How ASQA assess the RTO registration renewal

ASQA is responsible for the assessment and registration of RTOs. ASQA must be satisfied that an RTO is meeting the requirements of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs 2015) for its registration to be renewed. ASQA takes a risk-management approach when they evaluate registration renewal applications. They use a structured process to assess applications and ensure they meet all the requirements for continued registration before approving. As part of its regulatory role, ASQA assesses RTO registration renewals to ensure that they continue to meet the RTO Standards. This includes a review of an RTO’s:

compliance history – An RTO’s compliance history is one factor that ASQA considers when assessing an application for renewal of registration. ASQA also considers the RTO’s current compliance status and any changes to the RTO’s operations since its last registration renewal. ASQA will consider any non-compliance issues that have been raised against the RTO, as well as the steps the RTO has taken to address these issues.

current operations and resources – your RTO’s policies and procedures, training and assessment materials, practices and resources, a schedule of training delivery for each course, trainers and assessors credentials, industry engagement and consultation, training and assessment strategies, RPL kits, LLN kits, student support and welfare, validation, transitioning from superseded to current training product, the results of recent audits, governance and administration processes and practices and marketing material are few of the things those can be considered for compliance purposes. ASQA also assesses the RTO’s financial viability and its capability to deliver high-quality training. The assessment process takes into account the RTO’s resources, including its staff, teaching and assessment practices, and facilities.

plans for future development – Future development plans refer to how a training organisation is preparing for its next steps, including but not limited to expanding into new markets or learner cohorts such as offshore markets, applying for CRICOS or funding contracts, and so forth.

To ensure you meet the requirements for renewal, you should review the following, but not limited to:

  • The Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015
  • The National VET Regulator’s guidance material
  • Your RTO’s scope of registration
  • Any changes that have occurred since your RTO registered
  • Compliant training and assessment resources
  • Industry engagement and consultation
  • Validation plan, processes and evidence
  • Marketing and advertising materials
  • Training and assessment strategies and practices (The quality of the training and assessment delivered by the RTO)
  • Student support and welfare
  • Quality management system (QMS) and risk management processes
  • Student and staff records
  • Policies and procedures manual
  • Transitioning practices and documentation
  • The competence of trainers and assessors employed by the RTO
  • The resources and facilities available to the RTO
  • The student engagement and satisfaction levels with the RTO’s courses and services
  • Any complaints or breaches of ASQA’s standards by the RTO

ASQA conducts regular audits of registered training organisations (RTOs) to ensure they are meeting the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (SRTOs). These audits can be either announced or unannounced, and can cover any or all of the aspects mentioned above.

If an RTO does not meet all the requirements, ASQA may take enforcement action. However, ASQA recognise that some RTOs may have made mistakes in the past but have since taken steps to improve their operations. In these cases, they may consider granting a conditional approval to allow the RTO time to continue meeting all the requirements. ASQA’s risk-management approach ensures that all registered RTOs are continuing to meet the high standards they expect. If ASQA is not satisfied that an RTO meets the requirements of the Standards, the RTO’s registration may not be renewed.

It is therefore important for RTOs to maintain high levels of compliance at all times, and to rectify any issues that are identified during an audit. This helps ensure that students receive quality training and assessment that meets the required standards.

For more information, please refer to asqa.gov.au/rto/renew-rto-registration

The use of third parties in delivering and assessing training in Australia under ASQA

Since its establishment in 2011, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has been responsible for regulating the quality of vocational education and training (VET) in Australia. ASQA is an independent statutory authority, governed by a board appointed by the Minister for Education and Training.

One of ASQA’s key functions is to accredit training providers and courses. This means that ASQA has the responsibility for ensuring that all training providers offering nationally recognised qualifications are assessed against a set of quality standards. To do this, ASQA uses a range of mechanisms, including on-site audits and reviews of provider practices and documentation.

When assessing whether a particular provider meets the required standards, ASQA may also take into account the use of third parties. A third party can be an organisation or individual that is not associated with the training provider but provides services to it, such as student support, assessment or delivery of training.

There are a number of benefits to using third parties in training provision. First, it can help to improve the quality and consistency of training provision. This is because the third party will be independently assessed against a set of quality standards, and must meet these standards in order to provide services to the training provider.

