Fast forward ten years and I still love VET, every day I wake up wanting to make a difference in our industry and most days, I like to think that I do in some small way. What is it that makes someone successful in VET and education? Is it because they love what they do, that they have a true passion for education? Is it that we have a purpose which is larger than ourselves? Passion and purpose are important; but in VET for the most part, that is easy. Read More

This year’s National VET Conference was a raving success again thanks to the incredible team at Velg Training and included a massive coup for Velg Training of a full day stream of sessions from the national regulator ASQA.

I was lucky enough to attend and for those that couldn’t, have included highlights from a range of sessions and the exhibitors.

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There is growing interest and focus on Trainers & Assessors out there! We are thrilled to see ACPET and VELG announce Trainer PD Week as here at Understand TAE, we live it everyday! We believe that the quality and future of the VET sector is driven by the quality of our VET Practitioners, so the more investment we see in our trainers and assessors, the more confident we can feel about the future of VET. Next week, Understand TAE will be collaborating with RTO Doctor on a Facebook Live session with more in depth information about Trainer & Assessor Q&A and the link will be posted and available through our respective social media channels.

As many of you would know, earlier this year UTAE launched the industry first UTAE VET Practitioner Assessment & UTAE Trainer Development System and we are loving working with clients and seeing the positive results! One of the key differences about how we approach RTOs, trainers and PD? We are proactive, we focus on the positive, we don't try to manage trainers, we work in partnership with the RTO and Trainer to help them on their journey as a lifelong learner. This is an important distinction, it's hard to run a RTO without trainers, and in our experience trainers aren't a problem to be managed but a resource to be utilised, appreciate the resource and you will see your business appreciate too!

So today, here a few quick tips and tricks that we will go into in more detail in our Facebook Live session next week!

My trainers qualifications are outdated, superseded, I've heard a lot about the level of detail, is it easier for me just to RPL my trainers and give them the qualification?

We get this from a lot of RTOs and understandably so, the level of detail you need to provide when the trainer doesn't have the unit of competency does vary a lot when it comes to auditor interpretation. However, it needs to be said that RPLing your own staff can be a dangerous game, conflict of interest anyone? We will be covering this in detail but a few things to consider are how you will ensure that your assessors maintain objectivity in their assessment with their colleagues and are there other options like working with other providers that provide a bit more rigour to the process?

As a trainer, I am part of a lot of LinkedIn groups, I get subscriptions for all the industry magazines, why is this not considered industry currency?

This is common. Let's go back to the Standards for this one... "current industry skills directly relevant to the training and assessment being provided" additionally in the User Guide notes that "it is the responsibility of your RTO to retain evidence"... Now, this does not mean that you have to go back into industry, there are a lot of ways to maintain your Industry Currency, big shout out to TrainerPD here for any trainers looking for industry currency stuff for business and management. However, at UTAE we encourage trainers to reflect on meaningful engagement with PD, so ask yourself, what do you learn from the PD? How has the PD made you change your practice? From this, how do you evidence that?

What does VET Professional Development need to look like?

Again, let's start by taking it back to the Standards... "undertake professional development in the fields of the knowledge and practice of vocational training, learning and assessment including competency based training and assessment."

So there are lots of ways to look at this, you can look at covering it off in relation to the TAE covering assessment, design and delivery. At UTAE we use a range of frameworks including the VET Practitioner Capability Framework, Core Skills for Work Framework, TAE16 and the Standards to cover training/facilitation, assessment, compliance and conscientiousness and industry engagement. Regardless of how you classify it, it's important to ensure you evidence your last twelve months and your next 12 months, remember this should be tied into your industry engagement and be systematic.

We'll be covering a lot more information at the Facebook live session, so make sure you tune in next Wednesday to the RTO Doctor FB page and keep an eye out on the Understand TAE YouTube and LinkedIn Pages too! You can also find out about all the workshops, conferences and events that we will be attending here!

Look forward to seeing you all live!

At Understand TAE we are passionate about helping RTOs, VET Practitioners and Trainers & Assessors have more confidence about how to do what they do more effectively, to a higher standard and with more confidence. 

