‘Energising Tasmania’ agreement signed

The Australian and Tasmanian Governments have signed an agreement that will support thousands of Tasmanians through the delivery of fee-free training to develop a skilled workforce for the renewable energy and related sectors.
The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, the Hon Michaelia Cash, said the $17 million Energising Tasmania project will equip Tasmanians with the skills to support the Battery of the Nation initiative.
“The Morrison Government is removing the barriers that inhibit people in Tasmania from taking up further skilling through the vocational education and training (VET) sector such as upfront costs of training,” Minister Cash said.
“In addition, we are supporting Tasmania to establish a local industry advisory group, build capacity in the training market and undertake dedicated workforce planning activities – all aimed at building the skills needed for the critically important Battery of the Nation initiative.
“The advisory group will engage with employers and registered training organisations to support the development of the workforce needed for the renewable energy and related sectors more broadly.”
Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, the Hon Steve Irons MP, said Energising Tasmania will support the delivery of high-quality training in priority areas.
“Energising Tasmania will deliver up to 2,500 fully subsidised training places, including traineeships, apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, in areas of identified skills need, Assistant Minister Irons said.
Assistance of up to $1,000 per learner will also be available to cover costs associated with training, such as books and materials, and student amenity fees.
Energising Tasmania is part of the Australian Government’s $585 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package.

Interview with The RTO Doctor’s Founding Director – Raelene Bartlett

Raelene is the author of two best-selling books, CRICOS CPR: Top 5 Tips to Rescue Your RTO and Legal Decision-Making under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (Cth): An investigation into merits review. As one of Australia’s leading sanction management specialists in VET and international education, she is well known for her outspoken and informed contributions to discussion around VET reform, calling out negligence and keeping the sector accountable. As an ex-regulator, she was an integral to the CRICOS national re-registration project in 2009-2010 which saw the closure of a number of high-profile providers around the country. An outspoken advocate for the sector, Raelene often provides informed discussions on topics that are critical to the future of VET in Australia.