Second, using a third party can help to reduce costs for the training provider. This is because the third party may have already met the required standards, and therefore does not need to be assessed by ASQA.

Third, using a third party can help to improve the flexibility of training provision. This is because the third party may be able to provide services to a range of training providers, across different locations and sectors.

Finally, using a third party can help to improve the accountability of the training provider. This is because the third party will be held responsible for meeting the required standards, and any failings will be attributed to it rather than the training provider.

While there are many benefits to using third parties in training provision, there are also some potential risks. First, using a third party can lead to a loss of control over the quality of training provision. This is because the third party may not meet the required standards, or may not be aligned with the values and objectives of the training provider.

Second, using a third party can lead to a loss of access to important resources. This is because the third party may not share the same resources as the training provider, such as staff, facilities or equipment.

Third, using a third party can lead to a loss of knowledge and expertise. This is because the third party may not have the same level of experience or expertise as the training provider.

Finally, using a third party can lead to a loss of independence. This is because the third party may be reliant on the training provider for business, and may be less likely to criticise it or provide negative feedback.

An RTO may use a third party to deliver a VET course only if it has an agreement with the third party (refer to Sections 116 and 117 of the NVR Act). The agreement must:

  • the names of the RTO and the third party
  • the start and end date of the agreement
  • clauses detailing both parties’ obligations, roles and responsibilities of the RTO and the third party for example, under the agreement, making clear that:
    • any training and/or assessment is provided in the name of the RTO, not the third party
    • the third party cannot advertise any VET courses in its own name
    • students are enrolled as students of the RTO, not the third party
    • qualifications and/or statements of attainment are issued in the name of the RTO, not the third party
  • clauses detailing the obligations of the third party (that is, setting out which party will provide training and assessment materials, resources and facilities)
  • the mechanisms through which the RTO will systematically monitor the third party (for example, if the third party is providing the training and assessment materials, resources and facilities), set out:
    • how these will be reviewed prior to use across all delivery sites
    • how the RTO will ensure that trainers and/or assessors provided by the third party meet the requirements of the Standards for RTOs
  • record-keeping procedures for enrolment information and completed assessments
  • details of which party will validate completed student assessments
  • any obligations (of the RTO or third party) relating to government subsidies or other financial support
  • clauses requiring the third party to cooperate with ASQA and provide accurate responses to requests about delivery of services.

An RTO may use a third party to assess a VET course only if it has an agreement with the third party. The agreement must include arrangements for quality assurance, including regular monitoring by the RTO. The third party must also comply with ASQA’s requirements.

ASQA regularly monitors RTOs and their use of third parties to ensure that they are meeting the required standards. If an RTO is not meeting these standards, ASQA can take action, including suspending or cancelling the RTO’s registration.

For more information, please refer to Third party arrangements | Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)

Marketing practices and regulatory requirements under ASQA

ASQA is the regulatory body for quality assurance in Australian vocational education and training (VET). ASQA is responsible for ensuring that all VET providers meet national quality standards. This includes marketing practices and regulatory requirements.

Marketing is an important part of any business, and VET providers are no exception. ASQA requires that all marketing materials be accurate and truthful, and not misleading or deceptive. Providers must also ensure that their marketing activities comply with all relevant laws and regulations.

For example, advertising must not contain false or misleading information about a course, the provider, or the student experience. Promotional activities such as competitions or scholarships must be conducted fairly and in accordance with the law. And pricing information must be accurate and up-to-date.

The marketing practices by an RTO may include:

  • Advertising their courses and services
  • Promoting their qualifications and skills
  • Engaging in social media marketing
  • Offering scholarships or discounts

However, RTOs must also be mindful of ASQA’s regulatory requirements when implementing these marketing practices. Some of these requirements include:

  • Not making false or misleading statements about their courses or services
  • Not exaggerating the benefits of their qualifications or skills
  • Refraining from discriminatory marketing practices
  • Abiding by the Australian Consumer Law when promoting their courses and services

ASQA can take compliance action against RTOs that do not meet these requirements. This may include issuing a warning, suspending or cancelling their registration, or imposing financial penalties.

