adequately represented in the senior levels of decision-making affecting them?  What is clear is that a large number of those stakeholders rely on the current system to function at its greatest to allow them to perform their role, a number of these stakeholders have never been consulted about the reform process (although regulators never lose an opportunity to consult them about the quality of training that the RTO they are auditing provides).  Industry Skills Councils who are supposed to represent industry have their select few giants that they consult with generally speaking and the average small business owner, the average secondary school, the average University, the average parent/guardian are very rarely consulted and they certainly have not been adequately consulted throughout this current reform process.  Each one of these stakeholders has very different needs, not unlike the training that RTO’s are required to customize and contextualize for each of their stakeholders, the VET Reform Taskforce has a mandate to consult with ALL stakeholders that are affected by any future reform efforts.

Perception of VET sector in Australia

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when the general community hear or see the acronym VET, they perceive it as meaning:

  • TAFE
  • Veterinarians
  • Vietnam Veterans
  • Courses you do because you can’t get into University

 Even amongst those areas of the community who should know better, it seems this is not the case.  Secondary School Information Days/Evenings for preparation into Year 11 & 12 talk about vocational education and training as being TAFE, the local bank managers, the local McDonalds Store, the local Pharmacy, the local dental surgery, the local pathology clinic, the local childcare centre, the local mine site – they all think of vocational education and training as meaning TAFE.  Yet, of approximately 5000 RTO’s TAFE make up a small portion of those providers (

 During this time of reform, there is a range of highly skilled and professional individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds (RTO Doctor included) who would be very eager and capable of providing input into and further developing the new Framework, summarizing and ensuring consistency with the vast amount of feedback provided to the VET Reform Taskforce.

 For further discussion in relation to this topic, see Appendix A – Linked In Discussion regarding ‘Who is your stakeholder’ http://goo.gl/kCkv9P and http://goo.gl/6W22o2 at a minimum.

Quality of VET sector in Australia

Despite the many knee jerk reactions of government over the years to attempt to reignite the quality standard of VET in Australia, it has been undertaken without really looking at the quality that current systems are providing.  The reactions and previous reforms have all been based upon what the government thinks is best and under the belief that the government solution is the best solution – that government advisers, Ministers and appointed experts to their specialist committees are appropriately qualified and experienced to make the decisions to change the faults of the previous system with very little real accountability or transparency about the process undertaken to achieve the end result.

There has been a real reliance on feedback and ‘consultation’ conducted by Industry Skills Councils for example in relation to what ‘industry’ needs are.  There has been significant feedback from regulators as to what ‘industry needs are’.  There has also been significant input and feedback provided from peak bodies who on the surface appear to be servicing their members but in the process are developing products and services to sell to their members that match the very needs that they are promoting to policy makers as part of the consultation process.  So while the need may be there, bodies seeking to keep themselves profitable are providing the voice being heard by governments to advocate for those needs.

While there is some question about the integrity and reliability of the statistics provided by ASQA’s recent national strategic reviews into aged care training and the white card, and while there is also some question about the integrity and reliability of statistics provided at national conferences and forums by ASQA’s Chief Commissioner Chris Robinson, none the less, the quality of VET provision in Australia is and continues to be a major concern.  While the statistics provided by ASQA are questionable, there is absolutely no doubt in our opinion that the statistics are most likely to be worse than what ASQA have publicly provided.  In our experience, the inconsistency of auditing outcomes has meant that one provider who is deemed compliant on one standard with ‘x’ evidence by one auditor, with absolutely no changes to the evidence or the standards can be deemed non-compliant by another.

It is also our experience that the findings by regulators are but a small sample of what any provider is actually doing and while they may be compliant or have minor non-compliance with some standards, the reality is that regulators are not auditing against an entire scope of registration or across all standards.  In some cases, they do not even audit High Risk Work License (HRWL) units of competency and yet the expectation from the various WorkSafe jurisdictions is that if the RTO has passed audit, they are compliant to deliver HRWL’s.  It also must be remembered that an audit only gives a sample picture of that particular sample at that particular audit at that particular time.  It is common knowledge amongst industry that if one flies under the radar knowing that they are non-compliant and they extend their scope for example within the same training package and get a Consultant in to ensure that it is compliant, they can in most circumstances have their application approved without a site visit, continue to fly under the radar knowing that they are far from compliant in every other area of their RTO and continue to get away with it until re-registration comes along or, someone makes a complaint that is investigated properly by the regulator.

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RTO Doctor lodged a formal complaint with ASQA This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. and in that complaint, using ASQA’s processes, we provided a significant amount of evidence to support these allegations This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. also lodged a formal complaint substantiating these same issues and as far as we are aware, provided additional information that we were not privy to.  Despite the significant amount of evidence that ASQA were provided with, no further action was taken against the provider and the case was closed both in relation to our complaint (Appendix E), This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.

What we can say is that under the NVR Act, at the time of our internal audit This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons, we identified the following breaches of the NVR Act, Part 6, Division 1, Subdivision A (although the exact number of breaches is unknown because we did not audit every student’s file):

  • Sections 93 & 94 – providing all or part of VET course outside scope of registration
  • Sections 95 & 96 – issuing VET qualification outside scope of registration
  • Sections 97 & 98 – Issuing VET statement of attainment outside scope of registration
  • Sections 99 & 100 – advertising all or part of VET course outside scope of registration
  • Sections 103 & 104 – issuing VET qualification without providing adequate assessment
  • Sections 105 & 106 – issuing statement of attainment without providing adequate assessment
  • Sections 107 & 108 – issuing a VET qualification without ensuring adequate assessment
  • Sections 109 & 110 – issuing a statement of attainment without ensuring adequate assessment
  • Section 11 – Breach of condition of registration

 Further, This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. had they conducted a monitoring audit This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons., at a minimum they would have found that they should have cancelled VET qualifications and statements of attainment under Part 4, Division 2 section 56 of the NVR Act.

 Another example that we provide is just as concerning.  Through one of our Training and Accreditation Council clients, we were alerted to the fact that a provider under ASQA’s jurisdiction was refusing to accept the identical units of competency that had been completed by students at the TAC RTO.  The students had completed a nationally accredited short course with the TAC RTO, placed into employment with a national employment company and as part of accessing government funded traineeships for existing workers, were being enrolled into a qualification on WA’s Traineeship list with the ASQA RTO.

Should the student have claimed the national recognition / credit transfer that they were entitled to receive and requested to receive, they were advised that they would lose their employment (for some students, this would have meant relocating yet again (one example was a student who while completing the short course resided in the southern suburbs of Perth, was offered employment and the traineeship This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. (approximately 470kms away) and was told that if she claimed the 6 units of competency she had already completed, she would lose her job.  She notified the TAC RTO who asked us to confidentially notify This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. with all of the evidence because the student didn’t want to be known for fear of losing her job however didn’t believe it was right that she was being forced to redo these units so that her employer could receive funding and that the ASQA RTO could also receive funding.

A folio was presented to This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. in person This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. who refused to discuss the matter, refused to take the folder, refused to do anything about it because of two reasons and we quote:

  • “I don’t have to listen to you, you’re just a Consultant’
  • “Go through the normal channels and lodge a formal complaint like everyone else but they won’t do anything about it because you’re a Consultant and not party to the complaint.  If the student and RTO want to remain anonymous, then the complaint will never be investigated”.

What is very clear to us at RTO Doctor is that despite having significant (and sometimes excessive) powers under the NVR Act, even when presented with copious amounts of evidence of breaches of the Standards and the NVR Act, that unless regulators are prepared to act on and use their powers as the Act allows them to, unless they conduct audits properly, unless they change their attitude, the quality of our sector will not change.

An example of another funding related issue that is causing some significant concern in the provision of quality VET currently is that described next.  It is our experience that an assessor can deem a trainee competent based on the requirements of the training packages etc. as well as their professional judgment and yet because the employer won’t receive their incentives if the trainee is signed off early with provisions in legislation that require competency to be negotiated with an employer and student the outcome report is being delayed to ensure all parties can maximize their funding claim.

The question does need to be asked however, how is it that such a negotiation can take place if an employer is not ‘competent’ to sign off as an assessor on an assessment, including a Third Party Report unless they hold at a minimum the NSSC requirements for trainers and assessors? How are they capable of making a determination of ‘competence’ that is superior to that of the qualified assessor?  How is the trainee capable of making such a determination?  How can either of them make such a decision impartially knowing that they will not receive their incentives?  What does the ethical trainer and assessor do when the assessor and RTO down the road will have no qualms about delaying the sign off to facilitate this fraudulent activity?  As is clearly demonstrated here again, linking funding or quality to employment outcomes is potentially flawed and completely unreliable when funding is involved.  In these cases of fraudulent activity and claiming of government funding that they were not entitled to, how does the government recover these funds?

It is interesting to note that some of the biggest and loudest supporters of deregulation are actually the ones that have the most to hide or have been rightfully deemed critically non-compliant and suspended, cancelled or received similar sanctions.

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 In relation to the suggestions that VET quality should be determined by employment outcomes, we at RTO Doctor are concerned about the implications of this on those providers whose core business is providing training and assessment services to disadvantaged groups where access and equity, socio-economic status and other similar issues are at the forefront of the student needs.  If the focus is moved to training and assessment outcomes it is possible that providers who work with these particular socio-economic groups would appear to be poor performers relative to providers who work amongst demographics that are more likely to be able to achieve in a training and assessment environment. Supporting the unemployed, people with low LLN levels, young people at risk, homeless or people in prison or with criminal histories for example is an area filled with challenges faced by learners such as homelessness, drug and alcohol dependency and poor school experiences. These challenges increase the likelihood of the learner struggling to achieve assessment outcomes and the provider therefore ever being able to be judged as being a high quality provider.

 In a nutshell, the quality of the VET sector comes back to the simple fact that you only get out what you put in.  The system was never designed to provide the outcomes that the community wants or needs, it was built upon a system of government needs, wants and desires, it was based in some cases on creating positions for people who should have been removed from the system years before, it has been built on and grown from a reaction to poor community satisfaction, it continues to build not on what is actually required by the community but rather peoples political agendas, people’s attitudes, abuses of power and people’s egos.

Regulatory framework

The NSSC Standards Policy Framework – Improving Vocational Education and Training: The Australian Vocational Qualification System (2013) had some very significant benefits and drawbacks.  Having said that, it’s not that we necessarily need a new system, just a more focused system, more focused regulation with auditors who do the job properly, consistently and transparently. However, page 6 of this Policy Framework refers to the Standards only being a part of a broader regulation and quality assurance framework of the VET sector, which also encompasses:

  • Training packages and accredited courses
  • The Australian Qualifications Framework
  • State and Territory governments and their approaches to publicly funded training
  • Workforce development activities
  • Internal quality assurance controls of the RTO’s which could also be recognized by other general quality assurance bodies including ISO 9001
  • Provision of consumer information
  • Voluntary memberships or partnerships (although it mistakenly refers to national peak bodies in this category which is not the case as any rights to membership are determined by payment).

 It is imperative that when the Taskforce does review policy making in relation to the VET sector that it does take this into account.  It should also consider, as is addressed on page 8 of the same document that there are many other layers of legislation and policy guidelines (both State and Federal) that must be concurrently adhered to and these must not conflict with each other.  It is also imperative that the Taskforce take into consideration some data from ASQA that may actually not be a true reflection of applications submitted that were deemed non-compliant.  In many cases, the time frames for ASQA to process an application meant that in conjunction with the rapid transition rate of training packages, the materials being audited were always going to be non-compliant against the standards – ASQA have been taking anywhere between 9 and 12 months to conduct an initial registration audit, an extension to scope of registration can take up to 9 months in some cases and there have been numerous losses of applications and when clients have followed up the progress of those applications, they have been advised that they have been lost.  It should also be noted that many of the issues highlighted in the policy document are an accurate reflection of how things are on the ground.  This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.

 Some of the negative aspects of the proposed new Policy Framework include the requirement to register as an LTO (there is sufficient feedback from others about why this is not a solution for all providers so we won’t repeat it here).  One area is the decision making of the Accountable Education Officer and the NSSC’s presumption that many providers will already have individuals such as the CEO who could fulfill this role.  This opinion is very misguided in reality.