Q1: For those who do not know you, what is your background?
I completed a Bachelor of Education majoring in law and health, completed a Master of Education (Research) in youth suicide prevention, a Graduate Diploma in Adolescent Health and Welfare, as well as a range of VET qualifications in auditing and TAE. I started a Doctor of Philosophy at Monash University in Melbourne on international student safety several years ago but withdrew when I moved to WA. I completed a Graduate Diploma in Australian Migration Law and Practice last year and am currently completing a Bachelor of Laws (Graduate Entry).
From a career perspective, I’ve been a mainstream high school teacher, I worked in prison education, with non-mainstream youth at risk (homeless teens, pregnant teens, kids whose parents were in and out of jail, kids with dual diagnosis issues). I’ve been a VET Trainer and assessor (health and community services), set up health and community services portfolios in large RTOs, managed RTOs, been a regulator with the Department of Education Services in International and Higher Education Regulation and established RTO Doctor in February 2011.
I’ve always been involved in advocacy issues within the VET sector, probably my first real issue that I advocated heavily for in VET was a long time ago in Victoria with ACPET in relation to the issue of work based training for international students. The issues were two-fold. The first was around the requirement of some skills assessment bodies that required certain qualifications and work based training for successful completion or recognition. This really only impacted international students seeking permanent residency at the time because Australian employees did not (and still do not) have to meet the same criteria to be eligible to work in those industries. The second issue was related to how completing the mandatory work placement in these courses impacted international students and their right to work in Australia while their course was in session. There were many courses at the time which required a certain number of work placement hours for recognition of the qualification for international students (domestic students didn’t need to have their qualification recognised) but the training package didn’t require it so, under the National Code at the time, these work based training hours could not be registered n CRICOS causing conflict with the right of international students to work.
Q2: What motivated you to work in an industry which includes a lot of auditing, compliance and many regulations?
Initially, I was motivated by the work I was doing in my PhD. It was on international student safety and how the General Skilled Migration (GSM) Program victimises international students, also focussing on how their own desire to study in Australia contributed to their future victimisation (not so much focussing on the physical violence being experienced at the time ut how systems were exploiting international students and how they willingly engaged with those exploitative systems knowing the inherent risks). I was concerned that if these international students were coming to Australia to study in a country so far from home and where everything is foreign and unknown to them prior to their arrival, then I could at least contribute to the quality of that experience by ensuring that providers were consistently compliant and met their obligations. I’ve always been interested in victimology and supporting the weak, this was just another example.
One day I realised that I could only ever have a small impact by challenging the system in this manner and that if I was to have a bigger impact, I needed to come at it from a different perspective and so came my time as a regulator. The idea was that if I could show providers how to do the right thing, my impact would be greater. I realised though that there was a far greater impact that could be made by assisting providers to respond to allegations of non-compliant behaviour and that perhaps there were secondary victims of the GSM program – providers themselves. As time has gone by and the regulatory framework has changed, my passion for justice and the law has meant that I quite naturally came to specialise in AAT work, giving hope to providers who have risked everything to leave a legacy for our future generations and who, in this process, have become oppressed with very options for survival.
Q3: In the current environment what do you think are the main threats to training organisations?
I think there are a number of threats to RTOs including a lack of leadership and policy direction, financial viability, the inability to exist and operate as a viable long-term business, a rogue regulator, no real industry association that is truly representative of the private sector, the race to the bottom for survival, the lack of regulation around VET service providers (consultants, accountants, website developers, AVETMISS suppliers – there are more and more establishing themselves all the time, most who do not have the qualifications or experience to provide the services that they do; this is a consistent threat to providers in what has become one of the most poorly and highly regulated sectors in the international economy. Australian politics is also a major threat to not just training organisations but Australia’s education and training industry. Australian politics has for decades just put bandaids on a system that it has never understood and the bandaids just keep falling off. If the government is to truly reform Australia’s VET sector, it needs to have a better understanding of it and engage with experts who do.
Q4: What are your views on how we can improve the vocational education and training sector in Australia?
See the previous question, I could turn this into another book otherwise!
Q5: What is your message to organisations that do not spend money or time on improving their systems, processes and staff?
My views are a bit unconventional really. I think there are 2 categories of providers here. I think many providers do spend time and money on these things but they don’t know what they don’t know and are often misguided and exploited by unethical and/or unqualified or poor quality VET service providers. Some of these providers offer these services willingly and intentionally knowing they don’t meet the mark, others are just too naive (or ego-driven) to step aside when they are out of their depth. What makes it worse is the regulator is incredibly poor at providing any guidance on their expectations; it operates in a context of you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. In this context, it’s impossible to pre-empt what the regulator expects, especially when they are so inconsistent and secondly, despite the many iterations of the legislative framework RTOs operate under, there is still so much grey. This leads me to my second group of providers who, understand that we operate in a legislative framework and sometimes, all you can do is meet the minimum requirements and do what you think. If you have the unfortunate experience of coming face to face with ASQA in its current state, you adjust your systems at that point in time to suit their expectations where it is reasonable. Ultimately, a provider can send themselves into bankruptcy these days trying to pre-empt what ASQA wants and still not get there. Given that they have to make legal decisions based on the legislative framework we all have to operate under, sometimes, it is more time and cost-effective to wait for the legal decision to be made and take action from there. With there being so much subjectivity that prevails in ASQA’s intentions, interpretations, poor quality and approaches to regulation that are not robust, accountable or transparent, it wouldn’t matter how much time or money a provider spent on improving their systems, processes and staff, it would, in today’s regulatory climate, still not be enough.
Q6: What are your views on the comparison between public and private training providers?
I think that if public providers were held to account as much or even close to private providers, there would be no public providers. Having been involved with numerous public providers over the years, I can honestly say that they have far more compliance issues than the majority of private RTOs. I’ve seen some truly horrific accounts of non-compliance in public RTOs that the public would be horrified about but it often gets swept under the carpet. Then there’s those public providers who have connections…
Ultimately, one government body will never shut down another government body – there’s a lot in that if you read between the lines.
Q7: What message would you like to convey to people who plan to work in the VET Sector or are in the industry but do not know where to find help and support?
When people come to me asking for assistance or advice on entering into the VET sector or becoming an RTO, I am ashamed to say that I often ask them ‘Are you mad’? ‘Are you really sure you want to do this’? I actually try to talk them out of it. When you see the horror stories that I have in this industry, the lives that ASQA has ruined, the number of people who have lost everything – their homes, their car, their family, their health, you really start to question the future of this industry and what lies ahead as long as we have the corruption, lack of leadership, transparency, honesty and lack of policy direction that we do. I am fearful for Australia’s VET sector; I’m fearful for the mess that these governments (both Labour and Liberal) have created, neglected and failed. I’m afraid for our future generations and their ability to access the skills that they need to survive in a world that is demanding more and more technical and vocational education. I’m afraid for Australia’s services, suffering immense skills shortages because it’s just too hard to train people to fill those roles or remuneration is not commensurate with what it takes to even graduate one person to fill that gap. As for finding help and support, I have always said ‘Buyer Beware’. There’s a lot of inexperience out there and you don’t know what you don’t know. Don’t be fooled, the mistakes are often life-changing but never in the way you expected.