ASQA takes compliance with marketing requirements seriously, and providers who don’t meet these standards can face sanctions, including fines or even the cancellation of their registration. So it’s important to ensure that your marketing practices are up to scratch.

How to ensure your training organisation is compliant with government regulations

If you’re running a vocational education and training organisation in Australia, you need to ensure that your organisation is compliant with government regulations. This article will outline some of the regulations that you need to be aware of, and provide tips on how to ensure compliance.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is the national regulatory body for vocational education and training (VET) in Australia. They work according to set regulatory standards for quality education and training and their role is to ensure training organisations meet these standards. ASQA is the regulatory body for vocational education and training in the following states and territories:

  • Australian Capital Territory
  • New South Wales
  • Northern Territory
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania

These jurisdictions are referred to as referring states and territories since they delegated their regulatory authority to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) in 2011-12. Victoria and Western Australia are referred to as non-referring states because they have not yet delegated their regulatory authority to the federal government. ASQA is also in charge of regulating all Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) that provide courses to international students studying in Australia on student visas, regardless of where the RTO is based.

ASQA is responsible for regulating the quality of vocational education and training. ASQA audits training organisations to ensure they are complying with the VET Quality Framework and can take enforcement action if they find any non-compliance.

It governs RTOs in accordance with the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 and approved courses in accordance with the Standards for VET Accredited Courses 2012.

For more information, please visit About us | Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)

Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA)

In Victoria, the Victorian Registration & Qualifications Authority (VRQA) is the regulatory body for vocational education and training (VET), and it is in charge of the following:

  • Training organisations that only provide training to domestic students in victoria.
  • Accrediting courses, but only if the course is operated by the Victorian government or if the course owner is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) that has been registered with VRQA.

VRQA regulates RTOs in accordance with The Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) – Essential Conditions and Standards for Continuing Registration and the VRQA Guidelines for VET Providers, and it regulates courses in accordance with The Australian Quality Training Framework AQTF 2007 Standards for Accredited Courses.

For more information, please visit VRQA

Training Accreditation Council – Western Australia

In Western Australia, the Training Accreditation Council (TAC) is the regulatory body for vocational education and training (VET), and it is in charge of the following:

  • Training organisations that only provide training to domestic students in Western Australia.
  • Accrediting courses, but only if the course is operated by the Western Australian government or if the course owner is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) that has been registered with TAC.

TAC regulates RTOs in accordance with Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015, and it regulates courses in accordance with The Australian Quality Training Framework AQTF 2007 Standards for Accredited Courses.

For more information, please visit Training Accreditation Council

Non-compliance with the regulatory standards and guidelines

If your organisation is non- compliant with the applicable standards and regulations, you could face penalties, such as fines or being shut down. Here are some important tips on how to stay compliant:

1. Make sure you’re registered with the appropriate regulatory body

The first step is to make sure your organisation is registered with the appropriate regulatory body. This means your organisation has met the minimum standards required to be registered and can offer courses that are nationally recognised.

If you’re not registered, you won’t be able to offer any nationally recognised courses and you will also face penalties if you are caught doing this.

2. Follow the General Directions, fact sheets, guides and tools

The regulatory bodies release a set of guidelines that organisations must follow in order to stay compliant. The General Directions, fact sheets, guides and tools cover everything from governance and management to teaching and assessment practices.

Make sure you’re familiar with the General Directions, fact sheets, guides and tools and are following their instructions and guidelines closely. This will help ensure your organisation meets the standards set by the regulatory bodies.

For more information, please visit Resources for providers | Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)

3. Keep your records up to date

One of the most important things you can do to stay compliant is to keep your records up to date. This includes keeping track of your student’s progress, as well as your organisation’s administration, reporting, finances and governance.

The regulatory body may request to see your records at any time, so it’s important that they’re accurate and up to date. Failing to provide requested records or providing inaccurate records can lead to penalties.

4. Meet all quality assurance requirements

To make sure your organisation is delivering quality education and training, you need to meet all quality assurance requirements. This includes having systems in place to monitor and improve the quality of your courses.

