I want to voice my opinion – Your letters and emails to us

In this newsletter, we are selecting this email that we received from one of our subscribers genuinely questioning the current regulatory environment on the Registered Training Organisations:
Thank you for your ongoing support of the VET Sector and in particular your reporting on the actions of ASQA.  I have worked in the VET industry for 33 years in a variety of roles including NSW VETAB auditor and owner of two RTOs.  I can attest to the declining quality in the auditing of RTOs and the educative nature of the auditing process. In times past you could at least speak to an auditor and received meaningful information not just the clause quoted from the Standards. I have recently been assisting an RTO with scope additions and have found the regulator to be inflexible, uncooperative and far too keen to wield its big stick over small RTOs.  In particular:

  • An extension of two working days was denied meaning we could not submit all the evidence requested on time and hence deemed non-compliant on resubmission.  We had had many staff off with illness at the time including flu and those remaining were under the pump to complete the evidence on time.
  • We requested to remove a qualification as we had no enrolled students.  ASQA still required full sets of assessment tools for this qualification even though we would never use them as we would be removing the qualification. We were deemed non-compliant as a result.
  • TAS and assessment tools submitted months earlier by another RTO had been passed by an ASQA auditor at the time but rejected in this audit by our auditor.  No consistency.

As a result the full scope was suspended and the Board chose to close the RTO as the cost of compliance was too high. All training staff were retrenched and this was an RTO that four months earlier had been given a 7 year re-registration.
ASQA needs to be reviewed in its practice of granting up to 7 years registration for an RTO on renewal only to suspend their registration months later when the apply for an addition to scope.  All RTOs upon reregistration should have to supply a suite of assessment tools.
THE VET industry also needs to challenge the addition of the unit TAEASS502 to the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.  The addition of this unit has forced many good industry assessors to leave training as assessment at Diploma level is time consuming and difficult.  The design and development of assessment tools is a completely different skills set from training and assessing. Having this unit will not make for a better assessor.  Mentoring and ongoing professional development will gain higher skilled trainers and assessors.
The names and details have been removed to protect the confidentiality of the person/s involved. 
Do you have views or thoughts about something? 
Why not write to us and discuss how we all as VET stakeholders can voice our opinions and views and help to create a better vocational education and training system?

The VET Sector News II – December 2019

Apprentice and trainee commencements down in June 2019 quarter 
The latest release of national apprentice and trainee data show commencements were down 3.3% to 33 295 in the June 2019 quarter, when compared with the same quarter in 2018.
Apprentices and trainees 2019 — June quarter, published by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), provides a national picture of apprenticeship and traineeship activity and includes both quarterly and annual figures that can be broken down by state and territory.
Trade commencements were down 19.7% to 11 980, with the biggest decrease seen in construction trades workers, down 39.8%, when compared with the June quarter 2018.
Non-trade commencements increased by 9.3% to 21 310 over the same period, with the biggest increases seen in carers and aides, up 19.1%, and sales assistants and salespersons, up 16.8%.
There was a modest increase in completions in the June 2019 quarter, up 1.3% when compared with the same quarter last year.
Overall there were 272 920 apprentices and trainees in-training as at 30 June 2019, down 1.4% from 30 June 2018.
For more Information, please visit here
ASQA’s approach to managing complaints
On Monday 2 December, ASQA will be launching asqaconnect—a new online portal to receive complaints, or reports alleging provider non-compliance, from all members of the community.
ASQA will no longer investigate and substantiate individual complaints received.
This means, ASQA will not act on individual complaints. Instead, we look at the provider’s pattern of behaviour identified throughout complaints and use this information to inform our decisions on when and if further regulatory scrutiny of a provider is required.
ASQA does not have any consumer protection powers, and cannot act as an advocate for individual students or resolve disputes between students and providers.
Reports about your personal experiences with, or observations of, providers are vital inputs to effective regulation. The information you provide contributes to ASQA’s knowledge of a provider’s behaviour and practice. ASQA uses this information to help protect the quality and reputation of the vocational education and training (VET) and English language intensive courses for overseas students (ELICOS) sectors.
For more Information, please visit here. 
Webinar recording available–proposed changes to ASQA fees and charges 2020-21
ASQA hosted a webinar on Tuesday 3 December on proposed changes to ASQA fees and charges 2020-21 as part of its consultation with the vocational education and training (VET) sector.
The recording and slides from the webinar are now available online.

For more information, refer to ASQA’s Fees and charges proposal 2020-21 consultation paper (PDF) and asqa.gov.au/costrecovery.
Asqanet release—what you need to know?
The latest version of asqanet has launched this morning.
ASQA has also launched asqaconnect—a new online portal to receive complaints alleging provider non-compliance.
This asqanet release will provide services for:

  • third party arrangements—providers are now able to create and cease third party arrangements via asqanet
  • delivery locations—asqanet is now better able to differentiate between VET & CRICOS locations
  • business names—will be sourced directly from the Australian Business Register (ABR)
  • asqaconnect—ASQA’s new online portal for complainants
  • portal user verification—asqanet users will no longer need to respond to secret questions and answers. A verification code will be sent to their registered email.

