You have one trainer on annual leave and another has just called in sick and will be off for a few days. What do you do? Well, most RTOs will call on their contract trainers to step up to the plate and take some additional classes. For the contract trainer, there is a freedom of being able to set your own schedules and hedge your bets working across a range of RTOs. But there are also lots of questions, this article answers three big questions: how can trainers be paid, contract issues and how to manage trainer competency and currency.

How should trainers be paid?

There are a few methods which contract trainers work including hourly rates, day rates and by the unit. RTOs and trainers need to work out what's right for them however, a little advice based on experience.

  • Pay per unit- this is by far my least favourite method as it encourages tick and flick behaviour on both sides and it can become problematic when the students present with additional needs or are unable to demonstrate competency. If you are going to agree to this method, I would strongly suggest discussing these points before agreeing to this method.
  • Hourly rates- This method can work well on both sides and is great for straight forward training and assessment, where it can get sticky is around the more administrative tasks such as after class marking, undertaking validations and participating in training, professional development, etc. Generally, I have found it works well to agree to two rates one for training and assessment and another for administrative tasks, with an agreement that there participation and provision of both by and for both parties.
  • Day rates- This method caters better for the provision of actual training before assessment. However, again, a few points to talk about would include minimum and maximum hours, for the RTO you don't want to pay a date rate for someone to train 9:30-2:30 and for the trainer you don't want to be paid a day rate to run a class from 8-4 and 5-9, unless you are getting a bloody good day rate! Also, the points above for the provision of administrative duties need to be considered and factored into the contract.


Are contract trainers third parties that need to be referred to ASQA or noted in my state funding contract?

Short answer - No. ASQA has kindly explicitly addressed this on their website. "No, a contract of employment between an RTO and its employee is not a third party arrangement." However, a word of caution, if you are working with an organisation who is supplying you with trainers, that IS a third party agreement, the contract has to be directly with the trainer to be a contract of employment. Additionally, if a trainer is deriving all or the majority of their income from one organisation, then you need to be aware of your IR/HR requirements. For more information about this check with Fairwork.

How can we manage and who is responsible for professional development?

The biggest problem I speak about with both contract trainers and RTOs is who is responsible for managing the trainer currency and competency to meet Standard 1.13-1.16. Again, ASQA has been pretty clear on this. "Your RTO must demonstrate that you have developed and implemented a plan for professional development for ALL trainers and assessors (including new employees, long-term staff, subcontractors and third-party providers)." So the question isn't who is responsible but how this responsibility is managed. The below is more advice based on what I have seen work, rather than gospel or law and should be taken as such, there are many ways to make it work, but at the end of the day the Standards are what dictate what is required.

  • Trainer Matrix, Trainer File (including validated copies of all qualifications, CV, etc.) and Professional Development Plan- These are just a few docs that RTOs will generally have on file to evidence Standard 1.13-1.16. A lot of contract trainers get frustrated having to provide this information differently for every RTO under the guide of “ASQA requires…”, there is no requirement to provide these in a specific format, the ASQA requirement is to provide evidence in line with the Standards. As part of the initial agreement, I would recommend setting aside 3-4 hours to develop these documents, which is paid at an agreed rate, once the RTO is paying for the trainers time, it can dictate that things need to be done according to RTO policy and procedure (as long as that doesn’t contradict the Standards).
  • Participating in industry competency and professional development- Just like a full time employed trainer and assessor, contract trainer and assessors have to maintain their industry currency and the RTO has to have a plan for how they will manage this. A lot of RTOs will put the onus back on the contractor. The best resolution I have seen for this is an agreed pro-rata, blended with in house support. If the RTO can run in house development for groups, all trainers should be given the opportunity to participate. For paid professional development and up skilling of qualifications need to be pre-agreed to. If the organisation provides $1000 per year for full time trainers, then a contract trainer working an average of a day a week gets an allowance of up to $200, based on prior agreement and approval by the RTO. Regardless of what amount gets paid and how, this needs to be discussed, agreed to and put into writing so that both sides are clear on their responsibilities and the RTO can ensure that they are meeting the standards.

In summary, the more you can discuss and put to writing before you commence, the easier both sides will find it to come to a happy, healthy arrangement. Remember that trainers set the front facing standard of quality for any RTO, they are an investment, so invest and help them grow. As Simon Sinek puts it "When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute." Invest in your trainers and they will invest in you and more importantly, your students.

For more advice on managing your RTO, check out our website and for an innovative new solution for managing trainer competency and currency or your own professional development coming soon contact us today with the subject What is TMS?