You should also conduct regular reviews of your courses and make sure they’re being delivered effectively. If the regulatory body finds that your organisation isn’t meeting quality assurance requirements, you could face penalties or adverse consequences.

You must have structured audit and compliance processes in place to ensure you stay compliant with all regulatory requirements and guidelines. Having access to an independent auditor is always beneficial from a compliance perspective.

For more information, please visit Registered Training Organisation | TEQSA Standard Resources | CAQA

5. Respond to the audits

The regulatory body may audit your organisation at any time to make sure your orgnisation is compliant with all applicable guidelines and regulations. During an audit, they’ll request to see your records and talk to your staff. They may also observe your training and assessment practices and resources.

It’s important to cooperate with the regulatory body during an audit and provide them with everything they need. Failing to do so could lead to penalties.

For quality training and assessment resources, please visit CAQA Resources

6. Compliance calendars and registers

Keep compliance calendars and registers that provide you information related to:

  • When to conduct training and administration activities
  • Meeting ongoing auditing and regulatory compliance
  • Information related to meetings with different team members and departments such as enrollment, marketing, training and so on.

7. Understand the quality framework that you operate under

Familiarise yourself with the VET Quality Framework and other applicable standards and guidelines to make sure your organisation meets all the standards.

Note: Your RTO must comply with all legislation and regulations it operates under such as (but not limited to):

  • The Work Health and Safety act
  • The Discrimination Act
  • The Equal Opportunity Act 2010
  • The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001
  • The Working with Children Act 2005
  • National Police Check
  • The Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014
  • The Student Identifiers Act 2014
  • The Copyright Act 1968
  • The Public Records Act 1973

For more information, please visit Complying with legislation | Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)

8. Focus on personal and professional development

Focussing on personal and professional development is key to keeping your organisation compliant. Employees need to be able to constantly update their skillset, and be confident in their ability to carry out their roles. Training is a vital part of this process and should be tailored specifically to your workforce.

9. Follow what you say you are doing or going to do

Once you have a good understanding of the National Standards, you need to develop policies and procedures that ensure your organisation meets these standards. Your policies and procedures should be tailored to your specific organisation and should be reviewed and updated regularly. It is also important to keep up to date with any changes to the legislation. ASQA’s website is a great resource for information on any changes to the National Standards. By staying informed of any changes, you can ensure that your policies and procedures are always up to date and compliant.

10. Communicate the requirements to all staff members

It is critical that all staff members are aware of the requirements set by the government. This includes understanding what is required of them in terms of their behaviour and responsibilities.
If staff members are not adequately informed about the requirements, it can lead to your organisation being non-compliant. This can have serious consequences, such as heavy fines or even the loss of your licence to operate.

Communicate the requirements to all staff members on a regular basis and make sure that new staff members are given this information as soon as they start working for your organisation.
Following these strategies will help to ensure that your training organisation is compliant.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) details of the proposed fees and charges that will apply under the full cost recovery model

In a recent announcement, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) detailed the proposed fees and charges that will apply under the full cost-recovery model, which will take effect on July 1 2022.

Although the full cost recovery of fees and charges was originally planned for 2020-21, it was postponed as a result of the COVID pandemic.

In a draft Cost Recovery Implementation Statement (CRIS), the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) outlines how fees and charges have been computed and how they will be imposed.

Registration, renewal, and change-of-registration fees for 2022-23 will be mostly at, or below, the amounts recommended in the 2019 consultation, according to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).

Course accreditation fees will remain at the same level as those suggested for 2019.

The decision was made not to proceed with the proposed introduction of an ARC for course accreditation in 2019.

For more information, please visit here.

ASQA’s Regulatory Risk Priorities for 2021-22

The Regulatory Risk Priorities for 2021-22, has been published by ASQA. It outlines the regulatory risk priorities for the coming year. These priorities are revised on a regular basis to ensure that they remain current with concerns facing the industry.

ASQA expressed their gratitude to all of the providers and partners who took part in their research to determine which regions of Australia’s VET and ELICOS sectors were most at risk.

When determining the most significant risks to accomplishing ASQA’s purpose, which is to assure high-quality vocational education and training (VET) and the integrity of national credentials granted by training providers, the agency adopted a risk-based methodology.