As part of our mission, we participate in and offer a wide range of professional development at conferences and around the country! 

See below some of the conferences that we are attending this year! If you have another event that you would like us to attend or speak at, please contact us at 


International VET Conference- June 19-20

The two-day International VET Conference and IVETA Asia Pacific Regional Conference will be held on 19 - 20 June at the International Convention Centre Sydney. This event is organised by Insources and IVETA. Our Founder & Managing Director, Lauren Hollows, will be speaking on June 20th. 

Topic: The Trainer Development Dilemma; Assess; Engage; Measure and Repeat


TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2017 - Networked TAFE- September 7-8 

The 2017 TDA Convention will be held at the Adelaide Hilton on Thursday 7 and Friday 8 September with the Welcome Reception at Adelaide Oval on Wednesday 6 September.
The overarching theme is 'Networked TAFE', reflecting TAFE Institutes' connections with a network of individuals, communities, enterprises, industries and governments, both in Australia and overseas.
Speakers and delegates will explore topics including, Working in the 21st century; Learning experiences and outcomes; Matters of leadership; Energy roadmaps; and What we can learn from other countries? Our Chief of Operations and Partner, Wayne Spackman, will be speaking.

Topic: Validation – Cart before the horse? or Are you validating non-compliant training products?


VELG 2017 National VET Conference: Building Quality in VET September 14-15

The 2017 National VET Conference will be delivered over two days on the 14-15 September at the International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) through an exciting range of presentations, providing attendees the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of plenary and elective sessions. Pre-conference Master Classes will be held on Wednesday 13 September.

The theme for the two day conference is 'Building Quality in VET' and will focus on multiple streams including; Policy & Reform, RTO Management & Compliance, Training & Assessing, RTO Administration and Master Classes. Our Founder & Managing Director, Lauren Hollows, will be speaking.

Topic: Start with Why: Engagement, compliance and quality will follow


Empower 2017 - Canberra Institute of Technology Skills Summit

Empower is a 2 day skills summit that was originally piloted in 2015 and since has gained momentum across the Institute and is now regarded as a highly sought after professional development opportunity for both teachers and general staff. Empower offers 20 two-hour interactive workshops and 6, 1-hour keynote sessions over the two days.Our Founder & Managing Director, Lauren Hollows, will be speaking.

Topics: Six ingredients for a great teacher and the puzzle of engagement
The Trainer Development Dilemma; Assess; Engage; Measure and Repeat


Hi all,

Just a quick one today with an update on the key changes and overview of the new amendment to the Standards:

Definition of training and assessment credentials definition has been added, basically this highlights all the variations of the TAE qualifications, skill sets and combinations that might be held. It is used later in the variations to explain requirements for different purposes. Sadly, they didn't clarify the term training product better in relation to validation requirements against all units or qualifications, so I guess for now the debate continues on this one.

(1.11) Validation- The Standards have been clarified in relation to what skills, knowledge and currency must be held to validate a training product: basically, as of March 31 2019, holding the assessor skill set will no longer meet the validation requirements, you will need to hold the TAE16 or TAE10 plus LLN & TAEASS502 Design assessment tools or Assessor Skill Set plus TAEASS502 Design assessment tools. (Remembering that this is the unit which requires you to develop, trial and review assessment tools against three full units of competency, at least if you are going to be assessed compliantly). Note: This reinforces that if you having the product externally validated, if the validator doesn't have the vocational competency and currency, it doesn't count towards your systematic validation so ensure that you understand the purpose of sending your assessment to a consultant and know that it may not tick the 1.9-1.11 boxes if that is what you are hoping. You will also need to evidence that vocational competency and currency, making going external challenging, so take time to ensure your validation policy takes this into account, this is not a change just a common non-compliance I see.

(1.14/1.15) Trainer & Assessor Requirements- Yes, this was the one we were all waiting for and they really are giving heaps of time to move over to the new TAE40116, all the way until April 1, 2019, by which time I am fairly confident it would have been replaced, but hey, at least there's no pressure to upskill right? The late timeframe may have been due to the small number of providers approved so far and the issues, criticisms and challenges that have plagued TAE40116 to date.

