So I try to keep most of my posts business and management neutral, but this is VET through and through so apologies to those outside of the VET sector. However, having been through a half dozen ASQA audits and a dozen more state funding audits in WA, TAS, Qld, NSW and Vic in the last few months I thought it only right to share what I have learned and talk about the focuses I have seen from departments so far this year as an indicator of the focus we will see from FY16/17.
Every state funding audit is a little different, so I have provided a brief breakdown below of how they work and what to look for and prepare:
- Victoria (Compliance Review)- Runs similar to an ASQA audit, make sure you read the Fact Sheet but essentially, all your curriculum, trainer matrices, and policies need to be ready similar to an ASQA audit, expect student and trainer interviews as a part of the process. Expect less than a weeks notice (we got 2 days).
- Victoria (Evidence of Participation (EoP))- Purely focused on evidence of commencement and participation specific to units of competency. For every funded unit you will need to ensure that you have evidence that aligns to the commencement date you reported as well as within a month of completion. The VTG contract is very clear what they will accept for evidence and when you need it for if you ready clause 10, you will be good to go. Less than a weeks notice (again, only 2 days this year and student list at 1pm the day before audit).
- Victoria (Business Process)- A mix between compliance review and EoP, you need to show your processes & policies, however then you also need to back that up with evidence from your student files. Evidence of eligibility in particular and fees is crucial. (Less than a weeks notice)
- Western Australia (Site audit)- I have to say the departments approach with providers is pretty good when they know the provider is trying to do the right thing and they are usually happy to provide advice when things are unclear. There are probably 3 three focuses in a DTWD audit, although the benefit is they provide you with the audit overview of the contract clauses they will go through so there is plenty of time to prepare and ensure you are in line with everything. Area one is fees, ensure you are providing clear advice to students at enrolment, as well as the invoice and breakdown in line with fees and charges. Second is participation, dates should match evidence and the format/content of the evidence required is quite specific. Lastly, training in line with your Delivery Strategy/TAS, like many states duration/amount of training is high on the priority list so providers need to be delivering training in line with what they promised to the department. (3-4 weeks notice minimum)
- NSW Smart & Skilled- The team at S&S are great in terms of how they support and work with providers. With regular check ins from the department, the site audits are fairly smooth for providers who work to develop a strong relationship. Generally, your evidence needs to match the dates reported, evidence of eligibility for S&S of course, and amount of training. It's also good to ensure that your TAS and trainer matrices are up to date.
- TAS (Desktop)- Continued focus this year on evidence of training (not assessment, actual training and yes there is a big difference), as well as support for the hours undertaken where you are withdrawing students.
- Qld (C3G/Higher Level Skills)- DETE audits are quite intense covering a wide range of criteria. You pretty much have to cover everything. Start with having your TAS ready (volume of learning will be a consideration), then move to eligibility (AISS checks, evidence of residency, fees charged in line with policy and evidence of student payment (prior to claiming). Moving to the bulk of the student file, evidence needs to match dates, and in addition, the validity of the assessment tools in line with principles of assessment, rules of evidence and compliance to training package may be covered.
- Qld (User Choice)- Similar to the above but in addition, ensuring your training plans, Employer Resource Assessments (ERA) and Training Record Books (TRB) are all up to date. Note: ERAs, like training plan and TRBs, are live documents so anyone who signs off on the TRB needs to be covered through the ERA.
So hopefully the above was of some assistance, general trends which have come through in discussions with state governments, other VET consultants and relevant industry bodies are that the continued focus on the VET sector and a general trend to reduce the number of providers in the market will continue.
In my view, long term, each government is looking for a smaller panel of preferred providers who have the ability to deliver strong programs over longer durations, with high completion rates and employment outcomes. The challenge to this is it has to come (somehow) at a lower cost, despite rising costs in infrastructure and personnel. RTOs are going to have to embrace flexible learning in a way that really engages students (not just provides content online) in order to reduce at least some of the cost of student face to face time as well as utilise automated work flows and systems based processing.
As usual, if anyone wants anymore help, advice or just a friendly ear, call me or email me and I will try to help! For those who are preparing for an audit, the best advice is to read through the audit pre-report, read through your contract and reach out to the government and other providers for support (we're 99% a good bunch). If you haven't invested the time in doing regular spot check audits, at least invest the time in preparing carefully and fully for this audit.
Best of luck to everyone!