For more information, please visit here.
AVETMISS reporting: 2019 annual activity due by 28 February 2020
The VET national provider collection is an annual collection of AVETMISS data from all RTOs.
The collection window for direct reporting of 2019 AVETMISS feefor-service activity to NCVER opens at 8:45am (ACT) on 2 January 2020 and closes at 5pm (ACT) on 28 February 2020. 
Please check deadlines if you are reporting fee-for-service activity via a state training authority (STA), as their deadlines may be earlier.
We encourage you to validate your data and fix errors prior to the end of the year so that you can submit when the window opens. 
Reminder: data needs to be reported accurately as at 31 December 2019 and needs to include all activity for the full calendar year (1 January — 31 December 2019)
For more information, please visit here.
AUSkey is Changing
Why AUSkey is being decommissioned?
AUSkey has not kept pace with changes in technology and does not meet the future needs of most businesses. You can find more detail on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website at AUSkey decommissioning.
What is replacing AUSkey?
AUSkey is being replaced by a new whole of government digital identity service – myGovID and Relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM).
Together, these services offer an easy, secure and more flexible authentication and authorisation solution.
Put simply:

See AUSkey is Changing factsheet and ATO video – Your new key to business is here, for a general overview.
For more information, please visit here.
There is huge potential in Australia’s education relationship with India
Just over a year ago in his landmark India economic strategy, the former head of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese, said the relationship between the two countries had the potential to become one of the defining partnerships of the future of the Asia-Pacific region.
He then pointed to one sector above all others as the key to ­solidifying that partnership as well as lifting Australia’s trade and investment ties with India: ­education.
Both countries are now turning their minds to how they can strengthen the education relationship, which already benefits from natural synergies, combining the quality and expertise of Australia’s institutions with the growing demand for quality education in India.
For more information, please visit here. 
Education minister Dan Tehan restores ‘university college’ category 
The federal government has given way to sector pressure and reinstated the university college category for higher education institutions.
Education Minister Dan Tehan said on Tuesday that “in response to stakeholder feedback” on the recent review of provider category standards, the government would retain the name university college for institutions just below university level, instead of calling them national institutes of higher education.
The national institutes were to have a measure of self-accrediting authority status and the option to apply for university status.
For more information, please refer here.

Satisfaction with vocational education and training remains high

New data from over 170 000 vocational education and training (VET) students shows that satisfaction with VET remains high, according to a new report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).
The annual National Student Outcomes Survey is Australia’s largest survey of VET students and provides information on employment outcomes and training satisfaction for students who completed nationally recognised VET delivered by registered training organisations in Australia in 2018.
Of the VET students who responded to the survey, 122 536 were graduates and 48 369 were subject completers, defined as those who completed at least one subject and then left the VET system without obtaining a qualification.
The data shows that satisfaction remains high in general for both groups, with 88.1% of graduates and 91.4% of subject completers satisfied with the overall quality of their training.
For VET graduates, 83.9% achieved their main reason for undertaking training, with 85.1% training for employment-related reasons, 11.3% for personal development reasons and 3.6% for further study reasons.
Employment outcomes for VET graduates were also good, with 65.8% having an improved employment status after training, and 46.8% of those who were not employed before training in employment after.
More generally, 85.6% of graduates were employed or enrolled in further study after training and the median annual income for VET graduates employed full-time after training was $59 100.
“Results from this year’s survey also show that students who completed a qualification at certificate III or higher had better employment outcomes than those who started but didn’t complete a qualification at the same level,” said Simon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER.
“The difference was greatest for those enrolled in a diploma or higher level qualification, where 67.8% of graduates had an improved employment status after training compared with 50.8% of students who enrolled in a qualification at this level but didn’t complete it.”
The main reasons given for not completing a qualification were training-related (31.7%), personal (22.4%), and because they got what they wanted from training (22.4%). The main training-related reason was ‘training was not as expected’ (13.3%).
The full report VET Student Outcomes 2019 and more information about the survey is available on our Portal.
A more in-depth view of training satisfaction and employment outcomes for apprentices and trainees will be provided in the report Apprentice and trainee experience and destinations 2019, to be released later this month.
Reference: NCVER Media Release 

VET International Engagement Strategy 2025 launched

The Morrison Government has reaffirmed its commitment to ensure Australian VET sector continues to play a significant role in contributing to the development of a highly skilled workforce by lodging Vocational Education and Training International Engagement Strategy 2025. Australia’s first National Strategy for International Education 2025 enables Australia’s international education sector to be more innovative, future-focused and globally engaged.
It further strengthens our international reputation for high quality education and training, drives collaboration in education and research, and increases opportunities for Australian providers and communities. Consistent with the National Strategy for International Education 2025, the Australian International Education 2025 Roadmap, and the Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy 2016–2020, implementation will be a collaborative effort between the sector, industry and government.
The Vocational Education and Training International Engagement Strategy 2025 seeks to deliver on the international potential of Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector and its important role in meeting the rapidly changing global skills needs of businesses, employees, students and countries around the world. The strategy builds on the sector’s strengths and achievements to further enhance Australia’s competitive advantages in the provision of training and skills development globally.
The National Strategy is based on three broad pillars:

  • strengthening the fundamentals of Australia’s education, training and research system and our regulatory, quality assurance and consumer protection arrangements
  • transformative partnerships between people, institutions and governments, at home and abroad
  • competing globally by responding to global education and skills needs and taking advantage of emerging opportunities.

The main action areas are: 

  • Action 1:  Ensure consistent Australian Government promotion, branding and messaging
  • Action 2:  Encourage greater community support for onshore international VET students
  • Action 3:  Build strategic linkages with bilateral partners, multilateral forums and international agencies responsible for skills development
  • Action 4:  Increase market access opportunities offshore
  • Action 5:  Encourage and promote more open models of training and products for delivery
  • Action 6:  Promote Australia’s VET frameworks and systems internationally to create opportunities for Australian VET providers
  • Action 7:  Promote international collaboration to improve labour market data collection, to identify and address changes in international skills demand
  • Action 8:  Encourage greater business-to-business engagement, including leveraging Austrade networks and Australia’s VET alumni
  • Action 9:  Strengthen the foundations of international VET delivery to appropriately skill the global workforce
  • Action 10:  Provide VET students, graduates and staff with opportunities to prosper in the global economy.