The regulatory risks include:

Self-assurance

Providers that effectively self-assured their practices have systems and processes in place to critically examine their performance and student outcomes on an ongoing basis.

This year we are focusing on co-designing and implementing regulatory approaches that focus on self-assurance, excellence in training outcomes, and continuous improvement.

International student delivery (including offshore delivery)

Competition between international education providers for onshore international enrolments has grown during a time of international border closures.

This year we are focusing on ensuring that students continue to receive quality outcomes despite the increased pressures on VET and ELICOS providers.

Online learning

Our ongoing strategic review of online learning seeks to better understand the opportunities and risks associated with online learning across the VET and English language sectors.

This year we are focusing on ensuring that the quality of VET remains at a high standard and continue to support confidence in the integrity of qualifications.

Aged care/disability support sector

The Australian Government has provided funding for aged care providers to develop training and skills plans as well as additional training places for new and existing personal care workers, including through the JobTrainer stimulus package.

This year we are focusing on assessing and addressing poor practices and while reinforcing good practice in relation to CHC33015 Certificate III in Individual Support work placements and assessment delivery in order to safeguard quality for the aged care/disability support sector.

Trainer and assessor capability

We are continuing to provide resources and tools to support trainers and assessors in our educational Spotlight On series.

This year we are focusing on ensuring high levels of trainer and assessor capability because we recognise that it is central to delivering quality outcomes for students.

Specified training products with risk exposure

Changing economic circumstances and employer expectations, as well as changes within the VET sector, mean that the risks relating to individual training products are not static.

Through our research we have identified that the following training products warrant closer scrutiny in the year ahead:

  • CHC33015 Certificate III in Individual Support;
  • Certificate III and Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery;
  • CHC50113 Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care; and
  • BSB50420 Diploma of Leadership and Management.

This year we are focusing regulatory effort on these training products in order to reduce the incidence of non-compliance over time.

COVID-19 response

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic uncertainty have accelerated many pre-existing economic, social and technological trends. This influences the demand for skills and training delivery, as well as the risks to the quality of Australian VET.

This year we are continuing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through our interactions with providers, applying a proportionate and risk-based regulatory approach.

VET in schools

We are committed to ensuring the quality of VET delivered to students in secondary schools.

This year we are focusing on implementing actions from our strategic review of VET in schools; including engaging with stakeholders on shared risk; and enhancing information and guidance for providers about their obligations. We will be supporting providers to continuously improve through our ongoing monitoring.

Monitor areas of increased funding

Our research shows that government funding injections and employment growth sectors can present a risk to the delivery of quality training, typically as a result of an increase in demand for training, and providers’ response to this increased demand.

This year we are continuing to focus on identifying and reinforcing good provider behaviours and preventing poor behaviours from emerging in relation to areas of increased funding.

We will also be contributing to wider government policies on training package reform as they are central to ensuring a fit-for-purpose system that delivers in-demand skills for a prosperous future.

Targeting risk of non-compliance with specified clauses of Standards

This year we are concentrating regulatory effort on clauses of recurrent interest or those which are reportedly problematic for providers from the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015.

These clauses include: 1.1, 1.8, 1.3, 1.2, 3.1, 1.7.

You can read more information at www.asqa.gov.au/asqas-regulatory-risk-priorities-2021-22

ASQA Annual Report 2020-21 now available

The Australian Skills and Quality Authority’s Annual Report for the 2020–21 financial year has been tabled in the Australian Parliament. A record of ASQA’s activities and performance for the preceding financial year is contained inside this report, which is available online.

The Australian Government continues to provide nationally consistent, risk-based regulation of vocational education and training (VET) in 2020–21, with the goal of contributing to an informed, high-quality VET sector that serves the needs of the country.