(1.18) Change to Trainers under supervision- Just a small update to the latest skill set codes.

(1.21) This one was irrelevant as it only pertained to pre Jan 1 2016 anyway.

(1.22) TAE Trainers- Removed pre 2016 statement, nil effect.

(1.24) TAE Trainers working under supervision- so I have to state that I find it utterly ridiculous that anyone could train TAE under supervision, how you can deliver quality training in this circumstance is beyond me! However, they have outlined here that at least it will come into immediate effect that these trainers will no longer be able to determine assessment outcomes, even when under supervision.

(1.25) Removed pre 2016 statement, nil effect.


Overall effect & recommendations- Not a whole lot that needs to happen anytime soon!

  1. Check your validation policy as per recommendations above and ensure that you are documenting who does your validation and when.
  2. If you want to be proactive- get your LLN unit and the TAEASS502, please please do this through a reputable provider, my top two recommendations are MR WED, Marc and Jason are some of the most knowledgeable guys I know in this sector. I also think that Australian College of Training do a great job, most of the trainers I have seen come of there (their TAE courses run for like 20 days face to face) have a much better baseline than most. Don't take shortcuts, don't RPL it, you will only be doing yourself a disservice in the long run.
  3. Get your vocational competency and currency in order! If you have read this article, make a note of it somewhere, keep a log, send an email to your compliance officer noting you want to set a plan for your vocational currency. Believe me when I say that trainer and assessor capabilities is a massive focus for ASQA, its a main focus of audit and a common area of compliance.

As Bugs Bunny says, that's all folks! Till the next amendment, I'm Lauren Hollows from Understand TAE, signing off.


This article was first published in VET Express  

Lauren Hollows is the founder and CEO of Understand TAE, an emerging company offering innovative advice and a growing range of simple-to-use tools designed to help RTOs develop their internal capacity. Having run RTOs from senior management positions for the better part of a decade, Lauren now uses her extensive knowledge and experience to deliver professional consultation and training to RTOs looking to develop their internal capacity — both from a regulatory and training view. We spoke to Lauren about what it takes to produce first-rate trainers in the VET industry in 2017.

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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?

So yes, it's a controversial title, but many say that listening is fast becoming a lost art and this is especially true for leaders. We have more ways to communicate than ever before in history, yet we have forgotten how to listen and its not a skill we teach often. We teach how to communicate, how to 'get your message out there', how to 'be heard' but not how to hear others. We have also developed a philosophy that managers/bosses/leaders should know everything and be the font of all knowledge. So if you know everything, what's the point of listening at all?

I believe the Dalai Lama said it best "When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” The benefits of really listening to staff, colleagues are clients happen on so many fronts from early detection of problems to building trust and respect and increasing employee intrinsic motivation and loyalty. So its only when we stop talking, that we can really start to build our relationships with others.

Listening is a lot more than waiting for the other person to stop talking, it's about paying attention and learning to silence your inner voice so you can listen to theirs. Listening can be hard work at times, silencing our inner dialogue can be challenging, I'm not an expert but I have to work at it, it's especially challenging when you can't be physically present with the person and in today's world of skyping and teleconferencing its even more difficult. So here are three simple tips for learning to be a more effective listener, if you can do even one of these all the time you will see your relationships blossom.

Devices away.... Face to face meetings mean that phones are a no no. You cannot be focused on a conversation if you are waiting for a better option to come along, which is what your phone out means. If you have an absolute must urgent call, set a unique ring tone, preface the meeting as to the need for the call and put the phone in your bag or away. If you are using the phone for a teleconference or skype then use it simply for that, resist the urge to minimise the screen and continue on with other work. "When we break eye contact to check our phones we degrade trust. Let’s keep our phones away from meals & meetings." Simon Sinek is a great promoter of phone detox to reinvigorate communication in business and at home. Try putting the phone away for an hour and see how your communication improves.