Measures of success are measured through the following strategic objectives: 

  • more international students from a diverse range of countries continue to access Australian VET both in Australia and overseas
  • more countries refer to the Australian VET system as a benchmark to inform the development of domestic industry-responsive training systems, leading to stronger bilateral, regional and multilateral partnerships
  • Australian VET qualifications continue to be widely recognised and valued by employers and governments internationally
  • the Australian VET system continues to produce graduates with the appropriate skills and knowledge to compete in a global labour market
  • international VET students continue to be satisfied with the quality of their VET study experience in Australia
  • international demand for Australian expertise on VET system design and governance reform, including bespoke training courses that meet firm-specific skills needs, continues to grow.

For more Information, please visit here.

The rapid review of ASQA announced by Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business

A rapid review of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has been announced. We are sharing the details of the review with this article. 
Two recent national reviews have focused on the VET sector, including the role of ASQA – the 2019 Expert Review of Australia’s VET System (the Joyce Review), and the 2018 review of the National VET Regulator Act 2011 (the Braithwaite Review). Both reviews identified the need for ASQA to reform elements of its regulatory approach, in particular, its engagement with the sector and its educative approach.
While in recent years ASQA has focused much of its regulatory effort on the poorest performing providers, and removing them from the market, there is now an opportunity to strengthen ASQA’s focus on building capability and fostering excellence across the VET sector.
ASQA Reform
On 30 October 2019, the Australian Government announced $18.1 million towards the reform of ASQA to support the fair, transparent and effective regulation of the VET sector, and high-quality student outcomes. The reform is intended to:

  • position ASQA as an effective modern regulator and to deliver on future reform directions agreed  through the COAG reform road map
  • improve and expand ASQA’s engagement with the VET sector and educative role to ensure training providers are aware of, and supported to understand, expectations and requirements
  • ensure regulatory decisions are transparent, and that training providers have access to information and support to deliver good practice training and assessment
  • improve ASQA’s collection and use of data to assist with identifying poor quality training providers, and
  • better enable training providers to give feedback on ASQA (including directly to the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business).

Informing the reform
To inform the detail of the reforms, the department has engaged a regulatory expert to undertake a rapid review of ASQA’s regulatory practices and processes, and make recommendations for specific changes in line with best practice governance, regulation and engagement.
The rapid review will:

  • evaluate the effectiveness of ASQA’s internal regulatory practices and processes (including ASQA’s Regulatory Risk Framework, how it undertakes audits, how it makes and internally reviews regulatory decisions, and processes related to the review of ASQA decisions)
  • identify and recommend any changes to ASQA’s processes to support consistent, risk-based and contemporary regulatory decision-making and education
  • identify and recommend any changes required to ASQA’s governance arrangements to clarify roles and responsibilities, improve accountability, improve the efficiency of resources, and improve focus on strategic direction and performance, and
  • identify areas in which changes could be made to the VET Quality Framework to drive improvements across the sectors.

The review is scheduled to be completed by early February 2020. Following the review, the reforms will be implemented over a 12-18 month period of change management.
Recent reviews have sought feedback from the sector on the role of ASQA in regulating the VET sector. This feedback has informed the scope and focus of this rapid review and will be closely considered by the regulatory expert.
The department welcomes any additional feedback from stakeholders relevant to ASQA’s internal regulatory practices and procedures. In providing feedback, stakeholders are encouraged to consider the following questions:

  • How can ASQA best engage with the VET sector? 
  • What strategies could be adopted by ASQA to support best practice among training providers?
  • What elements of its current educative approach are the most effective? 
  • How can ASQA best help training providers to understand their obligations?
  • What elements of ASQA’s current regulatory approach do you perceive to be working effectively? What specific areas would benefit from further attention?

Feedback should be sent to ASQAreform@employment.gov.au by COB Friday 17 January 2020. This feedback will be provided directly to the regulatory expert engaged to undertake the review.
Reference: ASQA Reform

National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment Bill 2019

The National Vocational Education and Training regulator Amendment Bill 2019 has been lodged in the senate. 

The proposed amendments are intended to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the ASQA’s regulation of the sector. The changes strengthen registration requirements, modernise information and data sharing and improve the administrative efficiency of the NVETR Act. Key reforms include:

NCVER Act Proposed Reforms ―

  • A new condition of registration requiring NVR RTOs to demonstrate a commitment and the capability to deliver quality VET;
  • Enhanced material change notification requirements such as notify ASQA when there are likely to be substantial changes to the operation of the organisation or an event occurs that is likely to significantly affect the organisation’s ability to comply with the VET Quality Framework;
  • Clarification that all reviewable decisions made by the delegate of the ASQA are subject to reconsideration by ASQA;
  • To improve the transparency of ASQA’s regulatory actions and provide the sector with confidence in the ability of the ASQA to make appropriate, consistent and proportionate regulatory decisions, amendments provide for the preparation and publication of audit reports by the Regulator.
  • The Australian Government will also be able to release information to the public about training provided by an RTO and the outcomes and experiences for students and employers, of training undertaken with an RTO.
  • Empower ASQA to cancel VET qualifications and VET statements of attainment without first directing the relevant NVR RTO to do so where there is a risk to individuals and the community. 
  • Changes to offense provisions for third-parties. 
  • The regulator can impose enforceable undertakings
  • The regulator can request any information from the RTO necessary to perform its function and can retain that information for as long as is necessary. 
  • The Minister will have the power to direct ASQA to issue directions to the regulator in relation to the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers.

The strategy was developed in partnership with key VET stakeholders, including providers and industry peak bodies. 

Implementing the strategy will be a collaborative effort between the sector, industry and government, with an implementation plan to be developed in 2020. A working group drawn from the sector will work with Expert Members of the Council for International Education.