Many CEO’s are business people, not necessarily Accountable Education Officers and in accordance with the standards around governance, their decision-making is informed by the experiences of trainers and assessors, course coordinators and senior management.   There are very few who would qualify to be the Accountable Education Officer and certainly insufficient information available for such a critical role in a provider’s business operation.

 An offshoot of this particular issue is that we are seeing more and more ‘compliance brokers’ or Accountable Education Officer conglomerates establishing themselves.  Since the release of the Policy Framework, there has been a proliferation of ex-compliance managers establishing themselves as Consultants and ‘experts’ preparing for the day when they can fulfill this role at a huge expense to providers.  It is with this in mind that in May 2013, a group of high quality members of this sector got together to establish a true Not For Profit company whose proceeds will go to the vocational training arm of Headspace National Mental Health Initiative nationally to enhance and promote quality education and training, self-regulate and monitor the activities of its member Consultants and VET Practitioners.  This group will be launching on 1 July 2014 and its sole purpose is to act as a membership, self-regulating peak body for Consultants and VET Practitioners that will also provide continuing professional development, a complaints and appeals mechanism and a national register.  An interim Board of Management has been implemented with representation in each of the States/Territories and members will have to be assessed as being eligible, they will not be able to just pay their membership and get accepted as is the case with all other peak bodies in the sector currently.  The Australian VET Quality Practitioners and Consultants’ Association (AVQPCA) has been designed to identify and enhance the highest quality VET Practitioners and Consultants of the industry, make the industry accountable and transparent and provide a ‘tick of approval’ in some sorts to members who have been through the standards set by the association.  The association will also provide advocacy and opinions and advice where it is relevant to do so and for the benefit for the sector and its members.  The association website is currently under development but will be available by end of May 2014 – early June 2014 at http://avqpca.org.au/

 One final important note in relation to the proposed AVQS Standards is that Appendix A provides cross-referencing of the proposed standards to the proposed LTO standards.  This information cannot be relied upon like many other areas of the document’s foundations because they are inaccurately mapped.  If new standards and mapping are to be released, it is worth ensuring that these basic items are correct if the system is to be implemented while minimizing risk of error and chaos.

 Another area of the regulatory framework that is currently missing is a focus on the provision of training.  Auditors do not currently regulate training, they only regulate assessment as this is all that is permitted under the Standards (i.e. ‘Assessment, including RPL…’.  This also contributes to the proliferation of ‘weetie box qualifications’, the attempts (and often successful attempts) at defrauding government departments of funding. It has also become an area of increased exploitation since VET FEE-Help was introduced.  Suddenly courses that could be delivered (and are being legitimately (and compliantly) delivered in 6 months for example) have been drawn out with no real explanation just so that the provider can make the qualification eligible for VET FEE-Help.

 Other suggestions for consideration include modifying the current or proposed regulatory approach so that it is not just punitive.  Thee needs to be a clear cut benefit or reward for high quality providers that might be an incentive to embrace the standards and engage in best practice rather than simply ‘comply”.  Such a proposition would not be considered satisfactory however if the benefit was reduced or absence of regulation.  It may be that their fees are reduced for example and those who are repeated offenders or carry high-risk pay higher registration fees for example.  There needs to be a much bigger focus on supporting providers to become better providers, assisting them to be the providers we want them to be.   The Regulator needs to provide sufficient information to training providers through training / professional development workshops, guidelines, and helplines to assist RTO’s in interpreting the national standards. The vote for better and defined information has been consistent through the reform consultations so far.

 This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.  As was rightly pointed out in Webinar 3 by one stakeholder, it is a little hard to discuss ‘regulation’ in the abstract without knowing the reasons for the regulations. It is not yet clear that even bureaucrats are clear about what they are regulating and why.  Until this question is answered, coming up with another set of standards or regulations/legislation will be futile.

 It is our experience that providers who fly under the radar or are not regulated as often as others struggle to demonstrate compliance at audit and yet in some cases, their applications are processed and approved without ever coming under the microscope (while others have to buy, borrow, beg and steal to have their applications approved – again, the consistency issue).  If you are not going to regulate certain RTOs then how else will the Taskforce propose to achieve the purpose of the regulations? We are yet to see any clear evidence in our experience that self-regulation works for RTOs as RTO Doctor and again, Raelene’s experience as a regulator during the CRICOS re-registration project.  This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.

 More than anything however, an important message that the sector needs to hear is will the AVQS be implemented in the next 3, 6 months etc. What is expected to happen in the short term? Many people cannot make informed business decisions with no formal statement; they cannot meet their commitments under the Corporations Act 2001 to ensure financial viability at all times, they are basing business decisions that affect all stakeholders, including Australia’s economy, based on rumour and innuendo.

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Quality of auditors across all regulators

One of the more disconcerting areas for consultants who work across a range of RTO’s and jurisdictions is the lack of consistency in interpretations amongst auditors regardless of which regulator they come from. This is not solely between one auditor and another, but with one auditor from audit to audit. Consultants have provided like for like policies and procedures and had them found compliant at one audit, but not at another. Similarly, training materials have had the same issues and the auditor has found them outstanding in one audit and non-compliant in the next. What is most concerning about this is that on several occasions, the issue seems to have come down in some part to formatting and design.  This leads to confusion for providers and there is little guidance provided by the regulator, in part setting up organisations to fail.  It is also our experience that auditors (regardless of which regulator they come from) request (demand) evidence that they have no right to request under the Act or where there is no requirement under the Standards to have it.  For example, a significant number of auditors require (yes, not request, but require) that the provider have a mapping document to demonstrate how they meet the training package requirements, rules of evidence and principles of assessment, not because it is required under the standards but because it makes their job easier.

Auditors also need to be held accountable for their decisions.  As such, it would be recommended that within any new framework, that where decisions are made, be they positive or negative for the provider, auditors are held accountable. If they get it wrong, they are appropriately performance managed.  As such, when gross non-compliances are found at subsequent audits, or alternatively, where issues go onto the AAT and are found that decisions were overly harsh, the auditor needs to be reviewed in context also. Currently they act as though they are judge and jury and it would appear that all decisions are being made based on their audit reports (however right or wrong those reports might be).  There should also be more specific (and anonymous) feedback mechanisms for review of auditors.  At the moment, the process requires disclosure of the RTO, and ultimately, many providers fear ‘retribution’ from the regulator if negative feedback is provided. One further suggestion has been that auditors should be focused into areas of vocational expertise rather than have auditors classify themselves (or be classified) as a ‘one size fits all’ auditor.

Another suggestion that has been raised is the concept of having an auditor of the auditors.  While ASQA state in particular that they undergo moderation sessions, they are not achieving adequate outcomes otherwise we wouldn’t be continuing to experience the same issues day in and day out.  We at RTO Doctor do not believe that this body currently exists however there is an urgent need for it.  If the government must continue with a 100% cost recovery solution then we believe there is adequate money available within this bank account to develop the tools and bodies able to provide the foundation necessary to fix our system. There is so much wastage of money by ASQA currently there is no justification for them having no resources.  The Taskforce needs to appoint a completely independent auditing body, familiar with the VET sector and standards with no agenda or conflict of interest and that body needs to undertake quarterly moderation sessions and audits twice years.

One thing that regulators do have right in our opinion is their ability to conduct monitoring audits and charge them at the hourly rate. Unfortunately, despite instances where these have been warranted and significant evidence provided, they are not used.  The Training and Accreditation Council has recently implemented this model also and while not a cost effective option for many providers who are required to undertake this type of regulatory activity, this is perhaps one of those measures that can be implemented to encourage providers to get off the ‘high risk’ list.  One of the key issues that needs to change immediately is the attitude and ego of auditors and regulators.

Inconsistency of auditing across all regulators

Building on the issue of inconsistent auditors above leads to inconsistent auditing across the sector, as noted with previous examples This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons, it is clear within the sector that not all RTO’s are treated equally. While it is understood that the one size fits all approach does not make sense, it seems the vast inconsistency has little rhyme or reason. Some providers get qualifications through in 4 days, others have to wait 3 or more months for a site visit.

If a ‘risk based system’ is to be introduced, the process for allocating such risk levels to providers, both high and low needs to be clearly explained and transparent. In addition, there need to be clear explanations to providers as to why they have been ‘ranked’ as such, and what areas need to be addressed in order to reduce their risk. Alternatively, the government is setting up a system where we effectively ‘punish and reward’ providers with no explanation.  If we relate this to children, one child is punished and asked to run a mile to get their dinner, another, is given dinner freely, no explanation is given to either child as to why.  If this behavior is continued, ultimately, you end up with one child spoiled and eventually pushing the envelope due to a lack of boundaries, another child who becomes frustrated, angry and eventually lashes back or walks away entirely. Similarly, in the system as it is at the moment, you have providers, some excellent providers, considering walking away from the system, while others who are not so high quality have just learned how to manipulate the system.  It is important at this juncture to note that just because the paperwork is perfect, doesn’t mean it’s put into practice. Auditors and audits need to take this into account as we are yet to see an ASQA auditor go and sit in a classroom while it is taking place, talk to a student or confirm outcomes with industry, this may purely be our experience, however, it is concerning none-the-less.

 A recommendation of RTO Doctor would be to establish a council to produce a series of documents in consultation with industry experts which would form templates such as Training and Assessment Strategies, Trainer and Assessor Profiles, Mapping Guides, which may be used as templates, not must, but can be. This body would then be responsible for maintaining the compliance of these documents to any new standards that arise. Alternatively, a group of providers should be identified which provide templates, materials, etc., which do meet standards. Through either of these means, it reduces the time auditors have to spend comprehending documents and providers have clearer guidelines as to what should be provided.

A final recommendation around this issue would be to establish a section within the national regulator that does provide guidance and advice to RTO’s so that RTO’s are not left to be guided solely by the standards and training packages that have proven themselves ambiguous, resulting in so many failed AAT results. If clearer advice and guidelines are provided, then the decisions of RTO’s who choose not to comply are more easily determined and documented.

NSSC Quality Assurance Panel

The NSSC Quality Assurance Panel, while well intentioned, through its operating structure is part of the reason why training packages are endorsed with the many faults, inconsistencies and do not always reflect industry needs.  The make-up of the Quality Assurance Panel provides a range of people who express an interest and ‘qualify’ for the panel.  Most auditors are available on the Quality Assurance Panel, some well-qualified and experienced members, as well as some who are not so qualified and experienced.

Two of the biggest concerns regarding the ability of this panel to perform the role it is required to are that firstly, to be a member of the panel, one only gets remunerated if they are given work (and there is no guarantee that during membership of the panel ensures work will be obtained) although there is the expectation that as a member, you will travel to the NSSC offices at least twice a year (at your own cost, although the initial meeting is reimbursed) and attend moderation sessions as required.  Membership of the panel requires that should you be asked by an Industry Skills Council to report on the training package that they are hoping to have endorsed, that you are a source of quality assurance expertise in Training Package development and that you undertake mandatory quality reports as required by the training package development process.  It is very explicitly stated “Inclusion on the Panel is no guarantee of work being provided by the Industry Skills Councils or any guarantee of staying on the Panel.” See Appendix F – EOI Form for the NSSC Quality Assurance Panel and email from This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons. (This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons, Office of the NSSC – Appendix G). Given these circumstances, and the fact that the members of the Quality Assurance Panel must continue to maintain professional indemnity and public liability insurances, maintain their industry currency and relevant professional development amongst other things, it is highly unlikely that the most appropriately qualified and experienced stakeholders are going to avail themselves and go to Melbourne at their own cost with no guarantee that there will be a return on investment.

 In addition to this, the manner in which the panel functions is that Industry Skills Councils will negotiate a fee with the panel member however, where the pressure is on an Industry Skills Council to have a training package endorsed (for a variety of reasons including funding, industry, regulatory etc.), the Industry Skills Council will always go with the path of least resistance to getting that training package endorsed.  This means sending the Training Package to a member of the panel who will cost the least, provide you with the easiest route forward, not ask too many questions and provide the report that is required.  The ISC’s are not really held accountable under this arrangement.  This is clearly evidenced by the number of training packages that remain current for example having been endorsed in the past 12 months that still refer to AQTF 2007, still refer to TAA units of competency, etc.

