Hi to all,

OK,,, I think we can now say confidently that we have a policy shift by ASQA to accept greater risk in the renewal of registration. In the month of Feb and in the last few days of March we have now had five clients have their renewal of registration approved without an audit being conducted. They submit their renewal application and about 6-8 weeks later simply receive an email informing them that “ASQA has finished processing this application and will forward the appropriate finalisation documentation to the organisation shortly” and voila your renewal is complete. Now, in the early instances of this last year, I could see the rationale. These were long established, bricks and mortar RTOs with a specialised scope delivering Diploma level courses over a 12 month period either using fee-for-service or VET Fee Help. No problems, very low risk. In recent instances we have had clients who deliver high risk work units and clients with extensive partnering arrangements receive their renewal without audit. That is a big change in policy and I think it reflects the pressure ASQA is getting from government to wind down the regulation. From my perspective, this is fantastic for our clients. They are all working hard for their students, have great quality systems and are generally well above compliance anyway. But,, what about the dodgy RTOs who need to be exposed to an audit regime in order to expose them and bring them to account. I worry that this approach by ASQA will allow lots of those guys to slip through without scrutiny and it will be interesting to reflect on this approach in time and see the effect it has on the quality of VET in Australia.

On another issue,,

There is a lot in our newsletter this month. For those responsible for compliance in your organisation, you need to pay attention to the pending changes by ASQA to the Transition and Teach out arrangements. Yes, that’s right, this policy is changing again! I could give you a historical rundown since Nov 2011 on the twists and turns this policy has taken in its short life. I won’t, as its probably only interesting to me,,,, but, for Pete’s sake can we just have some consistency! I mean this is a General Direction! It is not some “fact Sheet” or “Guide” it is an extension of the NVR legislation and is enforceable under the Act! The thing that gets me is that the dynamics that affect this policy, such as the nature of training packages, the nature of student disadvantage, the nature of competency equivalence, none of that has changed. This policy is now in its third iteration and about to be number four and the contentious changes all relate to the mechanisms we apply to manage students in a teachout who face disadvantage. This policy has flipped back and forth by ASQA and primarily due to them shifting ground based on the feedback it is receiving. I think this just underscores problems with the initial drafting of the policy. Since then ASQA has bounced around based on who it is talking to. Do they realise the effect this has on providers? At the core of this issue is the disadvantage a student faces where their qualification has superseded and there are some or many non-equivalent units. I accept that yes there are many other reasons for disadvantage but this is the one that causes the most disruption. If you apply the current policy you would have to terminate their enrolment at the end of the transition period (12 months) and lock in those non-equivalent units. The student would then enrol into the new qualification and need to use their non-equivalent units to seek RPL. Or you could do what a funding authority recently advised one of our clients to do and just issue the non-equivalent units as a credit transfer because they would not be paying the RTO for them twice! What a mess! You only need to look back at the QLD DETE Teach-out and Transition Policy to see a sensible consistent approach that everyone can apply. 

That’s enough from me. On with the news!

Good training!

Joe Newbery

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If you have some news, send it to us at: news@newberyconsulting.com.au


Compliance and Regulatory News

ASQA update

A reminder regarding partnering or auspice arrangements. ASQA has reminded RTOs that they must notify ASQA when commencing or dissolving any partnering or auspice arrangements, that is, where training and/or assessment is delivered on the RTO’s behalf by another company. Notification must be done using the ‘Notification of material change or event’ form which can be found at link below.

Remember: Contract employment arrangements with a trainer/assessor do not constitute a partnership or auspice arrangement.

Are you planning to deliver training that has an industry licensed outcome? If so, you must meet the applicable national or state/territory regulatory requirements prior to marketing the licensed outcome to potential students. In fact in some cases, ASQA imposes a mandatory registration requirement for you to have pre-approval from the relevant industry regulator BEFORE submitting a registration application (initial or addition to scope).