For more information, please refer to: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=s1251

2019 Australian Training Awards winners announced

The Australian Training Awards are the peak national awards for the VET sector recognising individuals, businesses and registered training organisations for their contribution to skilling Australia.

On 21 November the awards were presented and the winners are: 

Lifetime Achievement Award — Wayne Collyer

Wayne Collyer was Managing Director at Polytechnic West (now South Metropolitan TAFE) from 2004 until his retirement in February 2013. In the ten years previous, he was Managing Director of Central West College of TAFE (now Central Regional TAFE).

Throughout his career Mr Collyer achieved significant results for VET in Western Australia, through his considerable expertise in developing future VET leaders and providing leadership to state and national policy committees. Nationally, Mr Collyer has contributed to the development and continuous improvement of a world class Australian VET sector through his long commitment and executive membership of TAFE Directors Australia Board.  Over his more than 40 years as an educator, 36 of them dedicated to VET, Mr Collyer has made a difference to the future of hundreds of thousands of students and has been an instrumental builder of the education and training sector to the benefit of thousands more students into the future.

Other winners and finalists were: 

Registered Training Organisation Category 

1. Small Training Provider of the Year Award


Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta – New South Wales


Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services – Western Australia

Wisdom Learning – Australian Capital Territory

2. Large Training Provider of the Year Award


Sunraysia Institute of TAFE – Victoria


Charles Darwin University – Northern Territory

Canberra Institute of Technology – Australian Capital Territory

3. International Training Provider of the Year Award


TAFE Queensland – Queensland


Melbourne Polytechnic – Victoria

4. School Pathways to VET Award


Circular Head Christian School – Tasmania


St James College – Queensland

Tasmanian Secondary Colleges RTO – Tasmania

For detailed list of winners and finalists, please visit here. 


Communiqué for the COAG Skills Council Meeting – 22 November 2019

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Skills Council (the Council) held its second meeting today in Brisbane to agree on an ambitious approach to enhancing vocational education and training (VET).

Council congratulated the winners and finalists recognised at the Australian Training Awards on their outstanding achievements. The winners and finalists offer a shining example of the transformational opportunities offered by VET.

Delivering a COAG VET Reform Roadmap for a responsive, dynamic and trusted VET sector.

Council discussed a draft COAG VET Reform Roadmap that will deliver reforms to ensure Australia’s future is one where our people are highly skilled and our businesses are competitive.

Council confirmed the importance of bringing the Commonwealth’s reform agenda into the Roadmap and tasked skills senior officials with developing a unified reform pathway for inclusion in the next draft.

Council further agreed to immediately fast track four pieces of foundational work:

  • a review of VET Student Loans to ensure parity of access for students across Australia.

  • on the use of micro-credentials in the national VET system to better respond to student and job-need while preserving the importance of nationally-recognised full qualifications.

  • on quality and reforms to the Standards for Registered Training Organisations to move the system of regulation from its focus on compliance to focus on excellence in training.

  • streamlining training packages to deliver more relevant skills for industry and individuals through immediate actions to make the current system faster, simpler and better. This will include immediate action to identify and remove all outdated and unused qualifications to improve the relevance and accessibility of the training system.

Council particularly noted that actions agreed to were in response to feedback from stakeholders about where urgent reform is needed.

Council directed the Australian Industry and Skills Council (AISC) and skills officials to develop criteria for commissioning new or updated training products and to establish clear timeframes for accelerated training product development before the next Council meeting.

This will improve transparency and accountability across the product development lifecycle; improve timeframes for training package development; future proof the system by looking at options for simplifying qualification construct and content; and improve support for registered training organisations to interpret and deliver training to meet industry’s requirements.

Council tasked skills senior officials with progressing these key actions and with further developing the draft roadmap for consideration at its next meeting. In the development of a draft roadmap, jurisdictions will consult with stakeholders.

Council reaffirmed the shared responsibility for strengthening and modernising the VET system across all jurisdictions. Council also acknowledged that meaningful change requires structural reform to place the skills agenda front and centre of a concerted effort to develop a world-class national VET system with the flexibility to respond to specific regional needs and priorities.

Continuing collaboration for transparent and holistic data collection

Council acknowledged the national collaboration on data through the Performance Information for VET (PIVET). The three-year work program has helped to improve transparency about the structure and funding of the VET system along with a greater understanding of the outcomes and pathways for VET students including employment outcomes for apprentices.

Members noted that continuing collaborative work under the PIVET projects will be central to the delivery of the Roadmap to achieve COAG’s vision for VET.

Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC)

The Council noted an Annual Report from the AISC and welcomed Emeritus Professor Tracey Horton AO as the new Chair of the AISC. Council also acknowledged the contribution of outgoing Chair Professor John Pollaers OAM who has been in the role since the AISC’s inception.

Quality of the national training system

Council confirmed their commitment to better outcomes for students and industry with a focus on supporting fair, transparent and effective regulation. Members noted the reforms announced by the Commonwealth to improve the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s (ASQA’s) engagement with the VET sector.

Council emphasised the critical role of ASQA in underpinning confidence in the VET sector and states and territories will engage with the rapid review of the regulator, as a key step in moving towards achieving excellence in training in this sector.

Next meeting

Members committed to meeting again in the first half of 2020 to continue the momentum and leadership of a strong national training system.

For more information, please visit here. 

ASQA’s slash and burn approach on Registered Training Organisations


An approach that is not very well thought out can cause significant knee jerk reactions. This is exactly what we all are experiencing from ASQA. The poor implementation and monitoring of VET FEE-HELP scheme and the way a few private and public organisations took advantage and rorted the funding is still causing significant nightmares for private organisations. 

Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), is at present, playing a cat-and-mouse game. The impression is that the focus is not to promote and enhance education standards and training outcomes but rather finding the “bad people in the sector”. The problem is the rule book of “bad people” is developed by the regulator, approved by them and implemented without much needed industry consultation or any sort of background history of involvement in any kind of unethical or criminal activities. 

There is no doubt that ASQA’s audit processes are inconsistent and that RTO’s are being deemed critically non-compliant for minor administrative issues and at the same time not allowed a forum for raising questions or concerns.  

None of us have time for truly bad performers, but the vast majority of independent VET providers are focused on providing students with quality outcomes. 

Good providers attempting to do the right thing need to be able to rely on advice and guidance from the regulator to help them strengthen their compliance. 

There is a significant difference between administrative non-compliance and criminal activities, and we believe that organisations should not be punished or penalised for minor administrative mistakes. No one is perfect and expecting organisations to be or otherwise imposing a penalty on them is causing significant stress and setting them up for failure. 

Most of the time, the legislative guidelines and instruments are the problems that actually create the compliance issues. A few examples are:

  • VET Student Loans; Well these were just a mess from the beginning, with little or no direction taken from industry input and ended as a disaster.

  • Giving training providers the choice of reporting either attendance monitoring or course progress for International students; When a training organisation chooses which option they want to report and follows this, the regulatory body will then audit them on the other.

  • English-level of international students; The Australian government has been known to provide student visas for a number of countries without any language testing conducted. 

We, as industry experts and stakeholders are expecting ASQA and Government to take some drastic steps to restore the confidence training organisations should have in the regulatory body.  The reason for their existence is “To enhance and protect the Australian education and training system”. The industry wants to see an effective regulator that faithfully enforces its regulatory framework in a timely, transparent and consistent manner and in accordance with model litigant requirements.

Victims of ASQA: The Real stories (Part – 1)

In this section we explore stories of how a regulatory body is destroying Australia’s education and training sector, the livelihood of people and causing immense stress and loss to the individuals working in the training organisations.

Our first guest in this series is Brett Hilder. 

Brett Hilder is a businessman with extensive experience drawn from his creation of a national training company and is able to bring together an understanding of the urgencies of commerce together with an appreciation of the priorities of public agencies.

In the past he has been able to negotiate positive changes in public policy, government agencies and procedures through the incisive understanding of relevant key issues, and a proper insight into the public sector approach. For example, he played the key role in convincing the Australian government to conduct a review of federal agencies through public advocacy during the period 2012 – 2015. This resulted in major reforms to the regulatory environment in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) industry.
In addition, working directly with large corporations over the last 25 years has provided him with a valuable understanding of how they interact with small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s).
He has written two books on time management and workplace productivity, delivered keynote addresses and run seminars on business development, productivity, leadership and advanced negotiation strategies. High level one-to one coaching, hands on skills training in the general workplace and in the health sector specifically, have seen over 2000 people acquire skills and knowledge which enabled them to excel in their chosen professions and attain jobs.
Brett is ready to assist organisations arm themselves properly to enable them to address concerns in public administration in order for them to protect their rights, title and interests in their respective businesses. He is also a lobbyist listed with the Australian Federal Government and a member of the VET Reform Now network.

Q: Brett, can you please tell us something about yourself, your background and what you do?

I’m a businessman at base level having grown up a third-generation farmer. Agriculture seems a long time ago now, however it instilled in me a fundamental understanding of the robust and honest demands on the individual of business reality. That is, results count, and you succeed or fail on your own merits, even though elements such as the weather for example, are beyond human influence.

I first established my own business, a small management consultancy, in Perth in the mid 1990s focusing on time management and workplace productivity for individuals and organisations. I wrote two books on the subject and was deeply immersed in this area for several years.

Q. What drew you into training for the health industry?

I had a motorcycle crash in 1999. Unable to continue the paid work I was doing while my consultancy established a secure income stream, I completed a nurse assistant training course, and for a short time worked in this role. The consultancy grew though, and I was able to focus full time on developing it after only a few months, nevertheless I learnt a hell of a lot about basic patient care.

My ex-wife is a registered nurse and it seemed worthwhile at the time to develop a training course for nurse assistants suitable for hospital and aged care at cert three-level. It took twelve months of hard work and in August 2001 we ran our first
course. It was oversubscribed with 26 students, but we made it work and nearly all were successful. Every graduate got a job immediately and the work experience employers we worked with were delighted and we were off and running.


Q. How did it go?

In 2003, my company amended scope and was able thereafter to issue the nationally recognised Certificate III qualification for Patient Care Assistants under the WA jurisdiction (TAC). Through 2008-2009 we expanded from WA into Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. The workload was immense of course, but extremely rewarding. Our reputation amongst employers and students was I believe, second to none. By 2010, we had already received two letters of commendation from TAC for our levels of compliance and innovation.

ASQA, as you know, destroyed everything in 2011-12. In the seven years since, I have been working hard to drive real VET reform. During the same period, I have had 15-17 months paid work.

Q: What are your experiences dealing with the current national VET regulator?

It can be summed up by the first ever contact we had from ASQA dated September 2011: A letter of intention to suspend our registration, with just over two days to respond.

This was the result of a secret desk audit, conducted on incomplete site audit documents against the old standards conducted by the state regulator, TAC. We hadn’t even received the mandatory Certificate of Registration as an RTO under ASQA, which itself is a breach of the NVR Act.

It was a hostile attack utilising faulty data while breaching the very laws the regulator was charged with upholding. It went downhill from there.

We were subject to a highly prejudicial audit process, a cut in funding support to the 20% of students we were training who were relying on it, ordered not to supply compliance documents to the auditor, a refusal to engage with us on rectification or clarification of our levels of compliance and factually incorrect assertions of complaints and risks against my RTO by the Chief Commissioner, Christopher Robinson and Assistant Commissioner Dianne Orr.