 A further concern is the requirement for all Industry Skills Councils to ensure that all training packages that are endorsed from 31 December 2013 must be submitted under the new training package standards and all training packages must comply with the new standards by 31 December 2015. Many of these training packages have been rushed through with significant errors (the debacle of the premature launch of the CHC and HLT training packages is a very good example of how this went horribly wrong – See Appendix H).  Further, many qualifications and units of competency have been deemed equivalent despite the fact that they are not.

When training providers are advised constantly to use the summary mapping on Training.Gov,Au and the training package summary mapping as their source of whether something is equivalent or not, it is incumbent upon the Industry Skills Council to ensure the accuracy of the information it provides in these areas.  Many training providers have been fooled and continue to be fooled in relation to this issue merely because they relied upon information from the ISC that should have been reliable!  This issue alone is a significant reason why many providers are found in breach of AQTF Condition 9 and NVR Standard 14.1 & NVR Standard 25.1.  Obviously breaching these standards leads to significant breaches of other standards of the framework including compliance with legislation and training and assessment.

 It has recently also come to our attention that despite the significant workload that the review and compliance of all training packages in accordance with the new standards to be completed by 31 December 2015, one Industry Skills Council has advised that they will not meet the deadline and that no additional funding was allocated by the government to assist them in achieving these requirements.  If the government is serious about wanting to lift the quality standards within this sector, it must be prepared to adequately resource such a commitment and invest in a quality outcome.  ASQA in particular is currently operating on a 75% cost recovery basis and had published intentions for this to become 100% cost recovery by 1 July 2014.  We have seen no evidence that ASQA has utilized these funds to improve the services it provides and this money could well be distributed across ISC’s for example to ensure that the underpinning product is properly audited, validated and moderated to ensure outcomes are of the highest quality standard.

Quality of training packages

The body which will replace the NSSC has a range of challenges which it must address in order to make the system work more efficiently for RTO’s and provide clearer guidelines of competency for trainers and students.  The current training packages and bodies who write and audit them have a lot of to account for. There are no packages which do not have gross errors, including terms which industry can’t define, superseded units from other training packages, activities required within them which industry has repeatedly and explicitly explained cannot be undertaken. A few examples have been provided below:

  1. Within the unit ICTCBL3011A – Install and terminate coaxial cable (Release 1) there were copious errors which required the student to work with ‘fibre optical’ cabling which were totally irrelevant. In a conversation with IBSA about this matter, the response was “Well that’s just totally wrong, you wouldn’t expect a coax cabler to work with fibre optic”
  2. AURTTK2002 Use and maintain workplace tools and equipment refers to warehousing equipment (which is not relevant to a mechanic, this unit forms part of AUR30612 – Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology (Release 1)) and refers to a piece of equipment called a bag palletiser, which after extensive industry consultation and internet research, no one could define. A conversation with the ISC again revealed that they could not define it and we therefore obtained written advice not to assess. Sadly, while this issue was initially brought up and advised to the ISC in the AUR05 version of the package, the exact same error is present in AUR12. Feedback was provided, the ISC knew about the error and they left it in the new version anyway.
  3. In the new streamlined version of the unit, a cursory reading of the unit requirements below would lead a trainer to believe that if observed once, then the student could be deemed competent, however, according to the rules of evidence in order to meet sufficiency requirements, one assessment would not suffice, therefore, the training package requirements and the VQF/Rules of Evidence requirements are at odds. A ‘qualified auditor’ would surely know that what is written below and the Rules of Evidence are at odds here, yet this error is present in many units. In addition, there are many providers who are picked up in audits for only having one form of evidence, so it is a well known industry issue, yet, it slipped through the writer, the auditor and the entire quality panel?

“There must be demonstrated evidence that the candidate has completed the following tasks:

  • Communicated issues to a supervisor and negotiated solutions in a clear and appropriate manner at least twice
  • Guided behaviour using positive support techniques with at least two children and/or young people
  • Discussed behaviours of children and/or young people to plan and problem-solve in collaboration with others
  • Recorded observations and identified behaviours requiring support of children and/or young people using a range of methods
  • Used judgement to determine when to involve other staff for supported intervention.”
  1. The language of many performance criteria leave many trainers scratching their heads and students and employers often have no idea what is involved, the criteria often needs to be rewritten or examples have to be provided to make industry understand what is actually being assessed another example from ICT is “1.1. Prepare for restricted cabling work within the regulatory environment, cabling environment, cable type, cable identification, termination systems, earthing and protection, records and relevant legislation, codes, regulations and standards” This particular PC is so broad and is so badly written that 5 or 6 questions need to be asked to determine competency.

Overall, the new body (which replaces NSSC, still to be determined) needs to actually go out and speak to industry, not put a document out for a month and see if anyone looks at it, actually actively seek consultation if the information in training packages makes sense, can be understood by employers and students.

Further, when the training package has been put in its final draft format, an independent qualified auditor, along with an industry expert should be required to provide the quality report that is thorough and without any questions as to the appropriateness and adequacy of the assurance process (i.e. there can be no accusation of cheapest auditor available and easiest way to the NSSC’s replacement).

Another major concern with regard to the quality of training packages is that Industry Skills Councils (ISC’s) deem qualifications and units of competency as being equivalent when they absolutely are not.  The ISC’s are a major part of this problem.  There are plenty of examples however the RII training package is a current and very well documented example in all workshops, webinars and forums.  Many of the recent changes to the RII state they are equivalent, however the assessment requirements have changed significantly. If there are significant changes to the assessment requirements, we question how this can still be deemed equivalent?  In light of other issues documented here with regard to the NSSC Quality Assurance Panel and the process for having a training package endorsed, it is suggested that it is an easier pathway through the NSSC Quality Assurance Panel if they are able to deem a qualification or unit of competency as equivalent.

It is our belief at RTO Doctor that equivalency should be defined as meaning that if the student was to go through an RPL process, there would be no gaps identified between the current/new and superseded unit of competency.   It is also our strong opinion that equivalence should only be applied at the unit of competence level as a qualification can have a variety of electives and depending on the electives selected, the qualification may, or may not be equivalent.   At RTO Doctor we also believe that there should be a provision to allow RTO’s to provide the latest unit of competency, therefore providing ‘current’ training so as not to disadvantage learners. It is problematic in fast moving industries where older units may require training on industry techniques or equipment which is no longer relevant to industry as well as in situations for example where students are enrolled in the course on CRICOS and there are layers of immigration legislation attached to such non-compliant features of training packages.  A case in point for example is the qualification CPC50308 – Diploma of Building and Construction (Management).  The issue, as identified by RTO Doctor is summarized below however the full article that featured in the RTO Doctor February 2014 Newsletter is available at Appendix I.

“On 31 January 2014, during some auditing work for a client at the time, we identified that in a Diploma qualification on the client’s scope of registration from the CPC08 Training Package, 1 core unit of competency  (imported from the parent training package BSB07 Training Package) had been superseded almost 22 months prior on 18 December 2012 and, another core unit in the same qualification that had been imported from the same training package had been completely deleted from the parent training package (BSB07 Training Package) on 18 March 2013.  The qualification should have received a new qualification code as a result (as did every other qualification in the same situation across many other training packages) 22 months earlier had the relevant ISC (CPSISC) been ensuring the quality of the qualifications in their training package.  Instead, it went completely unnoticed.  Another qualification code change should have then occurred after the core unit that had been imported from another training package was deleted.  However, none of this was even identified by CPSISC until a phone call and email from the provider to the Building and Construction Industry Training Fund notified them of the issue.  Instead, what we currently have is exactly the same qualification code that was issued in version 8 of the training package endorsed on 5 December 2012 when the current training package is in version 9 and was endorsed on 5 December 2013.”

The provider in question had no choice but to enroll students in a non-compliant qualification.  It had no choice but to enroll students in a non-compliant CRICOS registered course and yet if the student or the RTO ever tried to explain this scenario to the Department of Immigration for a visa extension if required, they would never believe them and would never understand that actually, neither the provider or the student have done anything wrong.

Section Removed due to Privacy and Confidentiality 

Section removed due to privacy and confidentiality reasons.

It is our experience through participating in workshops, webinars, discussion forums and speaking with industry generally, that there is merit in having an Industry body for RTOs.  This would provide greater engagement with industry, greater engagement with the Regulator and the government. It would assist to bring greater consistency for RTOs understanding their compliance obligations as well. There would be bi-directional feedback & communication instead of the current one way only This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons..  If the VET Reform Taskforce is looking for a model to introduce greater input from the sector, we suggest that a larger group of stakeholders needs to be considered for the policy development and implementation process. We would suggest starting state by state to obtain a consensus and then meet at a higher level.

While it may appear that the Australian VET Quality Practitioners and Consultants’ Association would appear to be no different on the surface, the reality is, it was never designed to hold any significant funds.  It is and always will be a true Not For Profit whose proceeds will be donated to Headspace: National Youth Mental Health Initiative (there is one in each jurisdiction and they have a vocational education and training support arm.  This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.  With an official launch date of 1 July 2014, the AVQPCA will be well placed to support this reform and will hopefully be heavily engaged.  It would certainly have adequate skills, knowledge and expertise to conduct independent audits of all regulatory bodies activities if requested to do so.

We firmly believe that with ASQA’s cost recovery efforts and the intention to move to 100% cost recovery on 1 July 2014, that the costs of conducting these audits could be paid for by allocating it out of the operational budget and the cost recovery efforts It is also our opinion that they should be blind audited/moderated.

Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) and its performance

In addition to ASQA’s performance issues highlighted already in this report, it must be noted that major decisions about the future of the VET sector have been based on flawed research from strategic reviews as well as potentially flawed audit data.  While ASQA has demonstrated some areas of good practice, there is much that it still has to do to be considered a service provider who adds value to this sector.

 The strategic reviews, in particular the review related to advertising and marketing was based on potential non-compliances n the majority of cases and yet these facts and figures were claimed as being true and correct and used as the foundation for future decision making.   The entire report refers to ‘potential non-compliances’ in text however the numbers and statistics quoted clearly state that these figures are correct.  If the Commonwealth regulator is going to invest money like this into such significant areas of concern and for these reviews to lead to meaningful outcomes to the community, it should, as would any other government agency, be required to perform its research with academic rigour and its integrity should be unquestionable, particularly when these flawed research reports are going to be the basis for major policy decisions that will impact the country.

 ASQA in particular seems to have developed an attitude that they are above the law and do not need to adhere to the same professional standards as other government departments.  While their role is regulation, it is also not their role to put themselves on a pedestal and not be transparent.  Other government departments in similar capacities have demonstrated the ability to regulate while providing transparency, appropriate guidelines and support, excellent customer service including a genuine willingness to help and all of this without ego.

Sections removed due to privacy and confidentiality.

ASQA’s timeframes for processing applications has been well highlighted in the stakeholder workshops and the webinars so it won’t be repeated here other than to say, this is a serious issue that implicates the critical non-compliance of RTO’s on an ongoing basis and then ASQA turns around and claims it as a non-compliant statistic.  In an environment where training packages are being updated very regularly (every 3 months for example) and ASQA takes 9 – 12 months to conduct an audit in some case, of course the materials are going to be deemed non-compliant.  For an agency that is operating at 75% cost recovery, with more money than any State/Territory operated on previously to conduct its regulatory activities to take so long to process and application is appalling, not to mention the number of applications that they have ‘lost’.  It would be interesting to look at ASQA’s statistics now.

 The ASQA review conducted by PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC) was an absolute waste of time and taxpayer money.  It didn’t and wouldn’t seek feedback from all stakeholders (see Appendix J which is our response when we tried to respond to the review).  Unfortunately too, the questions were loaded and many, many providers who responded or spoke with PWC were only allowed to provide specific answer types (yes, no etc.) and it appeared that PWC only wanted to collect the responses that ASQA could manipulate to ensure that they met their requirements as opposed to what is actually felt and believed by industry.