Annual declaration on compliance

Are you confident that your RTO meets current compliance requirements with RTO standards? Or do you need help?
All Australian Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) are required to submit an annual declaration on compliance with the RTO standards applicable to their organisation on or before 31st March 2018.
The CEO Declaration
The declaration is a legal document and the CEO must be truthful and completely open and transparent in making the declaration. The CEO is making the declaration to ensure that the RTO complies with all requirements of the VET Quality Framework as relevant to the training products on the RTO’s scope. There are a number of penalties under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 that all CEOs should be aware of.
Failure to submit this annual declaration is a breach of conditions of registration as an RTO.
Annual declaration requirements
An annual declaration confirms the CEO has systematically monitored the RTO’s compliance with the Standards and whether any issues identified they have been rectified or otherwise appropriately risk-managed. The declaration must be signed by the RTO’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who is responsible for the RTO’s operations.
The declaration requires the CEO to testify that:
all information about the RTO on training.gov.au is accurate (or, if it is inaccurate, that ASQA has been notified of necessary changes
to the best of the CEO’s knowledge, all owners and high managerial agents meet the Fit and Proper Person Requirements.
Demonstrating compliance includes, but is not limited to, showing how the RTO complies with (if applicable):

  • the NVR Act and the legislative instruments it enables
  • the VET Quality Framework
  • legislation, regulations and standards related to delivery of training to overseas students
  • VET Student Loans legislation and rules
  • workplace health and safety legislation and regulation
  • santi-discrimination legislation and regulations

consumer protection requirements
The CEO needs to ensure that the RTO currently complies with each national standard and if not, what actions are being taken to remedy non-compliance, especially but not limited to, the following compliance areas:
1. Training and assessment strategies
The RTO has a compliant Training and Assessment Strategy (TAS) for each course delivery type (such as online, classroom, workplace, distance, blended) and cohort of student (domestic, International).
2. Industry consultation
The RTO has conducted a ‘range of Industry consultations’ and systematically used the outcome of the Industry engagement to ensure the Industry relevance of the training and assessment strategies, practices and resources and current industry skills of the trainers and assessors.
3. Trainers and assessors
The RTO has sufficient trainers to deliver each training product on the scope. The trainers/assessors have demonstrated their vocational competency and Industry currency at each unit level and meet VET knowledge and currency requirements. The trainer and assessor files contain signed copies of their annually updated resumes, certified qualifications and skills matrixes.
4. Pre-enrolment information
Information, whether disseminated directly by the RTO or on its behalf, is both accurate and factual and provides students with sufficient information to make an informed decision to enrol in the course with your RTO.
5. Validation schedule
The RTO has implemented a plan for ongoing systematic validation of assessment practices and judgements for each training product on the RTO’s scope of registration including;
when assessment validation will occur;
which training products will be the focus of the validation;
who will lead and participate in validation activities;
how the outcomes of these activities will be documented and acted upon.
As per ASQA’s Standards for RTOs 2015, the RTO’s validation plan must ensure that:
All training product on the RTO’s scope of registration undergoes validation at least once every five years.
The RTO must validate at least 50 per cent of the training products in the first three years of the cycle.
You may need to validate certain training products more often where specific risks have been identified, for example, if your RTO’s industry consultation identifies areas of particular risk. ASQA may from time to time determine specific training products that must have particular attention paid to them and this advice is published to www.asqa.gov.au.
You can read more about validation schedule and conducting validation at https://www.caqa.com.au/validation-and-moderation-services.
6. Training and assessment materials
The RTO has sufficient, industry-relevant, compliant resources and materials to train and assess all training products on your RTO’s scope. The training and assessment materials meet the training package requirements and Industry expectations.
7. Language, literacy and numeracy and support requirements
The RTO can demonstrate how it identifies language, literacy, numeracy and learning requirements for each and every student in every course and how the RTO will provide adequate support for them.
8. Transition planning
The RTO has prepared a compliant transition plan to demonstrate that:
the commencement of a new learner in a training product which is no longer current (i.e. the training product has been superseded, removed or deleted from the National Register); and
the time-frame in which an RTO must complete the training, assessment and AQF certification documentation issuance for learners enrolled in a training product which is, or becomes, no longer current.
9. RTO Policies and Procedures, Forms and Manuals, Records management system and Practices
The RTO has compliant policies, procedures, forms, manuals, records management systems for effective retrieval, retention and protection of records, complaints management, regulatory compliance, minimising litigation risks, safeguarding important information, better management decision making, version control and RTO practices to ensure the organisation follow a compliant framework to maintain its registration with the regulatory bodies.
10. AVETMISS compliant database
The RTO has collected and reported ‘Total VET Activity’ data. This includes full Australian Vocational Education and Training Management Information Statistical Standard (AVETMISS) data, in accordance with the National VET Provider Collection Data Requirements Policy.
11. Compliant testamurs, statement of attainment and record of results
The RTO must ensure it is issuing compliant testamurs, statement of attainment and record of results to all eligible students
12. Collection and reporting of Quality Indicators and Total VET activity data
The Data Provision Requirements 2012 requires all registered training organisations (RTOs) registered with ASQA to provide an annual summary report of their performance against the learner engagement and employer satisfaction quality indicators to ASQA. You must also make sure, your organisation has recording and reporting Total VET activity data according to the requirements of NCVER and regulatory bodies. Your RTO is required to meet these data provision requirements as a condition of registration. Regulatory body may impose regulatory penalties if your RTO does not meet these data provision requirements.