Of course there was a blanket refusal to take into account or even acknowledge the outstanding reputation among industry stakeholders and 7000 students we had built over a decade. ASQA used it’s lawyers to attack my company at every opportunity.

Q. What do you believe were their motivations for this behaviour?

The national VET regulator was clearly going after us because for base political The national VET regulator was clearly going after us because for base political reasons: so that it could demonstrate it was a ruthless regulator, regardless of the true level of our compliance. We were fully compliant. Looking back, this tactic was all ASQA had, because then, as now, it did not understand training, it did not understand assessment and it did not understand compliance. My company however, did understand all of these matters having worked through the turbulent and ever changing regulatory environment of the preceding decade.

Q: What did you do to get justice and how was your journey?

Everything short of taking ASQA to court. The nature of the way ASQA ‘audits’ private RTOs cripples the income stream and this in most cases ensures the RTO can no longer fund the $250-300,000 necessary.  

What ASQA did not know, was that at this time my girlfriend was an experienced senior corporate lawyer. In one weekend, she and I discovered the first 23 breaches of the NVR Act by ASQA in dealings with my company. We also uncovered another 20+ instances of abuse of process and breaches of procedural fairness (rules of Natural Justice).

I was the first to take ASQA to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on July 2-4, 2012 but they could only look at compliance against the original woefully nebulous standards for RTOs. (Even after 2015, they are still open to interpretation in order to be applicable to all training). Against ASQA’s legal team and their illegitimate tactics, I lost the case because of interpretations of compliance. The AAT however, found that my company was. “…a training provider of quality.”

None of the breaches in law and abuses of process by ASQA were considered by the Tribunal.

Still seeking justice, requesting documents under the FOI Act turned out to be a slow pointless exercise, and even lawyers now will have no success in getting the documents you are entitled to, due to the cop-out provisions built into this now largely worthless piece of legislation.

You are advised to be patient and trust the process. Ignore this advice. Here’s why:

Step One: You complain to ASQA. The regulator, eventually, tells you nothing was done incorrectly with regard to your case. Not satisfied, you go to

Step Two: Lodge a formal complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman. However, they advise they cannot investigate your contentions because it would only have been possible at the immediate time.

Step Three: You request documents under FOI from ASQA, but receive only 25% of those requested due to the cop-out provisions built into this now largely worthless piece of legislation. The docs you do get contain only administrivia. Then follows:

Step Four: You request a Freedom of Information dispute resolution to obtain the docs from ASQA, this time through the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

You are advised you must wait a year for an officer to become available and conduct the review. (The I-C is under-resourced owing to the upsurge of cases where government agencies refuse FOI requests).

The Commonwealth Ombudsman is impotent.

I discovered secret reports with recommendations about your RTO’s matters, including their advice regarding compensation, are provided by ASQA to the Minister. You make an FOI request to ASQA to acquire copies of these reports and end up repeating Step 3 and Step 4.

Transparent government is a myth when it comes to matters of justice where a bureaucrat is culpable.

The only opportunity for restorative justice for someone in my position is the CDDA Scheme (Scheme for Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration).

In the end, 51 breaches of the NVR Act and procedural fairness by ASQA were identified and these formed the basis of my claim for compensation. In a process designed to fail the applicant, my claim was rejected out of hand because it can only be assessed by the offending government agency, in this case, ASQA. All I got was a one-pager stating ASQA did everything right. It is a joke.

The CDDA Scheme on the face of it is a fair option for compensation, however in practice, it seldom works because of the conflict of interest built into the process. A decision does not have to be made based on court-of-law proof, weight of evidence or even balance of probabilities, rather that a reasonable person in possession of the relevant information forms the view that wrong has been done to the individual or organisation. In practice, the CDDA Scheme was put in place by politicians only to be abused by bureaucrats.

Despite requests, I was never granted a meeting with any Minister, however I appealed through his office a few times. All they did was ask ASQA for their opinion who in turn provided him with false advice, and my claim was rejected without explanation again. I have requested that succeeding Ministers properly review my claim but none have, and all have simply responded with one-pagers claiming ASQA did everything right. To this day, not one of my 51 contentions of defective administration by the regulator have been answered.

Justice delayed is justice denied and I’ve been trying and waiting for nearly eight years so far.

Having nothing to lose as of 2012, I committed myself to transparency and investigation of ASQA along with additional true reform of VET. This formed part of the strategy for compensation for my family as I became aware there was no viable process to receive justice and no good-will in government to restore what it had taken from us.

Q: I have heard several times before this interview that you have lost a lot because of ASQA, can you please elaborate what, why and how for us and our readers?

I lost my livelihood and everything else: Family home, cars, business, two new investment properties which were going to help provide security for everything, superannuation and my reputation (because ASQA makes its decisions public). Forced into bankruptcy (Fairfax media unpaid account of $6800) and suffered significant damage to my health also for my trouble.

It’s probably not a good idea to borrow money against the equity in your family home to fund business growth or development if you’re in ASQA’s jurisdiction. Looking back, one thing I would do differently is use trusts to provide some security, at least against the thugs.

Problem is, we were going through significant, planned, growth. Despite the usual inherent challenges, it was working well and our quality was never compromised, however unless you are debt free and holding a significant war chest of funds, ASQA simply abuses its powers to cut off an RTOs income stream indefinitely, forcing its liquidation. That is what happened to my company.

Q: Where do you think the ministers are failing to protect Australian education and training businesses? 

  1. The majority have been captured by ASQA. This the fault of the ministers themselves.

  2. They have been too afraid, or too willing to believe ASQA, to conduct a parliamentary inquiry or Royal Commission into the regulator.