Requirement for cost recovery

In accordance with the Australian Cost Recovery Guidelines:

 “The underlying principles of the policy include that cost recovery agencies should set fees and charges to recover the costs of services where:

  • Charging is consistent with government policy objectives
  • The beneficiaries are a narrow and identifiable group
  • Fees and charges reflect the cost of providing the service, and
  • Charging is efficient and cost-effective.

 The ASQA 2013 Cost Recovery Impact Statement Draft (2013) stated under 1.4 that:

 “…additional funding was required because ASQA’s original budget was based on insufficient data about the costs of national VET regulation and did not include provision for the additional proactive regulatory activities that ASQA is required to undertake under the NVR Act”.

 This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.

 It is also worth noting that while the Cost Recovery Impact Statement (CRIS) makes reference to the original budget not taking into consideration the ‘additional proactive regulatory activities that ASQA is asked to undertake under the NVR Act’, we would like to question what these were and where is the evidence that they had to undertake such tasks that were not already being undertaken.  While the same document refers to the ‘proactive activities, it is questionable as stated throughout this report whether the community, government and providers did get value for money.  It is our firm belief that regulators around the country were doing a much better job of meeting their client’s needs at a far lesser cost to the government, taxpayer and the providers themselves.  The only exception would be the quality of auditing which as stated earlier does not seem to have improved any despite a significant increase in income for ASQA to remedy this issue if it were so inclined.  With ASQA’s 2013 CRIS Statement clearly stating that in 2013-2014 it will be moving toward a 100% cost recovery agency, ASQA should be revising its budget and spending habits because it is a government department living well beyond its financial means.

 Further, it is our understanding that no other regulatory body in Australia operates on such a cost recovery basis.  It would appear that for a government agency that has such a significant financial income, that it should be demonstrating that its expenditure is appropriately matched to greater improvements in the sector This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.  ASQA has the capacity to reduce its budget and therefore its cost to providers but chooses to regulate in a land of luxury it can ill afford at the expense of the providers it regulates.  As long as there is a continued conflict of interest with the regulatory body being entirely funded by the regulatory activities being provided, there will be no acceptance or understanding within the sector of how this practice is acceptable.  The Department’s own financial viability is dependent on the very services it provides.  If that is not a conflict of interest, we do not know what is.

Concept of de-regulation

As noted above, the concept of de-regulation is one of a double edged sword, while some deregulation is definitely required in the market at the moment, the discussions of allowing some providers to self-regulate is quite concerning. While there are some excellent providers who definitely do not need as rigorous auditing applied, self-regulation is something entirely different.

 Sample Case Study

 An RTO has passed every audit with a spotless record due to having solid systems in place and a contract with external auditors who review and correct documentation prior to any audit. After six months of self regulation, the contract with the external auditors in cancelled, staff, knowing that the external auditors and registration body will no longer be checking their work, reduce moderation and validation sessions to annually from quarterly, being nominated a low risk provider, the provider wins a large government training contract increasing student capacity from 1000 to 4000 over a year, with the significant influx, the organization hires several more trainers and staff who haven’t been held to the same standards in previous organisations. Two new staff members in particular, struggling with the workload of so many students, start to tick and flick on a few of the students assignments, the training manager, struggling with so many new trainers to manage, is unable to pick up that this is occurring…

 This is just one example of how a good quality RTO (and this could have been a public or private) might start a very slippery slope, not with an intention, but purely because there wasn’t the oversight in the processes to pick it up. Every organization needs some level of scrutiny and site audits must remain for all RTO’s for reregistration and new industry areas with additions to scope.

 While de-regulation appears to be the preferred strategy of the Liberal party and one of the core foundations upon which it was elected to parliament, one has to question where the logic of de-regulation of a sector that is already in so much turmoil comes from if not politically motivated.  As has been described throughout this submission, there is ample evidence of a sector in need of significant reform, guidance and leadership but in a sector that is already struggling to achieve compliance, this government is trying its hardest to maintain an election commitment at the expense of our country’s future.  While we don’t believe that the current process of regulation works, is suitable or even recommended, we also don’t believe de-regulation is the answer.

It is also important to question what will be the standard for determining who will be the providers eligible to self-regulate?  On what data/basis will that be determined?  Remembering the risk model that was during the CRICOS re-registration process as discussed earlier was far from adequate, remembering that as stated throughout this submission the integrity of some audit findings and the consistency of audit findings has been found wanting on many occasions and under what framework will they be tested?  Who will make the assessment?  What would be the criteria for assessment?

There has been much discussion amongst a national peak body directly involved with the VET Reform Taskforce as well as through the VET Reform Taskforce Workshops and Webinars that suggests that approximately 20% of all high providers will receive less regulatory focus.

RTO Doctor therefore asks the following questions which include what will be the basis for determining the high performing, high quality providers? If current auditing histories are to be used as the basis where there is such widespread inconsistency amongst auditors it is unlikely that this would be adequate.  Further, compliance against the standards during an audit, much like a judgment of competence in assessment is only a reflection of compliance at that point in time, it is no guarantee that that provider will remain a high performing provider for the duration of their registration.  Additionally, currently (although this is not a new phenomenon), people can buy their way out of audit issues, registration issues merely because they have a logo attached to their internal audits (regardless of whether they were compliant or not at the time), provided you have a reasonable financial position and capacity, you can still get whatever you want out of your regulatory outcomes by ‘buying your outcome’ for the short term if you have the funds.  In a nutshell, if you plan to be a dodgy RTO – it is fairly easy to fudge an audit.

 If membership of ‘national peak bodies’ is the basis this is not sufficient and such an approach has been clearly articulated through the VET Reform Taskforce Workshops and Webinars, to the point where during webinar 3 on Tuesday 8 April 2014, senior employees of RTO’s were asking the question ‘Who is the national peak body for RTO’s?’  If such questions are not evidence enough that the national peak body being consulted and relied upon for policy advice is clearly not the most appropriate body then we do not know who is.

 While the Taskforce may state that they don’t have a response to these questions yet, we at RTO Doctor argue that this is not 100% correct.  This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.

 Should a process such as de-regulation be realized, it must be developed and implemented with complete transparency and the eligibility process should not be anything like the CRICOS re-registration project risk management model that was fundamentally flawed.  This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.


What we have attempted to achieve through this VET Reform Consultation is perhaps somewhat misguided in that it believed (with good reason, that the ‘national peak bodies’ that it was consulting with, did genuinely understand the needs of this industry.  What is clear is that not only was this not true and that they do not adequately represent the views of most members of the VET sector, but the key drivers of this critical sector to the economy has not consulted widely enough.

It has consulted with its traditional stakeholders but not really consulted with all of the stakeholders that matter such as the small business owner who needs the system more than the big unions, the students of the system, etc.

 If the current reform efforts do not go back and look at the historical development of the VET sector, how it came to be and closely analyse the successes and shortcomings from the past, we will never end up with a reform effort that adequately addresses the needs of this country and our reputation internationally as a leader in the provision of education and training.  What is currently being demonstrated is a real knee jerk reaction to a political issue that is not really addressing the fundamental flaws of the system by introducing changes that are heavily influenced by a political message that should never have been applied to Australia’s education and training sector but it is in order to appease voters and protect the Prime Minister’s election pledge of de-regulation and reducing the red tape.  If the government’s commitment to our future is to provide a system that develops the skills and knowledge of our future country members (and those around the world), it is negligent in believing and promoting that a de-regulated and/or self-regulated approach is the way of the future.  In a sector where people’s lives are put at risk on a daily basis and will continue to get worse in the future, when the only time they consider ‘self-regulation’ is when there’s an audit coming otherwise it is ‘free for all and let’s get away with what we can’, our future generations are in trouble.  Either the Taskforce really engages in genuine reform and makes the changes that need to be made as opposed to the changes that would equate to maintaining election promises or it has also been negligent and let down the current and future generations of our nation.

 The current proposals laid out to the sector are not fit for purpose, the current regulatory framework is not fit for purpose, the proposed AVQS is not fit for purpose and the concept of de-regulation or self regulation is not fit for purpose.  While it is understood that the terms of reference of the taskforce are great and that it is going to be near impossible to develop a one size fits all approach, it needs to look much further and deeper than it is currently to really see the issues that are the most critical that need to be addressed.


In summary, the recommendations of RTO Doctor are:

