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Thinking about updating your assessment tools? This series cover how to update your practical assessment tools into three easy videos! 

Part 1

 Part 2

PPart 3

Another year, another review of VET! With some staple recommendations along with a bold plan to substantially change not only the face and structure of VET, but the name itself (Skills Education) along with an argument to move to more of a time based, graded model, the review is bound to be controversial. This summary aims to review key findings and recommendations from the 168 page Joyce Review. “In total, the Review makes 71 separate recommendations around the six points of the plan:

  • Strengthening quality assurance,
  • Speeding up qualification development,
  • Simpler funding and skills matching,
  • Better careers information,
  • Clearer secondary school pathways, and
  • Greater access for disadvantaged Australians.” (Page 7)

Review of current & future skills needs

The report reviewed the current state of play in relation to skills shortages and projected growth areas. It noted the growth which had occurred over the last ten years and the expected continued growth over the next 5-10 years and beyond; key growth areas including Health care and social assistance, the Construction industry, Education and training, and Professional, scientific and technical services. It stated that traditional apprenticeship trades would continue to see skills shortages noting that “low training wages for up to four years were cited by respondents to the Review as one reason why young people are less attracted to the traditional apprenticeship model.”

Key VET Statistics

Over 4.2 million students studied VET in 2017 with the figure to left showing the breakdown of short course; qualification; apprenticeship and VET in Schools enrolments. Additionally, half of the students studying institutional VET qualifications were receiving a subsidy of some sort. In 2017, of all VET students: 

  • 33% aged less than 25 years, 42% aged 25 to 44 years; 24% aged 45 years or over,
  • 51% male, and 47% female,
  • 28 % trained in regional locations and 3 % in remote or very remote locations,
  • 3% Indigenous, similar to the proportion of the total Australian population,
  • 4% reported as having a disability, and 4% international students.

TAFEs received around 72 per cent of government funding in 2017, and trained about 49 per cent of total government-funded VET students. Non-TAFE providers received about 28 per cent of government funding and trained just over half of government-funded students.

Employment outcomes for VET students are generally positive. In 2018, around 59 per cent of students who graduated from a VET course in 2017 stated that their employment status had improved after the training.57 Of those who were not employed before training, 48 per cent were employed after training – this was similar regardless of whether they completed a subject or a full qualification.

Recommendations for VET

There are a range of recommendations linked to increasing the brand of VET, this is similar to many previous recommendations and reviews so I will not delve too much into this. It is noted that one recommendation is to rebrand VET to Skills Education or Skills Ed.  A few recommendations do however stick out which would make a major impact on the operations of an organisation:

1.     Workplace Experience- Creating industry ready learners

“To ensure the strength and uniqueness of the vocational education system, the Commonwealth and the States and Territories should set a long-term goal that all funded qualification-based vocational education should include formal work-based elements.” While the recommendation is specific to funded, I would anticipate that this will most likely be put into place through the training packages, this has been a trajectory for a while. While this is manageable for qualification such as childcare, aged care, it’s implementation and implication for short courses, skill sets and certain industries (such as construction) may be more difficult. Consultation with Industry Skills Councils (the training package developers), will be crucial to have a voice in the implementation of some of these requirements.

2.     ASQA- A single, transparent, friendly regulator?

The report makes a few recommendations specific to the regulator ASQA those being:

  • That a single national regulator be put in place (non-referring States should again consider referring their powers to the Australian Skills Quality Authority) (in lamens terms goodbye TAC and VRQA; note it is expected that the states will continue to fight this!);
  • That ASQA release all audit reports for public information (this is duplicated from the Braithewaite report of 2018);
  • That ASQA engage more proactively and positively with RTOs (this is duplicated from the Braithewaite report of 2018);
  • Additional powers be provided to ASQA to further control registering RTOs (this is duplicated from the Braithewaite report of 2018);

Overall, I would expect to see ASQA continue to limit and reduce the number of RTOs, while ASQA will continue to invest in producing more guides, videos and advice for RTOs, it is not expected that ASQA will adopt a position of providing advice. This advice and recommendation has been included in the last several reports, yet the regulator continues to adopt a strong stance on providing advice, templates, etc. Any progression in this area is expected to be slow (glacially so).

3.     Short courses

The report echoed sentiments that short courses continued to be a concern, as such the report has recommended the introduction of benchmark hours. “Benchmark hours should be specified in qualifications by qualification developers as a guide to the average amount of training required for a new learner with no experience in the industry to develop the required competencies in the qualification. Benchmark hours should be developed for Australian Skills Quality Authority designated ‘high-risk’ qualifications first and then progressively introduced. They can be used by the Australian Skills Quality Authority and other quality assurance regulators as a guide to assist in determining whether delivery times in courses and qualifications are of a reasonable length.”