Be present... Just a phone is a great distractor, our internal dialogue often presents a major barrier for active listening. Silencing your inner dialogue takes active practice often. I find that meditation is the best way to practice this regularly and a good way to warm into mindful practice when listening to others and it can actually change the chemistry of your brain (check out this great Forbes article). If you do want to dive straight in, imagine with every conversation that you will have to repeat the content to someone else. Allow your mind to create a mental model of the information being communicated. Whether a literal picture, or an arrangement of abstract concepts, your brain will do the necessary work if you stay focused, with senses fully alert. This is where listening differs from waiting your turn to speak. Listen with an intent to understand, rather than listening with an intent to reply.

Reflecting and paraphrasing for understanding... Even when we do practice being present and active listening, it's no guarantee we will get the message right so using questioning, reflecting, paraphrasing and summarising can help you to ensure that the message you received is correct. As with most things it's the execution of this that counts, so making sure that you do this tackfully is key. Try not to speak over the person when you clarify, give them time to finish and where possible allow for a pause. Introduce the clarification clearly, "So what I am hearing is..." "So if I understand what you are saying correctly, you mean/feel/think..." etc. Also try to mirror the language, if the speak has focused on thinking and facts, then don't reflect on that with feelings and hopes, keep to the same medium.

Plenty of people are great speakers, but few are good listeners. If you develop the latter skill, you will find yourself invited into amazing conversations that wouldn’t otherwise happen, you might learn something new and you may find those deep and meaningful connections that come with feeling acknowledged. So shut up... and maybe they'll love you... more.

Not surprisingly, the development of auditing accompanied the development of accounting, and the rst recorded auditors were the spies of King Darius of ancient Persia around 2500 years ago. Modern auditing began in 1844 when the British Parliament passed the Joint Stock Companies Act, which for the first time required that corporate directors report to share-holders via an audited financial statement, the balance sheet. And so the process goes and has evolved from there. The sad fact remains though that in many organisations, auditors as still viewed as there were in ancient Persia, spies and those who cannot be trusted. The truth of it is that audits should be a positive experience for an organisation, providing an update on how the organisation is running and whether additional training needs to be undertaken and providing management with key indicators to be able to make decisions in the best interest of the business. 
Unfortunately, audits can also be used to scare monger, blame and create fear in an organisation. If you are hoping to develop a culture of continuous improvement and lifelong learning, audits done well can be an integral part of that process, here's how to do it:
1. Communicate in advance and communicate for the listenerImage result for poor communication
Auditors tend to be C style profiles (Check out DISC for more information), Conscientious profiles tend to be very confident and thorough in their communication, however can also be seen by others judgemental, perfectionists or even pedantic in their communication. As such, for Ds and Is (Dominant (think big boss, direct) or Influencers (think extrovert, sales guys)) may struggle with this communication style and cease communication. This will be hard to hear for the high Cs but there is no point in being right if you aren't being heard, so prepare and be able to provide short concise notes with further follow up information for reference for staff when you are starting or opening the meeting and throughout the process. Also, try to temper language so that you come across as much as possible as personable and approachable. Audits run in defensive mode are rarely as productive as they could be. If you are the auditee dealing with a difficult auditor, take the time to figure out how they communicate and adjust your style to theirs to build communication from your end. 
2. No pre-conceptions. 
This is so key to a successful audit, if you are going in with the premise of 'finding something' or 'confirming suspicions' then the whole process is doomed. This is actually one of the first premises of the ASQA Auditor Code of Practice. The Code states that auditors will "behave in a fair manner and without favouritism, patronage or prejudice and ensure their personal beliefs or opinions do not influence their findings."
Now all auditors are human (yes, I promise they are) and therefore prone to err on occasion. However, the intent is absolutely key and there are a few good reasons. Firstly, if you are intent on finding something, you will find it, whether it is there or not. Secondly, most people are poor at hiding their intentions and most people being audited will assume that the auditor is out to get them. This is so counterproductive to building trust, communication and education, which should be the intent of an internal audit and is integral to procedural fairness and integrity. If you do feel you are being unfairly targeted and you disagree with the auditors findings, have the discussion, ask what the standard is they are auditing, what is the evidence and how they have arrived at their finding, where is the gap. Often many non-compliances can be addressed then and there once both parties understand where the gap is. 
3. Recognise the difference between standards and expectations
This one is a personal bug bear of mine, there is a set of standards, dictated by the regulator and set in legislation. Then there is a set of expectations or interpretations in how they can be applied to varying degrees, these are personal benchmarks or expectations. As an example, RTOs issue first aid, the Statement of Attainment is actually valid forever according to the standards, however, its an industry expectation that the unit is renewed every xxx years. Similarly, there is a standard that RTOs identify and deliver an appropriate amount of training to meet the learners needs, there is an expectation that for Certificate III learners will need 12 months or 1200 hours to achieve this. When undertaking audits, auditors need to separately address the standards (what is an absolute must) and expectations (how standards have been interpreted previously and can be addressed). If you are the auditee, ensure that you are asking questions to identify what the standard is and what the gap is where non-compliances are deemed. Be familiar with the exact language of the standards and have clear and concise explanations for how you have addressed it backed up with evidence. 
4. Check in regularly
Whether you are the auditor or auditee, regular communication is a must for shared understanding, so organise regular check ins like small closing meetings at the end of each day and at least one check in around or just after lunch/before lunch. 
5. Follow a clear and transparent process
Finally, just as good and fair assessment relies on transparency, so does a good audit process. This is why ASQA and most auditors will start any audit process with an opening meeting to discuss the rules, process and general flow that the audit will take.  Auditees need to understand how they can provide evidence in and around timeframes, why non-compliances may be reported and the consequences of such. Additionally, good audit processes provide for opportunities to respond or clarify perceived non-compliances.  
Overall, the above means that all parties understand the process and are clear on the goal, where there is a difference, the parties can communicate to arrive at a resolution if not agreement. It's not always an easy balance to strike, but finding the balance can reap huge benefits for organisations resulting in a supportive environment where staff learn together and management can be confident in their ability to self regulate.
Good luck, go forth and audit well. 