  1. In the mid 1980’s when Australia was facing significant economic challenges including new markets, technology, high unemployment, significant retrenchments due to emerging technology and a global marketplace, governments forged strong partnerships with large industry bodies, professional associations and unions in an effort to enhance employability, increase skill development and be better prepared for a globally and highly competitive marketplace.  The Government used the VET sector as a Band-Aid approach to fixing these issues.  This situation has been reproduced time and time again and is happening right now, nothing has changed.  Use the lessons from history to refocus and rebuild the VET sector.
  2. Understand the there is not one purpose for VET but many.  The purpose of VET will be different for different people.  For the government it means one thing, for the community another.  For TAFE it means one thing, for the private RTO it means another.  For the employer and the student, it can often mean something very different again.  How can we develop a basis for a new system when we don’t actually understand its true purpose?  Whose needs are the Taskforce really trying to meet?  Once it can honestly and transparently answer this question, it will have a clearer path forward.
  3. A vast range of stakeholders who are not adequately consulted about VET or even the efforts of reform undertaken by this current government have been neglected and would be able to provide a significant amount of valid, reliable and critical views to this reform.  RTO Doctor recommends that the Taskforce use this opportunity to invest the time into genuinely consulting with all stakeholders who have been left out of this review.
  4. The perception of VET equaling TAFE needs to change.  It is not entirely clear how this perception was created but the government does nothing to make it clear that less than 10% of providers in the VET sector are TAFE.  When secondary schools (public and private), employers, major business, unions, media all believe that TAFE = VET, there is a real problem that needs to be addressed.  The government’s focus on weeding out dodgy private providers does not support this recognition, particularly when it absolutely knows that some public providers are amongst the non-compliant in the country.  This is perhaps not a reflection of just being non-compliant but the business model that public providers are required to rely upon and never needing to have to diversify their market, to be able to have any and every qualification on their scope of registration regardless if they have the staffing, resources or capability of delivering them, at times staff who haven’t seen a real industry workplace for 10 years or so and not really being able to maintain currency with the massive changes that are taking place in this dynamic system.  It is absolutely these providers who will no doubt be amongst the country’s self regulating providers and yet they are without a doubt, Australia’s biggest risk in the VET sector currently.
  5. Auditors, in particular, the auditors who will be the determinants of the 20% of providers who will have the privilege of self-regulating, need to be fit for purpose.  The audits that they conduct must be across their entire scope of registration and unplanned with perhaps 48 hours notice so as to give a genuine picture of what their compliance is like.  At RTO Doctor, we know that with 20 working days, we can turn around a provider from being critically non-compliant to passing an audit with no non-compliances when the client is prepared to spend the money.  If the ‘regulatory body/Taskforce’ (as yet unidentified) is to provide the elite 20% with too much notice, they will effectively be able to clean up their operation entirely.
  6. RTO Doctor does not support self-regulation or de-regulation but rather, more focused regulation.  As pointed out in recommendation number 5, anyone with enough money can fudge an audit and it must be remembered that a compliant audit is only a picture of a point in time.  Further, the creation of such a system is elitist, does not ensure access and equity and for those providers who work with the most marginalized members of the community, they will be unnecessarily disadvantaged and potentially discriminated against.
  7. The action of regulation of the sector needs to be taken more seriously, especially when more and more external accrediting authorities are relying on the outcomes of the VET sector’s regulators.  If an audit report identifies critical non-compliance that is systemic, the follow up audit should not only ensure that the critical non-compliances identified originally were corrected but that the systemic nature of those non-compliances have been addressed.
  8. The sampling of qualifications during an audit needs to be reconsidered so that at no time when a re-registration or monitoring audit for example is being conducted, high risk areas are neglected.
  9. The consistency of the auditing process and auditor judgments, perhaps better auditor training is absolutely necessary to ensure that there is no longer the ability to question the validity of an auditor’s findings.
  10. This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.
  11. The Commonwealth regulator must publish research that is factually and academically sound if it is to be relied upon for policy development and decisions.
  12. The Commonwealth regulator must be open and transparent about its complaints and appeals process and where it has any form of potential evidence, that it use its powers to conduct monitoring audits and fully investigate any complaints, regardless of where the complaints come from.
  13. Where the Commonwealth regulator is seeking data for its ‘satisfaction surveys’, the questions should not be simple yes or no answers to loaded questions.  This is falsifying its own data to protect its own existence.
  14. Where the regulator has sufficient evidence to cancel statements of attainment or qualifications under legislation, it must do so to protect the community from harm.  It is absolutely not acceptable for a regulator to cancel a provider’s registration or deem a provider critically non-compliant based on a provider not meeting the requirements for assessment and issuing of that qualification.  If the provider has achieved that outcome at audit, the legislation provides for it, those qualifications and statements of attainment must be cancelled so as not to jeopardise community safety.  Where required, students (graduates) should be retrained and reassessed in the areas missing from the qualification before being re-issued with a qualification or statement of attainment that they have achieved.  At no time should the student be responsible for paying any additional money to ensure that they have received what they agreed to with the provider.
  15. Where the government has an opportunity to collect evidence about the fraudulent use of government expenditure, regardless of how that information is presented to it, it must fully investigate that allegation and recover costs.  It is entirely inappropriate and unconscionable that a regulator would refuse to accept the evidence because of where it comes from or handball it to another government department.
  16. The risk framework being developed for the future VET sector needs to ensure that it not based on the model used for the CRICOS re-registration project.  As was discussed and highlighted in this report, this framework was fundamentally flawed and will provide no positive outcome during this reform process.
  17. The identification, provision and support of language, literacy and numeracy issues are a multi-sector issue and should not be addressed uniquely by the VET sector.  The VET sector should rightly address it where it appears on a case by case basis but fundamentally, the lack of LLN skills of the majority of the population belongs to sectors other than the VET sector including the early childhood, primary education and secondary education sector.  The VET sector should not be responsible for fixing problems which are fundamentally based in the development of the early years.  While the VET sector is supportive of addressing these needs when required to do so, it is not this sector’s responsibility to fix the underlying problem that currently other educational areas are negligent in performing their role.
  18. There needs to be consistent and harmonious legislation across the country that makes sense and is fit for purpose.  When every jurisdiction has different requirements for the conduct of a traineeship or apprenticeship because each jurisdiction wants to put their stamp of approval on it, the Commonwealth government needs to demonstrate leadership and force the States/Territories to toe the line.  An entire country is run by a prime minister (however good or bad he/she may be) and it is not up to an elite few State / territory leaders or even CEO’s of government departments to make their own rules.
  19. There needs to be urgent and transparent information in relation to the future of the VET sector and whether or not the AVQS will be adopted.  Private providers can no longer be expected to meet their obligations under the VET Quality framework’s Financial Viability Requirements or under the Corporations Act 2001 when the regulatory reform process is restricting their trade.  This needs to happen urgently.  It has been asked many times by many providers and nobody will provide an answer.
  20. There needs to be made available in clear terms what the role of the Accountable Education Officer will be if the AVQS is to go ahead.  It is our experience that there are very few people around the country who could adequately fulfill this role and certainly not enough for all providers who fit into this sector.  If this will be made a requirement, the government needs to release this information as an urgent priority to allow providers the time to up skill their staff, locate a suitable person or manage a relinquishment of the registration.
  21. Any future (and current) regulator must monitor and regulate the provision of training.  Any revised standards must include the monitoring and regulation of training.
  22. All regulators have a responsibility to help their clients maintain their registration requirements and become better providers, currently the Commonwealth regulator refuses to take on this task.  All States/territories previously did this very well; Victoria and Western Australia continue to do this very well.  There was and is no need for the Commonwealth regulator to come out with a big stick and an ego and say we’re here to close down the shonky providers, be afraid, be very afraid.  We at RTO Doctor have heard these statements in public forums and this behavior is disgraceful and unbecoming of public servants.
  23. This section has been removed for privacy and confidentiality reasons.
  24. Auditors must be performance managed and/or contracts reviewed when their audits are found to be incorrect or the findings do not match the evidence provided.  It is suggested that one way of doing this is the development of an independent body to confirm that the evidence and the audit outcomes are accurate by conducting a moderated sample of audits.  Where the moderated result proves an incorrect finding, or where an appeal fails, the auditor must be held accountable for getting it wrong and performance managed where appropriate.
  25. An independent body who would become the ‘auditor of auditors’ must be established with very clear terms of reference.  This body must have expertise in the standards and the regulatory frameworks that operate in the VET sector.  There is a conflict of interest where the current regulatory authorities can ‘self-regulate’.  Further, where previously other government agencies have been commissioned to audit the auditors, there remains a conflict of interest and often, these agencies do not have the knowledge of the VET sector to adequately audit the performance of the regulator against its own standards and the decisions it has made.
  26. There should be a series of basic best practice templates made available for all providers to access free of charge as part of their annual registration fees.  Currently the inconsistency of interpretation by auditors about what is adequate and what is not is contributing to a massive amount of confusion that could be alleviated by providing templates that are to be contextualized by the provider.
  27. The Commonwealth regulator needs to implement a genuine help desk as opposed to the one it currently has.  If it doesn’t have the qualified and experienced staff to implement such a service, they should be using the significant contributions that providers make every year to providing this service.
  28. While it is acknowledged that the NSSC has now been disbanded and along with it the Quality Assurance Panel, the concept, while fantastic is fundamentally flawed and needs to be revised.  It’s terms of reference, funding, membership and the processes to be undertaken for endorsement of training packages must be reviewed based on the discussions presented within this report.
  29. The quality of training packages is a critical issue that can only be addressed by providing less frequent updates but when those updates are made, they are of the highest quality.  A training package should never be endorsed full of errors and as unprofessional as they have been over recent years.  If the government wants higher quality training packages, it must be prepared to adequately invest in them and it must be prepared to employ the right people to develop them.  Their quality assurance should not be undertaken by the easiest route and the cheapest pathway with the least resistance but someone who is capable of ensuring that the product being put up for endorsement is appropriate for endorsement.
  30. The concept of equivalence is closely related to recommendation 29.  RTO Doctor believes however that Industry Skills Councils must only deem equivalence where an RPL process or mapping exercise would identify no gaps in training and assessment.
  31. RTO Doctor does not support 100% cost recovery of regulatory activities unless all regulatory activities across the country operate in the same manner.  Further, where 100% cost recovery is justified, then there is no excuse why many of the recommendations we have made cannot be implemented.  RTO Doctor firmly believes that if 100% cost recovery would ensure a system that is genuinely reformed and for the betterment of our nation and future, is completely transparent, fair, equitable and protects consumers, ensures transparency and accountability of the regulators who are claiming the 100% cost recovery, then they would support it.  Perhaps a solution to the 100% cost recovery effort is that the regulator must dedicate a realistic percentage of its annual budget to the establishment of an independent body of auditors to keep the regulatory authorities accountable.


 Tovey, M., Lawlor, D.  (2008).  Training in Australia, 3rd Edition.  Pearson Education, New South Wales.

 Commonwealth of Australia.  (2013).  NSSC Standards Policy Framework – Improving Vocational Education and Training: The Australian Vocational Qualification System.  NSSC,http://www.nssc.natese.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/75272/NSSC_Standards_Policy_Framework.pdfAccessed: 6 April 2014, 11.24am.

 Commonwealth of Australia.  (1974).  TAFE in Australia: Report on needs in technical and further education, Volume 1: Report [Kangan Report].  Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

 Commonwealth of Australia.  (1974).  TAFE in Australia: Report on needs in technical and further education, Volume 2: Report [Kangan Report].  Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

 Australian Skills Quality Authority.  (2013). 2013 Cost Recovery Impact Statement – Exposure Draft.   Transitional arrangements from 1 July 2013. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

 Australian Skills Quality Authority.  (2013). 2013 Cost Recovery Impact Statement.  Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.



Appendix A – LinkedIn Discussions – ‘Who is your stakeholder’ (Ongoing discussion)


Who is your stakeholder and what does it mean for VET Reform?

Raelene Bartlett

Founding Director at RTO Doctor

As I sit and read through the various discussions in this group, there continues to be a question that slaps me in the face repeatedly about reforming our sector. 

As RTO’s, you are required to consult with industry and other stakeholders (including for example clients or in less diplomatic terms, consumers of your products) in order to inform your business model, delivery and assessment strategies, continuous improvement, be financially viable, operate consistently with the relevant training packages and accredited courses, quality framework (i.e. AQTF or VQF) plus any other accreditation standards that are relevant to your scope of registration such as ANMAC, Worksafe, Partnerships, Board, Shareholders and the list goes on. As an RTO, who do you consider to be your stakeholders?

The issue that really concerns me and has for some time which flies in the face of the current and previous attempts at VET Reform include the fact that the bodies responsible for decision making would appear to have a perception that the stakeholders of the VET sector are vastly different to those that you do as an RTO. For example, on a number of occasions, I personally tried providing feedback to a number of bodies regarding the reform project and was advised specifically during the ASQA Process Review that only organisations with direct experience of being regulated by ASQA are included in the consultation process. So the glaring and obvious question is, who do you think that ASQA’s (or any other regulatory body in this sector) stakeholders are? Are those stakeholders being truly represented? Does this matter?

Who do you believe the stakeholders of the ISC’s are? Are those stakeholders being truly represented?

Who do you believe the stakeholders of the systems ‘peak bodies’ are? Are those stakeholders being truly represented?

Who do you believe the stakeholders of the VET Reform Taskforce are? Are those stakeholders being truly represented?

Who do you believe the stakeholders of the VET sector are? Are those stakeholders being truly represented?

Should they be any different? 

Importantly, will acknowledging and considering the views of all relevant stakeholders in each of these areas, if they are not the same, lift the perception of VET as has been raised as a concern in another thread? Is this part of our solution?

And (and I know never start a question with ‘and’ by the way) should these stakeholders form a part of any major decision making body in relation to our sector? Does this matter?


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 20 comments Jump to most recent comment

Jim Munro

Consultant – BD and Training at Munro Consulting

For me it has always been simple (and this is my opinion only). 
You hit the nail on the head when you said “consumers of your products”. They are the most important stakeholders – your client companies (industry) and then your students. 
To answer your “other” questions regarding stake holders fro: ISC/s, ASQA, VET Sector, Peak Bodies – again simple Industry (companies), students and RTO/s

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Raelene Bartlett

Founding Director at RTO Doctor

@Jim, don’t you think it’s strange then that if consumers of your products (as an RTO) are not really a part of this process and that while it is being published in the media that there is reform happening, they don’t understand it, haven’t really been provided with an opportunity to provide their views or contribute in any meaningful way? It would appear to me that nobody has been able to decipher all the bureaucracy sufficiently to inform them; all they hear in the papers is that VET is a convoluted mess, there’s a new Minister every few months, funding is disappearing, TAFE vs. Private and so many confusing and mixed messages, how are the very consumers of your product supposed to understand that when the people within the sector don’t?

 Brett HilderJim Munro like this

Jim Munro

Consultant – BD and Training at Munro Consulting

@Raelene – It is strange, but par for the course. The outcome (and that is the “product” we are selling) is a qualification / statement of attainment / HRWL. The end user is the company and the student. A no brainier. We first have to accept as fact – the result of our training MUST make a positive ($) impact on the companies bottom line. If we are doing it for any other reason then we need to get out of the game. AND we achieve that by producing (competent) safe / productive workers with the ability to take advantage of future career opportunities either within the company / outside of the company / further education. 
It is so simple and yet we clutter it up with educational speak, bureaucratic BS and political agendas

Raelene Bartlett

Founding Director at RTO Doctor

and yet we dictate to these companies what that positive impact should be! Never mind that the RTO’s consultation differs in some cases quite substantially from the training package/accredited course/regulatory requirements, never mind that in some cases, it may just be illegal for the company to do x, y and z that they have been told they have to do. 