4.     Stronger Assessment Practices

Where the Braithewaite report recommended the concept of a Master Assessor (a recommendation that was outright rejected by ASQA); the Joyce Review has recommended the implementation of an external validation scheme. “The Commonwealth should work with the States and Territories to pilot independent assessment validation schemes.” This continues to be a highly controversial issue and is it expected that the regulator may not adopt a supportive stance with this either. The current issue arises from this is where ASQA auditors and RTO assessors disagree on the interpretation of unit criteria.

The report has also called for proficiency based assessment to be introduced (graded assessments); “Proficiency-based assessment should be piloted with certain qualifications and willing industries, with a view to extending to all relevant industries. The COAG Industry and Skills Council to work with the Australian Skills Quality Authority and Skills Organisations to develop guidance for Registered Training Organisations on the use of proficiency assessment in addition to current assessment descriptions in training packages.” This will be a major topic for debate as in combination with the required durations, it is taking VET from a competency based system to something that looks a lot more like it’s counterparts in Higher and Secondary Education…

5.     Trainer Competencies and Quality Educators

Around a quarter of submissions to the Review identified the quality of trainers as an issue for the sector. Some submissions suggested that greater skills in training and in instructional design were required to ensure students understood the course content. The report identified the issues associated the upgrade of the TAE, as well as the challenges of finding good TAE trainers and the challenges associated with finding trainers in specific industries an regional areas. Unfortunately, the response in the report was that “The ultimate incentive for RTOs to improve the quality of trainers is to place strong regulatory requirements around the registration and quality assurance of all RTOs. The Review is confident that by implementing the recommendations in this chapter, Governments will be ensuring that minimum teacher quality will be significantly improved.” The writer of this, is less confident… Unfortunately, a lot of the great recommendations made through the Braithewaite report have not been adopted in the Joyce Review… as such, at this time it will remain the onus of good RTOs to support the continued development of good trainers…

6.     Consumer Protection

The report has recommended, similar to the Braithewaite report that all RTOs and all students should be under a Tuition Protection Scheme (currently only required if you taking more than $1500 in advance), while this is a great premise, the devil will be in the detail as some tuition assurance schemes are quite expensive and how this would be catered for is yet to be seen.

Additionally, the report recommended that the VSL Ombudsman be expanded to be the VET Ombudsman to cover all students. Pending that the resources are behind this, it would work well. Current response times for the Overseas Student Ombudsman is up to several months which is not adequate, however, generally the VSL and Overseas Ombudsman have worked well and this could be a good support for students and RTOs alike.

7.     Quarterly Reporting

Quarterly reporting for AVETMISS is coming, this report has echoed the request from the Braithewaite report that RTOs should be reporting all data quarterly! This means more frequent data and regulators can see where enrolments spike for RTOs as part of their overall risk rating… triple your numbers in a quarter? Maybe the regulator needs to come out and check out that you have sufficient resources in place to deal with this massive growth? Had a new Certificate III on scope for three months and already had over 100 students complete? Hmmm… Quarterly reporting allows for the regulator to identify potential issues before they become major “shut you down” issues…

 

8.     Training Package Development

The report identified that generally there is support for nationally recognised qualifications, however the timeframe around development and updating, as well as the lack of true industry consultation were significant issues for RTOs. The recommendations which followed from this represent major changes to the process, structure and responsibilities of ASIC, the Service Skills Organisations (SSOs) (to be changed to Skills Organsations (SOs) and ASQA. Recommendations include:

  • SOs are industry owned and government regulated
  • SOs demonstrate support from industry and renew their mandate every three to five years
  • SOs would own the development process and ASQA would be responsible for approving the final product (Note: this would require major legislative change)
  • Skills Organisations would be allocated additional responsibilities for:
    • assessing skills needs in their industry(s),
    • marketing to prospective trainees and school students,
    • managing apprenticeship and traineeship support, and
    • endorsing preferred training providers and supporting assessment as appropriate.

Training packages overall, under the SOs would then:

  • be reduced in their level of prescriptive detail
  • include an increase in benchmark hours and work placement hours
  • increase micro-credentials and skill sets within the sector

There are also recommendations for some check and balance mechanisms with SOs. It is proposed that this is rolled out as a trial first and then expanded across the VET sector.

9.     Unified Funding Model

Calls continue to come for a unified funding model; additionally, the report notes that “total public funding for VET has declined in the past ten years while funding for schools and higher education has increased.” The review recommends that the National Skills Commission oversea and work with national, state and territory agencies to determine a national funding model based on averaged delivery costs, with agrees loadings for rural and remote areas and disadvantaged groups.