A leadership position is different than a position of leadership. Rank, title, position, all of these things give rise to the opportunity to be a leader, but as the saying goes, leadership is a choice and the actions that result from those choices. Often, I hear people use position as an opt out of leadership. "I'm not the boss, so what change can I affect?" The answer? Plenty! Here are three ways to identify (or be) the leadership and change that you want to see in your organisation.

1. They help align individual and organisational purpose

Why do we do what we do? Everyone has their own purpose and raison d'etre for doing what they do but few people understand their organisations purpose. Great leaders look to understand and identify both and help others make those same connections. Through sharing a common vision and purpose, staff are more likely to engage, collaborate and provide greater value to the organisation. As Tony Robbins puts it "Leadership is the ability to create immediate impact and compel lasting, positive change in others. It’s understanding what motivates people and how to harness the power of influence in yourself and others to achieve a greater vision..."

2. They give more then they take

Whether an intern, an officer, a manager or an executive, leaders give their all and they work tirelessly to provide the best possible value for money. They are the first to raise their hand to help others and never heard using the phrase 'that's not my job'. Whether its giving praise to a staff member who is at a low, providing support when someone is overwhelmed or rallying the team to achieve a goal before a tight timeline, leaders read the lay of the land and add value where they can see the best return for the company over just what benefits themselves. 

3. They radiate positivity, humility and authenticity

It's hard to inspire or motivate others when you yourself see the glass as half empty, as such leaders often focus on the upside. Every problem is a challenge, challenges are seen as opportunities and failures are lessons to learn and a stepping stone to the next success. This doesn't meant that leaders avoid or can't see problems, but the approach is what's key. When you look at the most successful leaders in the world they have a robust resilience. Great leaders will take a disaster, focus on what they can do, what can be controlled and rally staff to achieve results. They will also take a larger share of the blame and lesser share of the credit. 

Through all the above, leaders are builders, they build others skills, talents and confidence. As Drucker put it, the goal of a leader is to create more leaders, this can only be done if you are dedicated to building others up rather than tearing them down. 

So no matter where you sit in your hierarchy, ask yourself, am I displaying leadership qualities? People don't set out to be great leaders, they set out to make a difference. It's never about the role or the title, but about influencing others, helping and supporting them and that's something anyone can do. 

So go and lead the change you want to see in the world, by being the change you want to see in your leaders.