  3. There has been an utter failure to decisively act on the concerns, experiences and information provided by SME RTOs.

  4. Ministers conflate the wrongdoing of a small number of cashed-up, lawyered-up ghost or very large RTOs, with the quality training delivered by the 4000+ SME RTOs.

  5. They put too much store in the opinions of the large vested interests that make up these more-of-the-same ‘consultative’ committees.

  6. The Prime Ministers thus far have shuffled countless different ministers through the VET portfolios so that they never wind up getting to grips with a very complex and difficult sector. Permanence is power. Impermanence is impotence.

  7. Ministers have failed to investigate ASQA fully, abolish it and replace it with a fit-for-purpose regulator staffed by different people working to an ethical, transparent public service culture; if such a thing still exists.

Note: The views and information provided in this article are independent views of the guests. Career Calling, CAQA or any of our staff members may not share the same views or thoughts. 

Would you like us to interview you for this series? Contact us today at info@caqa.com.au. 

Has the Australian Skills Quality Authority taken Australia back 30 years?

The effects of the VET regulator’s actions on our industry and Australia’s reputation with regards to innovative learning has been detrimental to what is internationally seen as best practice.  The attitude towards learning methods that are applied outside traditional face-to face classroom based training have put our education system at risk.  We are not reaching out to the learners that desperately need training and education but rather asking them to fit the traditional classroom mold. 


It was the early 1970s when computer technology was introduced. The early 1980s we had .edu/.gov/.com and a variety of other domain names.  In the early 1990s the world wide web was introduced to the public. The early 2000s saw  e-commerce, m-commerce, online learning and education set to flourish across the globe. 

After almost 30 years of the internet being available to the general public and becoming one of the most important commodities, we are writing this article to discuss the advantages of providing online education and digital literacy and asking where Australia is standing today in terms of global trends.   

Information technology and digital literacy 

Since the arrival of information technology and digital literacy, the relationship between learners and educators has been transformed. Learners today have access to a variety of sources of information through the internet, television and other mediums rather than just relying on books and what is taught in the classroom. Consequently, the training and education approach for curious minds has changed and has gradually become more collaborative and interactive, by digital means, all over the world. We have however found, through official submissions and audit reports, that Australia’s Vocational Education and Training Sector Regulator – Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) considers online education as “high risk” and have audited and closed down a number of vocational education and training providers because they were providing online education. 

Digital education is a revolutionary means of transmitting knowledge and now plays an important role for learners. This country is experiencing a number of challenges such as outdated teaching methods, a lack of qualified and competent industry trainers and staff that want to work in the vocational education and training sector, a highly disproportionate student-trainer ratio and a lack of quality education and learning material.

We strongly believe that online education should be promoted rather than demoted by the regulatory body. Online learning can supply educators and trainers with training resources and engage learners in many ways by using multimedia training tools, interactive e-classrooms, utilising digital tools such as smartboards, Led screens, videos, etc. It also allows one trainer to provide information digitally across several locations via immersive digital media to tackle the country’s qualified trainer shortage.

Transparency and skillset needed from a regulator as a model litigant 

The industry needs a regulator who makes fewer mistakes, takes into account due diligence and does not have a heavy-handed approach when it comes to dealing with innovative practices in training organisations. 

How many criteria of the Regulator Performance Framework, released by the Australian Government does the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) meet?  

For more information click here.

Can ASQA provide a report as to how they are meeting their KPIs like other government departments do, for e.g. The Department of Health produces as part of their self-assessment?

For more information click here. 

  • KPI 1 Regulators do not unnecessarily impede the efficient operation of regulated entities

  • KPI 2 Communication with regulated entities is clear, targeted and effective

  • KPI 3 Actions undertaken by regulators are proportionate to the regulatory risk being managed

  • KPI 4 Compliance and monitoring approaches are streamlined and coordinated

  • KPI 5 Regulators are open and transparent in their dealings with regulated entities

  • KPI 6 Regulators actively contribute to the continuous improvement of regulatory frameworks

In civil litigation, the Commonwealth has a duty to act as a Model Litigant.

For more information click here. 

ASQA, as a Government Agency has a duty and a responsibility to ensure they remain fair, impartial and maintain proper standards in litigation. 

In simple terms, the model litigant obligation requires the government (including ASQA) to apply the highest standards of ethical behaviour at all times including during court and tribunal cases. Specifically, the Legal Services Directions 2017 explains government bodies are obliged to be a model litigant and should always:

  • deal with claims promptly without causing delay

  • act consistently in all matters

  • attempt to avoid, prevent and reduce the scope of litigation

  • keep costs as low as possible

  • try not to take advantage of the other party, especially if they lack resources, and

  • avoid relying on technical defences.

In addition, ASQA has an obligation to assist the Tribunal under section 33 (1AA) of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 (Cth) (AAT Act). This section requires that ASQA must focus on assisting the Tribunal to make the correct decision, rather than defending its own original decision. This duty to assist the Tribunal means ASQA should be:

  • making information easily available to the Tribunal

  • avoiding delays, and

  • actively presenting new material (such as evidence of remedial action)

Further, ASQA’s legal practitioners have additional general duties to the Tribunal. These include the duty not to mislead the Tribunal regarding facts or law, the duty to produce all relevant documents under section 37 AAT Act and the duty to disclose the whole of the law, even if they believe it to be unhelpful or inapplicable.

Australia internationally 

We can learn a lot just by observing and looking at how other countries have achieved an excellent vocational education and training sector and how they are making continuous progress to achieve excellence. 

Let’s take the example of Finland, where vocational education and training (ammattikoulu) is very flexible, not only for highschool students but also for adults, looking for a career change or those who want to supplement their skills in their current occupation. 