The link below will take you to ASQA’s website page for external licensing and additional registration requirements. There you’ll find a useful Excel spreadsheet detailing the current processes related to products with licensed outcomes in each jurisdiction. Contact details for the applicable regulatory authority are listed in the spreadsheet.

ASQA’s YouTube channel. Yes…you read correctly! ASQA now has a YouTube channel. There are four videos currently posted. Topics include becoming an RTO, preparing for an ASQA audit and common non-compliances at audit. The presenters probably won’t get poached by a news media service but full marks to ASQA for making use of this 21st Century communication medium. The link below will take you to the site.

Chris Robinson’s presentation to the recent ASQA/DFEEST forum. Chris Robinson presented at a provider forum hosted by the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (SA). He provided an overview of the regulatory activity occurring in South Australia and issues arising as a result of this regulatory work. He also looked at the outcomes and recommendations that resulted from the 2013 Strategic Industry Reviews. Access the presentation at the following link.

Applying for an exemption or grace period for Total VET Activity data collection and reporting.ASQA has recently notified chief executives of all ASQA-registered providers that they have until 31 March 2014 if they wish to access the 12-month transition grace period for—or apply for an exemption from—Total VET Activity data collection and reporting. For a reminder of the Total VET Activity requirements read the Provider Update at the following link.

A change to the publication of adverse regulatory decisions. Previously ASQA has published regulatory decisions immediately, even though these decisions could be subject to an application for reconsideration or an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. ASQA has now decided that it would be a fairer practice to defer publication of its regulatory decisions until an RTO’s rights for reconsideration or appeal have been exhausted. Read the news item at the link below.

Increasing flexibility in ‘teach-out’ provisions. Based on feedback received from providers following the recently updated General direction—transition and teach-out, ASQA is planning to increase the flexibility in the teach-out provisions. There will be an additional requirement however for RTOs to notify ASQA when a student cannot complete training or assessment within the prescribed period. A revised general direction will be published in due course but in the meantime you may like to read the news item at the link below.

VET Reform Taskforce

The VET reform taskforce was established by the Department of Industry in November 2013 and is working with state and territory governments, Registered Training Organisations, industry groups, employers and other stakeholders throughout 2014 to reach a consensus on the way forward for the VET sector.

The Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane, has made recent public comments signalling that things are heating up. The VET Reform Taskforce is on record as highlighting concerns in the sector such as the responsiveness of the system to meet the needs of industry and employers, the distorted incentives, system complexity, inconsistent quality and unnecessary regulatory burden and red tape.

VET News will aim to keep you up to date as the Taskforce goes about its consultative process. The link below will take you to a summary of recent stakeholder feedback from February workshops held in Canberra. This was the first stakeholder engagement activity for the Taskforce and it uncovered a raft of issues and ideas which make interesting reading.

A further link is provided below for the planned workshops scheduled across the country in March.

NSSC activities

The NSSC has published the following notification on its website:

As the transition takes place to new Ministerial Council arrangements as agreed by COAG in December 2013, it has been decided that the NSSC will not meet as planned and take further decisions until after Ministers have met through the new COAG Council for Industry and Skills in early April and agreed on future national arrangements.

Training Packages lodged for endorsement will be considered at the first opportunity after the Ministers have met and arrangements finalised.

Training Package News

Recent Training Package endorsements/updates

  • TLI10 Transport and Logistics– Release 4.1 – 17 February 2014
  • CPP07 Property Services  – Release 14.1 – 12 February 2014
  • MSA07 Manufacturing – Release 8.3 – 11 February 2014
  • ICT10 Integrated Telecommunications – Release 3.0 – 7 February 2014

For details of release information go to http://training.gov.au/

Events, Resources & Funding News

Australian apprenticeship & traineeship update

Click on the link below to view the Training Package qualifications recently implemented in States and Territories. Information is current as at 26 February 2014.