When RTO’s consult with these industries, do they predominantly consult with the big players in the industry or more the larger number of businesses that make the country function. Is their view any different to, or their needs any different to the big players? So for example, are the company bottom line positive impact requirements and the needs of Joe’s Excavation Services and different to BHP or Rio? Are the needs and views of Jenny’s Steakhouse any different to those of say the Pan Pacific Hotel Chain? Whose opinions, views and needs are acknowledged and considered more? Are Joe and Jenny’s needs and views important and are they likely to be reflected in those of BHP, Rio and Pan Pacific? I’m not sure that I’ve really seen a huge amount of evidence that the Joe’s and Jenny’s have been adequately and equally consulted when it comes to: 

a] The development of nationally accredited training that will determine their workforce; and 
b] That they understand the current reform taking place, why it is deemed necessary, who deemed it necessary, what it’s about and what the likely impact will be on their bottom line.

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Jim Munro

Consultant – BD and Training at Munro Consulting

@Raelene. I don’t believe that Jenny and Joe have been adequately / equally consulted. 
We have worked with large, medium and small enterprises and even with the large (and I will use KCGM and Iluka as examples) (and before anyone gets ansy about me using them as examples – they are very proud of their results and always give permission). 
Even though we consulted at the senior management level to begin with (and got their buy in) we quickly moved that process to individual departments / work areas. I think the issue with ISC/s/ Peak bodies etc is they do consult industry – but often at a level to far removed from the coal face. We have worked with very small companies (only a handful of staff) and the consultation doesn’t differ at all. I think as RTO/s you must stop the excuses (and blame game) and make industry consultation (how else can you create assessment material and the flow on training resources) your first priority.

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Brett Hilder

Chief Executive Officer at Argos Consulting

Top Contributor

Jenny and Joe have been effectively excluded from all changes and reforms for years now. 

Equally the trainers’ views are ignored. As well as the owners of SME RTOs. 


Would you exclude the opinions of surgeons if you were seeking to regulate their surgery? 

Rhetorical questions. 

Since when has it been a quality process to consult bureaucrats primarily and in the second place a layer of ‘representative’ bodies several steps removed from the delivery space? 

Bureaucrats and similarly constructed organisations have replaced the experts. Period.

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Raelene Bartlett

Founding Director at RTO Doctor

@Brett, it’s not often I agree with you but on this occasion I do :-)

Brett Hilder

Chief Executive Officer at Argos Consulting

Top Contributor

The RTOs I have seen consult both formally and informally in a myriad of ways and maintain constant interest in their subject industries. My sense is that this is not a major problem even if there are a few outstanding issues. 

Because the VET Reform Taskforce is speaking directly to RTOs, it is getting feedback from the people who deal with employers and trainers and students on a daily basis. 

This information is going direct to the Ministers office. 

Does anyone know when this last occurred?

Brett Hilder

Chief Executive Officer at Argos Consulting

Top Contributor

Raelene. The post I believe you were referring to, ‘Jenny and Joe have been…’ addresses a matter that has been irritating the hell out of me for years. Honestly, I knew this current mess was coming, and watched angrily over the last decade+ as each retrograde step occurred.

I suspect one of the reasons you don’t often agree with me is due to my trenchant anti-regulation stance and the blunt manner I present it.

It appears the only way to generate real positive reform in a noisy media and a raucous internet with an ideologically bound (previous) government and a compliant media is to shout very loudly.

Sometimes you have to be the ‘meanest SOB in the pond’ before you can be kind.

Still at least my kids still love me.


Raelene Bartlett

Founding Director at RTO Doctor

@Brett it’s not the only reason I don’t often agree with you. I do disagree though that being an irritating SOB is the only way to achieve positive reform. I have been given many names over the years, pleasant and diplomatic have rarely been words associated with my name. However, when you are passionate, committed, assertive without being aggressive, you are prepared to put your hand on your heart and do what you need to do to ensure that you act with the utmost integrity and highest ethics, you really can make a positive impact. Again, it boils down to who is your stakeholder and whose life are you really trying to change?

Brett Hilder

Chief Executive Officer at Argos Consulting

Top Contributor

As an Australian I just want to clarify the Americanism I just used: 

‘meanest SOB in the pond’… 

….in Australian this translates to: ‘roughest bastard in the billabong’.

Brett Hilder

Chief Executive Officer at Argos Consulting

Top Contributor

I used to think that being passionate, committed etc. was enough but I have slowly realised I was wrong.

Having seen the utterly ruthless, illegal and immoral methods used to destroy my reputable company by the unaccountable (jobs-for-life) pond-life at ASQA and enforced by their ugly legal team on false grounds, I realised that the odds were stacked against my, and every other decent RTO.

The unwarranted loss of jobs and emotional trauma suffered by my ex-employees has never been apologised for, compensated or even acknowledged. The harm done to the industry we served has been ignored.

Those culpable for the current mess (the national training regulator in particular) have never understood nor bothered to try to understand what they have done.

I have heard far too many stories similar to my own in assisting other RTOs, to ever moderate my stance. The harsh words I use are nothing compared to the willful damage done by ASQA.

Basically when the other side is using flame-throwers and napalm, it’s time to arm up.

We can pretend to be nice to each other when there is a breakout of decency from the perpetrators who use up taxpayers’ money.

My stakeholders are my children and I don’t want them to have to grow up into a world infected with this kind of rampant and nasty bureaucracy.

I sleep well at night according to ethics and principles discovered by people greater than me.


Brett Hilder

Chief Executive Officer at Argos Consulting

Top Contributor

BTW, Raelene, nice discussing these deeper matters with you. I am quite aware I’m a handful.

Raelene Bartlett

Founding Director at RTO Doctor

Wouldn’t you know it Brett? I have quite a lot to say! I’m just mindful of what I say and where I say it…at least I try to be :-)  

I have plenty more to say on the topic of VET Reform, I’ve barely begun – as a starting point RTO Doctor will be providing a very healthy submission via email and who knows, we may even make it available through the RTO Doctor Newsletter! Watch this space…

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Brett Hilder

Chief Executive Officer at Argos Consulting

Top Contributor

Me too. On both counts. 

I’ll be watching.

Jim Munro

Consultant – BD and Training at Munro Consulting

@Brett re: “Jenny and Joe have been effectively excluded from all changes and reforms for years now”.That is partly our fault – RTO/s (quite a few) refuse (or have no idea how to) consult with industry big or small. To often we hear RTO/s say – “they wont understand” – “we will just tell them what to do” – “they should just trust us” – what a heap of BS. Forget ASQA – Forget the ISC/s Forget “other” Peak Bodies and get of your (no you Brett – RTO/s in General) backside and consult. We keep playing the blame game – and – YES – I agree the “Industry Bodies” I mention, leave a bit to be desired – BUT – RTO/s can make a huge difference (big or small). We all need to stop / take a deep breath, and make it happen.

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Brett Hilder

Chief Executive Officer at Argos Consulting

Top Contributor

I get what you are saying Jim and I am of course speaking in general terms. In the past I agree that RTOs could have done more to educate employers. 

My suspicion is that RTOs looked at the usually highly stressed stakeholder employers with mountains of other regs etc. to get around and just decide not to burden them. 

The current situation is far more complex and changeable. Many RTOs themselves are flat out keeping up with the changes. 

Also they are certain in the knowledge that tidal waves of change will keep sweeping through from the TPs, from ASQA, from the unions and every other body that wants to stick their oar in. 

In other words what they explain to an employer today may well be invalid tomorrow. 

This is quite apart from the embarrassment of having to continually explain why these often meaningless changes keep coming. 

For the last few years at least, what would be the point? 

From the employers point of view they just trust the RTO to deliver quality people..

Brett Hilder

Chief Executive Officer at Argos Consulting

Top Contributor

I am aware that this is a less than satisfactory answer, but until this bureaucratic mania is excised from the VET sector, we have a very difficult problem on our hands.

Allan Wollard

Director at Allan Wollard Consulting Services Pty Ltd

@ Raelene I am very interested in opinions of the statement ‘as RTO’s, you are required to consult with industry and other stakeholders;
I am not an RTO but consult daily to industry and when reference is made to VET training the most repeated comment is; “If they don’t have to do it I could not care less’.
From the workers prospective the most common feeling is; ‘If you have to have a ticket might as well just get however you can’ or ‘Guess what? I got a cert IV yesterday; don’t know what good it is but the government paid for it so who cares; only took one day’.
Where it identified training is required the most common saying is; ‘run the boys through that training you do; no not that official crap, just that awareness course you do.’ 
If I was an RTO and added content into an existing UoC, it would simply be a duplication of this unit with contradictions to bring it into the real world or pick a unit that had a similar name, present that complete with an RTO SOA and then teach them what they need to know.

Moustafa Wahba

Competency Assurance & TVET Consultant

Hi Raelene 

I am a new member and would advise that the Stakeholders for the VET System or TVET System are those individuals or institutions that may, directly or indirectly, positively or nega¬tively, affect or be affected by the outcomes of the TVET System. They are generally classified as: 

• Employers and employer groups 
• Trainees / participants 
• Parents of trainees 
• Labor unions, professional associations 
• Training providers, schools, training institutions 
• Instructors, teachers, trainers, administrators & technical professionals 
• Government: Youth agencies, Ministry of Manpower and Migration, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Higher Education 

Best regards. 
Eng. Moustafa Wahba 
Competency Assurance & TVET Consultant 
E-mail address: mmm.wahba@gmail.com

And a second discussion relating directly to this issue:



Share your views! Our system needs you!

Raelene Bartlett

Founding Director at RTO Doctor

We all shout from the rooftops that nobody listens about what this sector really needs but are you part of this group?

VET Reform linkedin.com

The Vocational Education and Training (VET) Reform LinkedIn group is a place where members can have a constructive discussion about issues on all aspects of the VET system and how they would like to see it strengthened in the future. Further information about the Department of Industry’s VET Reform Taskforce can be found at www.vetreform.industry.gov.au. The VET Reform Taskforce has been esta



David Crosswell

Independent Food Production Professional

I think you’ll find that there’s a prevailing mentality, inherent from many that have even made the migration over into private enterprise from government employed teaching, that have been conditioned toward a general, ‘fore-lock pulling, too-frightened-to-disrupt-the-status-quo-to run-the-risk-in-becoming-a-target, government clerical, pending tray, pass-the-buck mentality’, for most to speak. There are exceptions, but most will go with the flow, not waving, but slowly drowning.

Those that do speak up will be mobbed, by those eager to be seen as supporting the structure, so as to keep on earning the safe, secure stipend every fortnight, which is why they entered into that demographic in the first instance.

Let’s put a test case out there: I was offered the opportunity to gain both a Dip. Business and Dip. Bus. Management. I went through the HECs application and orientation process, meeting any number of boat people allong the way, whom I could see were going to have any amount of difficulty with the literacy/numeracy aspects, but they were accepted in, and I was not. Why? Because I am a New Zealand citizen that has been here as a permanent resident for the purposes of taxation since mid 1974, paid said taxes, trained many Australian apprentices and advised on the improvement of many Australian businesses, but not a citizen. It was feared that I would gain the certifications, flee the country after 45 years, and live high on the hog. Of course, the boat people, who were not citizens either, would come here for a period of 18 months until the political situation in their home country improved, and would be, as highly qualified personnel, invited back with incentives, were not exposed to this treatment, and approved to do the courses.

Let the mental gymnastics begin.

Raelene Bartlett

Founding Director at RTO Doctor

Sadly David that is a common comment that I hear about why people are not providing feedback to the reforms taskforce. They feel that 

-’what’s the point? I’ve provided 500 pieces of feedback previously only to be ignore’ or 
– ‘I don’t want to bring attention to my RTO’ or 
– ‘I’m in the process of re-registration, application to scope, etc. and don’t want to bring undue attention to my RTO’, or 
– ‘I may provide the information now and while they say there will be no negative impact, my name will forever be associated with negative feedback and I’ll have to pay for it at audit time’. 

I’ve also heard: 

– ‘They’re not genuinely interested in my feedback, they’re just doing the tokenistic approach to ‘we’re listening’ and making appear that they care when they’ve already made up their minds’, 
– ‘The people running the show don’t know the first thing about VET so why waste my time, they’re not going to really listen’. 