The NSC would also utilise RTO performance data from the Performance Information for VET, which was endorsed by the CISC. The information would be used to measure student outcomes and completions at RTOs. It would be provided to the States and Territories to assist them in their allocation decisions. The NSC would also agree on a performance measurement framework with the States and Territories which it would use to report on the performance and outcomes of the VET sector. This would have shared objectives that would be regularly reviewed and updated as required.”

Finally, the NSC would be expected to revamp the apprenticeship incentives model to make it more attractive to apprentices and trainees and update the National Skills Needs List (NSNL) (which hasn’t been updated since 2011).

This would have a significant impact on the international education as the NSNL is used for immigration purposes.  

Additionally, there were recommendations for how the unified funding model would come into place with Skills Organisations determining priority areas and being delivered by preferred providers.

The final recommendation in this section was for a lifelong learning account for all students which would extend across the VET and HE sector to be used as was most appropriate for the student.

10. Marketing and Recruitment of VET (or Skills Education as it may be called)

The sixth set of recommendations deals with the marketing and provision of information to students and employers about courses. For this the recommendation has been made that the National Careers Institute (NCI) be established to consolidate all current sites and information about courses and providers and provide all marketing and course information services (including taking on some of the roles of the current AASNs). The NCI would also provide information on providers (based on mandated information) and be responsible for the “a major multi-year public marketing campaign to lift the reputation and attractiveness of VET careers.”

11. VET in Schools

The report makes recommendations for based on much of above, increased work place hours, unified approach across states, increased industry linkages.

12. Increased access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

“NCVER data also show that, despite stronger participation, qualification completion rates and employment outcomes for Indigenous learners remain below those of non-Indigenous students.” As noted above, part of the response for this is based on the funding above, the review also recommends the development of more Indigenous owned and led RTOs and better coordination with other support services.

Summary

Overall the Joyce Review is somewhat more radical than any previous review, it also makes a lot of concrete recommendations. However, the changes it requires necessitate major legislative changes, as well as the creation of new bodies and the abandonment of a large range of only newly established bodies. The current SSOs as an example are only in their infancy at less than 3-4 years old and the most recent commonwealth/state funding arrangements are only just being rolled out after introduction more than a year ago.

The changes also substantially change the role and powers of ASQA and require relegation of state funding authorities and regulators, which is likely to be highly contested.

A few changes are likely to be adopted in some form:

  • Increase in work experience requirements across training packages
  • Increase in benchmark hours specific for qualifications
  • Another push for Victoria and WA to relegate to ASQA
  • Continued work between the states, territories and federal government in relation to funding
  • An update to the National Skills Needs List

Less likely, but would be great:

  • Streamlining of training package development process
  • Adaptation of legislation to require further industry engagement in the development process
  • Continued push to rebrand and market VET

This review does have a more definitive and constructive air than previous, as a diehard optimist, we can only hope that some of the changes may come to fruition to allow for a more streamlined, industry focused sector, however, the road plotted has some major changes and change always has its adversaries.

You see find a roadmap in the full review here https://pmc.gov.au/resource-centre/domestic-policy/vet-review/strengthening-skills-expert-review-australias-vocational-education-and-training-system and you can see an overview of the proposed big players and their powers below in the appendix… until the next review…

Stay hopeful.

 

Lauren Hollows

Director

Thrive Education

 

Appendix 1- The Architecture (Pages 114-116 of the Joyce Review)

Australian Skills Quality Authority

ASQA would be the single national regulator of the VET sector, working to ensure quality across the sector. It would have a strong relationship with other regulators and Commonwealth, State and Territory funding bodies with streamlined reporting and auditing processes. ASQA’s role would include:

  • Regulation of training providers and courses, including VET delivered in schools, to ensure nationally approved quality standards are met. This may include assessing against benchmark hours and using independent re-assessments as part of determining the quality of training provision.
  • Providing guidance and education to the VET sector about its regulatory activities, including making audit reports public.
  • Approving accredited courses and qualifications for listing on training.gov.au.
  • Leading the development of qualifications for industries where there is no responsible SO.
  • Auditing providers to assess compliance with the new tuition protection arrangements.
  • Ranking providers on the quality of their educational offering and management.