Trial to extend VET FEE-HELP

The Government has implemented a trial to extend VET FEE-HELP loans to selected subsidised Certificate IV qualifications at selected VET FEE-HELP providers. This trial commenced on 13 January 2014 and will continue until 31 December 2016. For more information about the Certificate IV trial, click on the link below.

The new NCVER Portal

The new NCVER Portal went live in February and provides a significant revamp of the NCVER’s online presence. There are four key menus – NCVER, Data, Publications and Support – and you can now access content through improved navigation. There are a range of support materials to provide a quick tour of the Portal and more detailed information about finding research, data and managing subscriptions. Check out the Portal at the following link.
Link to NCVER Portal

NCVER research forum

The NCVER’s research forum – Realising our potential: widening participation through education and training – takes place on 3 April 2014 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. The program features leading social campaigner Dr Jonathon Welch and researchers who’ve examined the role of education and training in transforming the lives of young people, Indigenous students and skilled migrants. Click on the link below for more details.
Link to NCVER Research Forum information

IBSA’s VET capability communities

IBSA has created a range of online communities to provide practical content, blogs and discussions relevant to VET practitioners. The aim is to create a professional, informed environment that supports quality practice and elevates the status of VET professionals and RTOs. Click on the link below to join a community.

Recent VET publications

Research messages 2013

The current edition of Research messages brings together the key messages from all research reports published in 2013 in the following broad categories:

  • Skills and productivity: from VET qualifications to higher-level qualifications and issues affecting the workforce
  • Social inclusion and participation in education and training: equity groups and measuring socioeconomic disadvantage
  • Young people: school, science and income support
  • The VET sector: institutions, practices and the workforce
  • Structures in the tertiary education and training system

Research Messages 2013

Other News of Interest

Is the TEQSA shake up a sign of what is to come for ASQA?

The Federal Government has introduced a bill to radically restructure the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), including a spill of the positions of the five commissioners who run the agency. One wonders whether this could be a sign of what is to come for our own regulator.

In a story published in The Australian on 19 February 2014, the Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane, was quoted as saying “I’m not about turning everything upside down and shaking it. But industry can’t get people who can read and write, let alone be at a job-ready stage,” and “It’s very difficult to say with any certainty that this is an efficient training system. I’m not saying there are glaring holes in it (but) it needs a very methodical, careful restructuring.”

Other relevant online articles can be found at the following links.

TAFE facilities could be unlocked for industry

In the same story referenced above (The Australian, 19 February 2014), Mr Macfarlane has signalled the possibility of TAFE Institutes being required to share their facilities with industry. He was reported as saying “If industry wants to run training programs and there’s an asset sitting there not being fully utilised, let’s fully utilise it. That will require some agreement between the states and the private sector, but if TAFEs sit idle at night and weekends, that’s a massive asset going to waste.” Do you think anyone has told the Minister that the TAFE facilities are owned by the State and Territory governments!

The opposition weighs in

In a response to Ian Macfarlane’s public comments about the deficiencies of the VET sector, the Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, Sharon Bird, released a media statement on 21 February 2014 supporting ASQA’s role in protecting quality in the VET sector. Read the media release at the following link.

TAFE parliamentary inquiry commences

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment has re-activated its inquiry into the operation of TAFE. The inquiry effectively continues the work of the committee in the previous Parliament, cut short by the federal election. Chair of the Committee, Ewen Jones said: “I am pleased to be able to continue the important work of the previous committee, especially given the importance of TAFE institutions in battling unemployment. This is a current issue of significance around the country and one which requires attention.” Information about the enquiry can be found at the following link.

My Skills enhancements

A new version of My Skills was released on 20 December 2013. This new version includes more information for VET consumers to help them make a more informed decision about their training options. This includes course-related labour market information and whether the course is offered as part of an Australian Apprenticeship. Access the resources at the following link.

The news articles presented in this edition of VET News have been researched and prepared by Anne Maree Newbery.

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