It’s a real shame and I think that it is also an issue that the VET Reform Taskforce need to address if they are genuinely want to hear more feedback.

David Crosswell

Independent Food Production Professional

This: ‘They’re not genuinely interested in my feedback, they’re just doing the tokenistic approach to ‘we’re listening’ and making appear that they care when they’ve already made up their minds’, – definitely strikes a chord. Not that I think it’s that simplistic, but policy dictates that feedback must be sought, so the gesture is made. As far as any serious correlation/aggregation of the information goes, I should say very little is undertaken, however. 

Budget would dictate, but how can you determine budget when requirement has not been assessed? And, how well spent is that budget anyway? In an organisation that doesn’t need to pay it’s own bills, anything approaching a corporate level of expenditure accountability went by the wayside generations ago, even though I’m a big fan of getting it introduced, government wide, despite the kicking and screaming that would accompany it from the public service associations. The utilities services are one thing: the parasitic bureaucracy, quite another. Lean thinking principles have serious application here. 

Within the training/educational spectrum, there is exposure to a common set of symptoms across VET, ASQA, and other aspects of government outside the work environment also, that provide a standard, broad spectrum, experience format to advise as to the reality of the problem. We have a current Prime Minister that seriously suggests that the metric required to determine the future communication requirement for this nation is the ability to have two T.V. sets operating in the one domestic environment at the same time. The idiot has actually said this. There is incompetence all through government, which is why many have seized on the safe, secure coccon that it is, and the rest have been so stultified by it, that their days are consumed in a haze of complacency. The complacency is not just outside government, it’s established within it. There would be one or two per hundred that would make an earnest effort, and would run serious risk of political ostracism because of it. Those I salute. 

If I were to define the overall problem, that would be it and, yes, I realise it would be too much for many to prefer to take in. That is what needs to be improved upon before we make serious gain.

Rod Piper

Gym Instructor – Fitness Instructor at Personal Fitness Training

I am taking the pragmatic view here, if you do what a large number of people here are suggesting you are taking it back to a zero point.Meaning, that you really have not improved anything, you simply have rolled everything back to year 1 and there is no going forward. This is the issue and problem you all are advocating, lets think smart see what is in place see areas of change or improvement. Then work within the parameters to modify the system to make it work, meaning you are not at zero point you are actually building the future. 

With that in mind – zero point here we come.

David Crosswell

Independent Food Production Professional

What are you saying here, Rod? There aren’t a large number of people suggesting anything here: with you, there are three of us. 

What I advocate, and I’m not underselling the scenario, it’s massive and, considering the mindsets involved, probably unachievable, but you don’t get anywhere building on sand with the tide coming in. 

My own personal solution, and I’m well on the way to achieving that, is simply to leave the whole mess behind and set up an individual operation where I know I am able to deliver the level of superior training, that delivers the level of superior graduate, that industry will recognise and prefer to the graduate of the ASQA/VET scenario. Skills Councils will be happy to work with anybody they think is capable of delivering what their industry needs. 

But this takes a little more than rhetoric.

Appendix B – Removed due to Privacy and Confidentiality

Removed due to privacy and confidentiality.

Appendix C – Removed due to Privacy and Confidentiality

Removed due to privacy and confidentiality.

Appendix D – Removed due to Privacy and Confidentiality

Removed due to privacy and confidentiality.

Appendix E – Removed due to Privacy and Confidentiality

Removed due to privacy and confidentiality.

Appendix F – Expression of Interest – NSSC Quality Assurance Panel

 See zipped folder labeled Appendix F (We are unable to upload this document, if you wish to see a copy, please contact us directly)

Appendix G – Email reply from NSSC Quality Assurance Panel

See zipped folder labeled Appendix G (We are unable to upload this document, if you wish to see a copy, please contact us directly)

Appendix H – CHC / HLT Training Package Update (RTO Doctor Website)


CHC & HLT Training Package Update

RTO Doctor is committed to ensuring that all providers have access to resources that will support and assist them to maintain compliance with the regulatory framework that they operate in.  As part of this process, we believe it is our duty to to provide any further updates regarding the CHC & HLT Training Package Release as part of an ongoing update service to the industry at large, free of charge.  All updates as they happen will be posted to this page, we encourage you to monitor it closely over the coming months and share it with your networks to ensure that as much as is possible, and within our power, no student is disadvantaged through this transition process.

It is unfortunate that this release which impacts so many stakeholders across the country in almost every industry area has been given so little forethought.  The consequences of this release and what has occurred over the past few days are massive and the NSSC, Industry Skills Councils & Regulators need to address this significant error as a matter of urgency.

Update 18 July 2013

The CSHISC has uploaded a PDF of a PowerPoint Presentation provided to the TAFE Early Childhood Conference / Workshop earlier this month.  The presentation provides the basic overview of what training packages are, as well as covers the new endorsement process.  The final slides provide questions but there are no answers on the PowerPoint presentation itself.  There’s really nothing new in this presentation from what we already know.

On 9 July 2013, the CSHISC indicated on it’s website that it is extending the deadline for the consultation process of draft 1 of the majority of the qualifications and units of competency in the CHC08 & HLT07 training packages.  This means that the ISC has had to revise its timeline as follows:

The following sectors and qualifications will be completed first, with an anticipated endorsement date of December 2014:

  • Selected Technicians & Health Support, including:
  • Audiometry
  • Anaesthetic Technology
  • Cardiac Technology
  • Health Administration
  • Medical Practice Assisting
  • Operating Theatre Support
  • Optical
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacy
  • Sterilisation Services
  • All Oral and Dental Health
  • All Complementary and Alternative Health
  • Selected Community Sector Development, including:
  • Community Development
  • Social Housing
  • Pastoral Care
  • Volunteering
  • Advocacy
  • Community Sector Coordination
  • All General Community Services
  • Selected Cross Sector Units

Reviewed by December 2015

The work being undertaken on the following sectors and qualifications will be put on hold until mid-2014 to allow activities in the sector to be finalised as they will impact on Training Package development.  It is anticipated these sectors will have an endorsement date of December 2015:

  • All Ambulance
  • All Nursing
  • All Client Services

Direct client care and support

The following sectors and qualifications have been identified as requiring significant change and extensive development work.  An additional twelve months is required to undertake this work to the level required by industry.  This review will run concurrently alongside the above two timelines, with an anticipated endorsement date of December 2015:

  • Aged Care
  • Home and Community Care
  • Disability
  • Alcohol and Other Drugs
  • Mental Health
  • Leisure and Health
  • Health Services Assistance
  • Nutrition/dietetic Assistance
  • Allied Health Assistance

Post December 2015

There are some Training Package qualifications and units that do not require imminent change or where there has been very low or no take up over a significant period of time.  In some cases, industry is unsure of the need for these qualifications.  The following qualifications will be reassessed post December 2015 to ascertain viability for ongoing development work:

  • Ancillary Services
  • Population Health
  • Cast Technology
  • Prosthetic/Orthotic Technology
  • Sleep Technology
  • Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology
  • Hyperbaric Technology
  • Mortuary Theatre Practice
  • Development/Humanitarian Assistance

A handout developed by the CSHISC outlining these timeframes can be located here.

It should be noted that on 11 July 2013, Version 1.1 of the CHC & HLT training packages was released on training.gov.au and the modification history within the CHC document states that there has been a ‘Correction to links and mapping. Equivalent outcome’.  Undertaking a ‘Compare Text’ examination of the modifications, training.gov.au states ‘Minor corrections to formatting to improve readability. Corrections to metadata, links and mapping’.  The HLT training package information states both in the document and on the compare text tool ’Minor corrections to formatting to improve readability. Corrections to metadata, links and mapping’.  RTO Doctor suggests that all providers affected should review their mapping to confirm that this new modification does not affect the transition work that they have already undertaken.

The CSHISC released its July 2013 newsletter recently and the follwoing is noted regarding the training package releases:

“Only selected Community Services qualifications have been updated and included in the new CHC Training Package in this round. These are Children’s Services; Education Support; Youth Work; Youth Justice; Child, Youth and Family Intervention.  For Health, the new HLT Training Package contains a suite of updated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker qualifications, as well as First Aid, Workplace Health and Safety, and Telehealth units of competency.  The updated qualifications supersede the Children’s Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker qualifications in the CHC08 v4 and HLT07 v5 Training Packages respectively, but do not impact on the other qualifications within CHC08 v4 and HLT07 v5.”

“Transitional support on offer - CS&HISC will be holding a series of implementation workshops around the country from August to October to help the industry’s transition to the new qualifications.   The workshops will provide information about the new qualifications, units and assessment requirements.  Particular attention will be given to using the mapping tools from the current to new qualifications, and the process for transitioning existing students or those undertaking RPL.  Registrations are essential.”

It should be noted that due to the interactive nature of the workshops, numbers are limited to 35 participants per session, with a limit of two participants per organisation and Melbourne (22 August) and Brisbane (29 August) registrations have already closed.  For registration details visit the CSHISC website.

Health (HLT) & Community Services (CHC) Training Packages Release


Released to training.gov.au July 2, 2013

•         Tuesday morning 2 July 2013 – CHC released, all qualifications and units superseded, HLT units within CHC such as first aid and WHS released with CHC

•         Tuesday evening 2 July 2013 – HLT released, HLT and HLT07 listed as current

•         Wednesday morning 3 July 2013 – CHC08 superseded status reversed, select qualifications and units superseded

•         Wednesday afternoon 3 July 2013 – First aid and Work Health and Safety units superseded status rescinded (dual current status for HLTFA & HLTAID and HLTWHS units)

Current advice from the Community Services & Health Industry Skills Council (CSHISC)

•         CHC08 & CHC 1.0 will run concurrently for the next 18-24 months

•         HLT07 & HLT 1.0 will run concurrently for the next 18-24 months

•         A communication will be released next week from CSHISC with an outline of the expected timeframe for remaining qualification roll outs, these roll outs will go through to the end of 2015, when the full training package will be complete (as per advice from CSHISC, Aged Care is not anticipated to be endorsed until end 2015)

•         Qualifications should continue to be issued with the units listed within the qualification guides, not with the latest units available unless available as electives

Transitions and Teach Outs

“New qualification: a new qualification or a new version of a previously endorsed qualification”- ASQA, Transition and Teach Out General Directions

“When assessing compliance with SNR 14.1, ASQA will consider the ‘overarching principle’ that an RTO must deliver the current (endorsed or accredited) training product to a student, unless the student would be genuinely disadvantaged in undertaking that product.”- ASQA Teach Out Process FAQ.

Previously, no two training packages have run concurrently, therefore legislation and advice from ASQA was provided on the basis that new qualifications would automatically supersede.

No current advice or recommendations are available from state or national regulators.

What this means for providers:

  • Delivering full qualifications
  • Providers delivering qualifications in the areas listed below are required to start preparing resources and assessments to apply for transition to scope with the new units and qualifications as per HLT and CHC 1.0
  • Children’s Services
  • Education Support
  • Youth Work
  • Youth Justice
  • Child, Youth and Family Intervention
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers
  • Providers delivering qualifications which have not been superseded but contain first aid and/or WHS units as core within the qualification (Aged Care, Nursing, Disability, Alternative Health, Naturopathy, etc.)
  • Qualifications must be delivered as per qualification guides, as such currently endorsed CHC08/HLT07 units must be delivered.  E.g. CHCWHS312A, HLTWHS300A, HLTFA311A, HLTFA412A etc.
  • Delivering individual units of competency including First Aid
  • Since HLTFA* and the like units are all still listed as current on training.gov.au, providers should not be required to transition, however, legislation is unclear and ASQA/TAC/VRQA are yet to rule on transition requirements.
  • RTO’s are required to deliver the latest versions of units and both HLT and CHC Implementation guides clearly indicate that units have been released which supersede First Aid and WHS units.
  • Best practice recommends that RTO’s prepare resources and assessments for addition to scope to deliver new HLT and CHC units where available

Appendix I – Great Cover-Up of VET (RTO Doctor Feature Article – February 2014 Newsletter)

Great Cover Up of VET

Feature Article

This month’s article looks at the ‘Great Cover Up of VET!’