We hear loud & clear message from business-VET sector is not meeting your workforce needs-PM Scott

Strong comments regarding the Australian VET system were made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his speech to the Business Council of Australia (BCA).

“We hear loud and clear the message from the business – that our Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector is not meeting your workforce needs.

I’m not going to throw more money into a system that is not working, we are going to fix the system so we can invest better in it.

Informed by the outstanding report delivered by Steven Joyce, Commonwealth and state and territory governments are working constructively, they are working together to develop and implement our reform road-map. And Minister Cash will be meeting with her state and territory counterparts this Friday to advance that agenda.”

We would also like to share the comments of our VET industry leaders on this report: 

“Nothing will change if the money is thrown at the same groups who caused, and continue to cause, the problems that the VET system experiences today.

I am certain that, had they known how to create and maintain a world-leading VET system, the groups with the most sway over our system would have done so by now. The evidence before us shows, however, that either there was no desire to do so, or there was no idea how to.

It is beyond comprehension that anybody, armed with the skills and desire to do so, would deliberately ignore the massive opportunities we have had in the past to once more be at the forefront of global VET. But that our system is amongst the worst suggests that it was not the strength to do so that was – and remains – missing, but the ability. It is incomprehensible, therefore, that they would receive any more taxpayers money to keep us near the bottom.

Sadly, I feel that this is exactly what will happen.”

“ASQA is responsible for the failure of the VET system in Australia”

“How on earth can a small business take on apprentices and trainees with all the complexity involved these days?

Navigating through entitlements, superannuation, the different types of leave, insurance, pay rates, compliance etc could take hours and hours of research and when you are under the pump trying to keep your business afloat, I can imagine it would be a nightmare – and that’s even before you manage your own business affairs – such as BAS, your own records and requirements and getting work in the door.

It’s not a case now of just paying someone a wage and that’s it. All employers have to be HR experts, Superannuation experts, Payroll experts, Insurance experts, Compliance experts. For many people, it’s all just too hard.”

We as an industry representative and stakeholders are seeking answers to the following questions: 

  1. If our VET system is not meeting the needs of the learners or industry then who is it serving? A few Government bureaucrats who keep creating chaos and complete disorder in the industry.

  2. Are there deliberate efforts by these bureaucrats to derail the VET system? What is the background of these bureaucrats working in the vocational education and training sector?

  3. What initiatives are the Government implementing to change the unpredictable, inconsistent and highly toxic culture of our current vocational education and training regulator?

  4. Why has a regulator been allowed to destroy hundreds of Australian businesses by using unqualified and inexperienced auditors?