Finland in 2018 shifted its system-centred approach to a competency-based system.  The courses are available through education and training institutions, workplaces and in digital learning environments.

Microcredentials (short courses to improve skills in a particular industry area) are available in preparatory education and training not leading to a qualification. VET providers are municipalities, federations of municipalities, a state-owned institution and foundations. The foundations consist mainly of municipalities and various private organisations and companies, all of which are government dependent.

Organisations are required to follow national qualification requirements, but they have the freedom to select teaching/learning methods, learning environments and pedagogical solutions, such as traditional contact teaching, simulators and other digital learning environments, and workplaces for learners.

Understanding Ai, machine learning and datafication works will be necessary skills that future employees in Australian Industries will require. Who is going to provide this and how can we do it? Look at https://aiclass.se/ for a Swedish solution to this skills shortage.

Reaching out to the students can not afford face to face training 

In 2016, the World Economic Forum proposed eight digital skills that every child needed and a plan for teaching them. 


The challenge for educators, according to the WEF, is to “move beyond thinking of IT as a tool, or ‘IT-enabled education platforms’ ”, and instead “to think about how to nurture students” ability and confidence to excel both online and offline in a world where digital media is ubiquitous”.

The OECD agrees, warning in its Going Digital series https://www.oecd.org/going-digital/ that despite our depiction of young people as “digital natives”, the technology skills of students often are limited to basic communication and browsing capabilities, and studies consistently find that digital technology is associated with moderate learning gains but the impact is variable.

Technological change is especially important in Australia, where the challenges of geography affect all areas of policy making, and growing regional unemployment is front and centre.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research has proposed an Australian workforce digital skills framework such as that which already exists in the EU’s DigComp (digital competencies) framework https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/digcomp

Understanding artificial intelligence, machine learning and datafication works will be necessary skills that future employees in Australian Industries will be required to have. Who is going to provide this and how can we do it? Look at https://aiclass.se/ for a Swedish solution to this skills shortage. 

We need a number of quality education and training organisations that can provide students education and training in the home or at work or wherever and whenever wanted.  Education needs to be affordable and not require travel, come with parking expenses or only fits between certain hours. Important questions we need to ask are: 

  1. Why is flexible, online learning and digital learning not being promoted by the national regulator?

  2. Why do we still not have an Australian workforce digital skills framework to promote, enhance and regulate the learning and outcomes in the digital space?  

The drop in traineeships and apprenticeships. Why is it happening?

A recent figures revealed that the federal government over the last five years has underspent close to $1 billion of its budget on TAFE, training and apprenticeships. This is on top of previous cuts.

At the same time, that these budgets cuts are happening, Australia is still experiencing critical skills shortages in several industries.  A number of experts have warned of serious effects on the Australian economy.

The report released by the Australian Industry Group can be found here: www.aigroup.com.au

It also identified: 

  • Skills shortages: 75 percent of respondents reported skills shortages in industry, a jump from 49 percent in the previous survey conducted in 2016. Shortages are most often in the technician and trades worker category, with difficulties recruiting for Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills, and new shortages for roles in business automation, Big Data and artificial intelligence solutions.

  • Literacy and Numeracy: 99 percent of employers (up from 96 per cent in 2016) are affected in some way by low levels of literacy and numeracy in their workforce. This is disturbing in a time when the workforce increasingly requires foundation skills that include not only literacy and numeracy but digital literacy and advanced soft skills.

  • Leadership and Management: employers are prioritising technology capability improvements for managers, 62 percent of whom believe a lack of leadership and management skills is having a high impact on the business (up from 56 percent in 2016). This reflects the major changes needed in the way work is done and managed as entire business processes and organisational cultures are upended in the digital economy.

At the time of its 2018 survey, Ai Group called for new approaches to education, training and re-skilling to maximise the benefits of the digital economy.

“Our survey has found major skills demand issues facing employers,” chief executive Innes Willox said.

“It provides an important gauge of employer sentiment around skill needs, education and training at a critical time for industry transformation.”

Image Source: NCVER, Apprentices and trainees 2015 December quarter


The number of Australians completing an apprenticeship or traineeship is lower today than it was a decade ago.

Let’s look at the apprentices and trainees data now over the last few years. 

Since 2013, according to data compiled by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), apprentice numbers have dropped by 25 to 50 percent.

The number of apprentices and trainees who commenced training in September 2013 dropped by 49.56 per cent from 71,600 to 36,115 by September 2017.

The number of apprentices and trainees who were in training during this same period dropped by 34.7 percent from 413,300 to 269,905.

Apprentice and trainee completion rates from September 2013 also dropped from 35,900 by 35.86 per cent to 23,025 by September 2017.

The figures from NCVER to the end of December 2018 show the number of apprentices and trainees who commenced training dropped from 71,600 in September 2013 to 33,760 in December 2018, representing a 52.85 per cent fall.

The number of apprentices and trainees in-training dropped from 413,300 in September 2013 to 259,385 in December 2018, resulting in a 37.24 per cent reduction during the time period.

The number of apprentices and trainees who completed their training in September 2013 dropped from 35,900 to 26,780 in December 2018.

What are the reasons for this fall in numbers? Some of the factors are: 

  • Government policies reducing the subsidised training courses offerings

  • Focusing on public education and training organisations and neglecting the private education providers

  • Too many expectations from employers and not enough rewards,

  • No effective education and training reforms No or less engagement of group training organisations

  • Too much bureaucracy and paperwork

  • Ineffective In-School VET programs

  • Few Multi-Industry Pre-Apprenticeship programs

  • A regulator that does not understand the changing needs of the time and learners or

  • A mix of all these factors? 

We believe the more investment in the public and private training and education organisations and policy and regulatory changes are the only ways to move forward.