 

National Skills Commission 

Under the direction of the Commonwealth Skills Minister, the NSC would be a trusted and respected voice on the operation of the Australian VET system through its national leadership in assessing labour market demand, costs of training delivery and outcomes of VET qualifications.  The key functions of the NSC would be to:

  • Administer all Commonwealth funding to the skills education sector under strategic policy direction from the Minister.
  • Develop and update national, state-level and regional skills demand forecasts in partnership with State, Territory and local governments.
  • Determine nationally consistent subsidy levels for qualifications based on average actual costs of delivery across providers nationwide.
  • Determine nationally consistent subsidy loadings for rural and remote learners, Indigenous Australians and disadvantaged groups.
  • Co-fund tuition subsidies across Australia on behalf of the Commonwealth, in partnership with the States and Territories.
  • Develop and monitor performance indicators using existing and future data sources to measure the outcomes and effectiveness of public investment in the sector.
  • Develop a new National Skills Priority List for Apprentices that captures new and emerging industries supporting Government priorities. This would involve an annual consultation process with industry and the States and Territories to review the list.
  • Compare VET in schools funding models and recommend national cost and funding models for delivering VET to secondary students. Over time, the NSC would oversee a new agreement for co-funding VET in schools and determine the pricing model and amounts.
  • Manage a new national agreement and funding for foundation skills to ensure consistent levels of access to language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy courses for all eligible adult Australians.

 

National Careers Institute

The NCI would be established as an independent office within the NSC. Utilising data collated and analysed by the NSC, its key role would be to provide an authoritative single government source of careers information, with a focus on marketing and promoting vocational careers. The key functions of the NCI would include to:

  • Collate and publish accurate and reliable information on careers and qualification pathways, including demand forecasts for individual occupations, training information and likely income levels.
  • Use a linked dataset incorporating ATO and Department of Human Services data to provide actual average incomes flowing from different qualifications and publish that information annually.
  • Develop a single Commonwealth website and app (as well as other targeted communication tools) providing information on careers in Australia to guide and inform student choice.
  • Drive the use of quality and evidence-based information in all public promotion of careers by licensing its data and information to other public and private operators on a consistent use basis.
  • Draw on the mandated course information provided by RTOs to develop end–to-end careers information to prospective students and trainees.
  • Undertake a multi-year marketing campaign to help lift the reputation and attractiveness of VET courses across Australia.
  • Develop a set of Vocational Pathways, in partnership with States and Territories, linking secondary school subjects in the national curriculum and the senior secondary curriculum in each State and Territory to encourage young people to study in pathways to careers that interest them.

 

Skills Organisations

Skills Organisations would be established to ensure employers and other industry stakeholders (such as unions and licencing bodies) lead the development of qualifications and the training of a skilled workforce for that industry. SOs would:

  • Register themselves and their industry coverage with the Commonwealth and regularly demonstrate the support of their industry for their performance.
  • Take responsibility for the qualification development process for their industries and their training packages.
  • Assess skills needs in their industries and provide that information to the NSC and States and Territories.
  • Record benchmark hours and any required work placement hours in qualifications to ensure all provision, including to secondary students, clearly meets the needs of employers.
  • Promote the use of skillsets within training packages.
  • Manage apprenticeship and traineeship support.
  • Endorse preferred training providers and support assessment as appropriate.
  • Market their industry and its qualification pathways to prospective apprentices and students in order to meet workforce needs.
  • Take on a range of responsibilities for strengthening the links between schools and industry including advising of suitable VET qualifications, endorsing RTOs for use by schools, brokering relationships with employers to secure work placements and ASbA opportunities, engaging with schools to improve the quality of careers advice and marketing their industry to students at schools and careers expos. A coherent national system which responds to local needs

The new architecture for the skills education system would place industry at the centre of the skills system while promoting close co-operation on funding and quality assurance between the Commonwealth, States and Territories.  

 

 

Practical Assessment

August 05, 2019

In this post, I go into some practical details of evidencing practical assessment, why trainers find it so hard and some easy tips for making practical assessment more practical. 
How does your business use your TAS? Is it just a compliance document or does it provide clear and real guidance on how to deliver your courses? Read More

Understand TAE Question of the Week by Lauren Hollows

How do your assessors ensure reliability and fairness. 

Read More

Understand TAE Question of the Week by Lauren Hollows

How do your assessors ensure reliability and fairness. 

Read More

This week we look at your assessors, are they assessors, evidence collectors or do they just tick the box? Notes are available below. 

UTAE Question of the week

How much do your staff actually know? How do they apply compliance requirements, processes and procedures. Each week we will be giving you easy to action tips to help you gauge the health of your RTO!

 

However, many RTOs still struggle to get staff to understand a crucial link; how the RTO Standards are built into the policies, procedures and tools and how those then need to be applied in order to ensure a quality outcome. And the result is that when auditors speak with students and staff during audits, the student experience and evidence of competency is not line with either; the Standards or company policy and procedure. The result? The Training and Assessment process is diminished... Read More

How do you measure your trainers ability to deliver in line with your policies and procedures? How confident are you about their skills and knowledge? How do you and your organisation support the continued development of your trainers? 

Find out answers to these questions and more in this article! 

Read More
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