At RTO Doctor, we have previously discussed our disappointment in the quality of training packages, in particular during our newsletter from July 2013.  It is with even greater disappointment that this month’s feature article provides an open discovery of a cover up of a system failure that has the potential to have dramatic consequences for RTO’s who have qualifications from this training package on their scope of registration.

If an RTO conducted itself in this way, they would be severely reprimanded, if not heavily sanctioned and it is completely unacceptable that government bodies upon whom all of your registrations are reliant, think that they can get away with such incompetence and that it goes unnoticed.  This case demonstrates the complete failure of a range of government departments or bodies who are supposed to know better; whose reputation and expectation of quality assurance is expected by every single provider out there, including the public, employers and students.  What is very clear is that nobody can currently rely on information provided in the public domain for them to consult and be compliant with when the information is manipulated in such a way.

The best way to tell this story is to start from the beginning.  On 31 January 2014, during some auditing work for a client at the time, we identified that in a Diploma qualification on the client’s scope of registration from the CPC08 Training Package, 1 core unit of competency  (imported from the parent training package BSB07 Training Package) had been superseded almost 22 months prior on 18 December 2012 and , another core unit in the same qualification that had been imported from the same training package  had been completely deleted from the parent training package (BSB07 Training Package) on 18 March 2013.  The qualification should have received a new qualification code as a result (as did every other qualification in the same situation across many other training packages) 22 months earlier had the relevant ISC (CPSISC) been ensuring the quality of the qualifications in their training package.  Instead, it went completely unnoticed.  Another qualification code change should have then occurred after the core unit that had been imported from another training package was deleted.  However, none of this was even identified by CPSISC until a phone call and email from the provider to the Building and Construction Industry Training Fund notified them of the issue.  Instead, what we currently have is exactly the same qualification code that was issued in version 8 of the training package endorsed on 5 December 2012 when the current training package is in version 9 and was endorsed on 5 December 2013.

The BSB07 Training Package on training.gov.au (TGA) on 31 January 2014 clearly stated that the status of the following 2 units of competency were as follows:

  • BSBOHS504A – Apply principles of OHS risk management – Superseded – 18 December 2012 (This is still what is showing on TGA)
  • BSBHRM403A – Recruit, select and induct staff – Deleted – 18 March 2013

It was based on the information provided on TGA that the provider made contact with the ISC.  The client in question was in a bit of a quandary because they had to submit their application for audit and while they had received advice to say that they should provide their email to the regulator as evidence of taking action, it was also explained to them that once the ISC became aware of this issue, you would see an urgent update made to the training package outside the NSSC process and that the qualification would receive a new code at the next opportunity to submit a case for endorsement to the NSSC.  What this would mean to the RTO is that by the time the regulator got around to conducting their desktop and site visit, the provider’s qualification would have already transitioned and they would have been deemed non-compliant against the standards during the site visit as the qualification was superseded.  Through no fault of their own, this provider was going to have to submit something that they knew was non-compliant but at the time of the audit with the regulator, they knew that they would be deemed non-compliant.

On 24 February 2014, while providing some professional development to the staff of another RTO, RTO Doctor was demonstrating how it is unsafe to rely on the information on TGA as being accurate and that you should always do your own checks.  The example of the above information was provided.  However, when demonstrating the units of competency from the BSB07 Training Package, what had been identified by us at RTO Doctor was that TGA has been updated to reflect entirely new information in relation to BSBHRM403A – Recruit, select and induct staff.  The screen shot below (Image 1) clearly shows what was displayed on TGA on 24 February 2014 in relation to this unit of competency.  The TGA ruling indicates ‘superseded’ however the version date and version number of the training package have not changed.

Image 2 on the other hand is taken from page 19 of the BSB07 Business Services Training Package version 9.  While someone was busy trying to go into damage control, what they did forget to also update was the summary mapping section of the training package that identifies very clearly (page 19) that the unit of competency BSBHRM403A – Recruit, select and induct staff  was Deleted 18 March 2013 and a new unit of competency BSBHRM503A – Support the recruitment,  selection and induction of staff will take its place.  What you can also see however is that this document also did not receive any version update, date changes or anything at all.

So who is to blame for this system failure really?  

Is it the RTO’s fault if they continue to run superseded and deleted units of competency in their qualifications?  

The RTO must deliver the qualification as per the packaging rules.  However, an argument remains that if the RTO was meeting its requirements of 15.5d (Assessment (including RPL) is systematically validated, it wouldn’t have taken 22 months for the RTO to have been alerted to the fact that one core unit was superseded and it wouldn’t have taken until the internal audit to identify that a core unit of competency had been completely deleted from its parent training package.

Is it the ISC’s fault for not providing sufficient and adequate quality assurance in the launch of its products that anyone in the construction industry relies upon?

In our opinion, absolutely the ISC is partly to blame for this system failure.  The ISC’s get paid money on behalf of tax payers to perform a critical role ion the maintenance and development of products that will enhance Australia’s training sector and industry as well as be responsible for the currency and skills of our workforce through the development of current, accurate and industry relevant qualifications for the remainder of our sector to work with in the development of Australia’s workforce.  From the ISC’s own website, the following statement is made:

“Inconsistent quality of outcomes within the Australian VET sector remains one of the system’s most enduring issues. With nearly 5,000 RTOs, annual VET revenue of $8.68billion and 1.4 million enrolments in Training Package qualifications in 2011, the delivery of consistent, high-quality training and assessment is now a national imperative. Both policymakers and RTOs must move quickly to restore confidence if enterprises, governments and individuals are to continue their investment in nationally recognised training.”

Surely examples such as these indicate that the integrity of the training packages that they develop, as well as the value and integrity of Australian VET qualifications are a part of the systemic failure of our skills development program?  Surely this demonstrates that it is not enough to continue to shift the blame only to dodgy RTO’s?  Under no circumstances are we saying that there are not ‘dodgy RTO’s’ and under no circumstances are we saying that all faults lie with the ISCs.  What we are saying however is that it is time that everyone lifted their game in order to make the system function effectively.  In a period of VET Reform where standards are being reviewed, ASQA’s performance is being reviewed, ASQA’s full cost recovery program is about to be implemented, RTO’s are being cancelled or ‘coerced’ into voluntary relinquishment of their RTO registration, other RTO’s are being suspended and the value of Australian qualifications is being seriously questioned, it is no longer good enough for ISC’s to continue to publish training packages with reference to AQTF 2007, it’s no longer acceptable (and in our opinion, never was) for training packages to continue to provide ‘industry current practices’ that no industry body in the country would ever permit.  An example of this situation is where the training package (RII09) requires the student to be assessed moving an underground service when it is actually illegal for them to do so.  Again, providers notified the ISC and the issue continues to be an assessable item in the current version.

Who else is to blame for such poor quality assurance of our national training system’s foundations?

We believe that the NSSC also has to shoulder some of the blame here for on most occasions, they are responsible for endorsing these qualifications and training packages (they certainly endorsed the CPC08 training packages outlined in this article as it appears on TGA with the exception of version 6.1 which states that the version change was due to an ISC upgrade).  The NSSC is responsible, through its committee for a raft of standards in the VET sector and it seems that in recent times, it’s efficiency has also every right to be questioned.  With the recent resignation of the Chair John Dawkins due to his conflict of interest with a private RTO listed on the stock exchange to its questionable approach to investigating the inefficiencies and inadequacies of the VET sector.  Selective panels, questions designed so that responses are somewhat favoured and don’t provide an opportunity for comment, lack of interest in really understanding some of the core matters as they are experienced by a range of other stakeholders involved in the VET sector, not least of whom includes students themselves.

The NSSC is responsible for endorsing training packages once they have been approved by a member of the Quality Assurance Panel.  While the Quality Assurance Panel is broad and has a range of people, it is effectively up to the training package developer to ‘select’ their own reviewer.  A person can be a member of the NSSC Quality Assurance Panel for the duration of their contract and never actually undertake a review of a training package (yet are still required to pay the costs involved in attending induction, moderation etc.).  There is no guarantee of work, nor is there any guarantee of remaining on the panel.  The ISC is responsible for selecting and paying the panel member of their choice to provide a Quality Report to accompany the training package proposed for endorsement.  In that context, it may be that the competing need of an ISC to spend the least amount of money possible as it is tax payer funded will take the path of least resistance to having the case for endorsement approved.

On a final note, it is perhaps timely to note that the Head of the VET Reform Taskforce is also an ex-officio member of the NSSC meaning that she has ‘…been appointed to the NSSC based on the position that she holds. As with all ex-officio members, they are to provide advice and guidance to the Council to help inform deliberations. Ex-officio members are not required to represent the views of their stakeholders, rather they are appointed based on the expertise and knowledge associated with their role or position…’  It is worth taking a look at the backgrounds of those who make up the NSSC, it may help you better understand some of the directions of the future in VET in Australia.  Ex-officio members have the same rights and responsibilities as experts members, except for the ability to vote on Council matters.

So, as a final summary, RTO Doctor’s advice continues to be…Never trust that the information on TGA is accurate, always do your due diligence.  Your RTO registration could be at risk if you don’t.

Image 1

 (We are unable to upload this document, if you wish to see a copy, please contact us directly)

Image 2

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Appendix J – Email reply regarding request to contribute to the review of ASQA

From: Tertiary Quality Regulation
Date: Friday, 24 January 2014 2:47 pm
To: RTO Doctor

Dear Ms Bartlett,

Thank you for your email regarding your interest in the ASQA Process Review.  As you may be aware, the purpose of the review is to consider ASQA’s current regulatory approach and the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations, and how this can be optimised over time, ahead of any fee increases.

The review is considering ASQA’s impact on registered training organisations (RTOs) and how ASQA’s key processes such as registration, change of scope, re-registration and course accreditation are conducted and the interactions with RTOs during these processes.  The review’s scope is focussed on the direct experience of RTOs with ASQA and therefore only organisations with direct experience of being regulated by ASQA are included in the consultation process.

The review will report on the ASQA’s process efficiency and effectiveness, identify opportunities for improvement and note any impediments to efficient regulation.  The outcomes of the review will be provided to governments for consideration in early 2014.


Name removed to protect privacy

VET Quality and Standards Branch

Skills Division


Department of Industry

GPO Box 9839, Canberra ACT 2601

Ph: 6102 9524

From: Raelene Bartlett [mailto:raelene@rtodoctor.com.au] 
Sent: Tuesday, 21 January 2014 1:07 PM
To: Tertiary Quality Regulation
Cc: Lauren Hollows
Subject: ASQA review


I am writing to find out whether I can participate in the ASQA review process.

The information released on the ASQA website on 15 January 2014 states that only RTO’s and peak bodies may provide their views however we are a Consulting company that provides services to many ASQA providers and have been for some time trying to provide input into a review of the system.  I’m sure that you can appreciate that RTO’s and and peak bodies are not the only stakeholders of this system.  Apart from Consultants, there are also other stakeholders who would include for example  intending providers who are not yet registered, partnership providers who are not RTO’s themselves but are impacted by ASQA, Non Self Accrediting Institutions who provide access to higher education courses and are feeder providers to RTO’s regardless of whether they are RTO’s or not, previous employees of the ‘ASQA’ jurisdiction and ELICOS providers who are not necessarily RTO’s not to mention students or clients of RTO’s who would also appear to be exempt from participating.

We are very keen to contribute however as the scope on the ASQA website would appear to exclude all stakeholders of ASQA, I thought it best to confirm our ability to provide feedback prior to sending anything in.

I look forward to your considered feedback at your earliest convenience.

Kind Regards,

Raelene Bartlett

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About The Author: Raelene Bartlett

As the Owner of RTO Doctor, nobody understands your business needs as much as Raelene does. Having spent over 15 years in the education and training industry in many roles, Raelene has had the privilege of working with a range of experts in the Schools, VET, ELICOS & Higher Education sectors as a private provider and a regulator. She has brought together all of her skills, experience & advice from CEO's to trainers to the students themselves to offer you and your business a truly amazing service, unique to the industry. It is this intricate integration of experience from every participant in the learning journey that separates us from our competitors.

For more information please call 0408 144 002

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