ASQA mentioned that they would like to maintain their regulatory focus despite working through a comprehensive agency reform program, undergoing an audit by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key highlights and comparison to the previous year

  1. ASQA established a new regulatory operating model:
    • Implemented 8 Rapid Review recommendations and commenced work on a further 13
    • Implemented key changes to performance assessment (audit) methodology
    • Established separate teams responsible for performance assessment, and managing findings of non-compliance
    • Introduced agreements to rectify
    • Established internal review team
    • Introduced new internal quality assurance activities
    • Improved data and intelligence reports
  2. Completed 937 audits (54% of completed audits identified non-compliance) and accredited 112 courses
  3. ASQA issued 45 sanctions to suspend a provider’s registration. 5 Sanctions to amend scope of registration and 16 sanctions to cancel the registration in full.
  4. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal affirmed almost 80% of the matters that proceeded to a hearing and a decision.
  5. The Commonwealth Director of Public Proceducations (CDPP) on behalf of ASQA undertook three (3) criminal prosecutions.
  6. Managed a 52% increase in provider registration applications, 238 new provider registrations, 213 registration renewals (with a 13% rejection rate) and 6136 applications for change in scope of registration.
  7. ASQA conducted 23 targeted audits of training providers delivering and assessing the Training and Education Training Package or AVI50419. Of these, 19 have been closed and completed and 8 were found compliant at audit, 11 have been identified as non-compliant, of these, 3 were found compliant after rectification and 6 were found non-compliant at the time of assessment and were not offered rectification and 2 were found non-compliant after rectification.
  8. ASQA received 881 complaints, 610 reports related to non-compliance with the majority 54% in the category ‘training, assessment or study support’ and the main source was students with 42%.
  9. Initial applications for registrations increased to 57% from 54% (2019-2020 period) and 36% (2018-2019 period).

You can read more at www.asqa.gov.au/

Interview with David Jepsen, Founder and Principal of RTO Accountants

With over 25 years’ experience as a practicing CA, David is the Founder and Principal of RTO Accountants. David started his career at KPMG, moving onto mid tier accounting firms and commercial roles with Citigroup, Zurich, CBA and others in Sydney and London before setting up an accounting practice in 2001. Offering commercial and practical advice, David believes the foundation for business success is built upon strong, trusted and lasting client partnerships.

David is commercially minded and works collaboratively with clients to develop strategies and solutions for complex business challenges. Having worked in accounting firms as well as public and private businesses, David has a breadth of experience in accounting, taxation, business advisory, financial control/CFO roles, ensuring his clients receive top-level, expert advice.

Specialising in the VET/CRICOS/ELICOS sector since 2016, he has extensive experience working with RTO’s. Specific areas of experience include sales due diligence work, tax advice on sales and other, business group structuring, board reporting, financial viability risk assessment requirements (FVRAR) and business advice.

David loves his sport and played rugby for many years, he still follows the game at all levels from club to international closely. He now enjoys getting outdoors all year round to train and compete in kayak races.


Sukh Sandhu: How long have you been assisting RTOs with financial viability risk assessments, and what has your overall experience been like in this field?

David Jepsen: We have been working with RTO’s since 2014 and financial viabilities from 2018, which was just prior to the introduction of the version of the FVRA Tool we still work with now. The FVRA Requirements were very basic and the introduction of the new requirements in 2018, was like moving from 2 to 9 out of 10 in terms of financial reporting complexity. The sector was not accustomed to this level of financial reporting; I still see issues with that, though I think the sector is getting accustomed to this and the need for this.

The FVRAR and its Tool are complex; as qualified accountants it took us many hours and late nights to get our heads around it and learn its nuances, this is a process for us that never stops.

Sukh Sandhu: What are the five most common mistakes people make when completing the financial viability risk assessment packs, and how can they be avoided?

David Jepsen: I will start with saying we have an initial meeting with clients prior to them starting work on financials and we prepare the Tool for our clients to avoid these mistakes. The client owns and knows the RTO and its plan, though we address and guide our clients on our area of specialisation early to make the process effective and simple for the client.

1. Business Plan or other information available to ASQA contradicts the FVRA Tool.

Solution (S): Get your signing accountant to review the business plan and directors be mindful to understand if changes in the forecast affect other documents.

2. Over emphasis on the bank balance to prove viability.

Solution (S): Provide a financial guarantee and evidence of available liquid assets to fund the RTO; proving the RTO has access to funds. Funds can easily and quickly be deposited or withdrawn from an account.

3. Over optimistic forecasting; higher revenues and lower costs to make the RTO more profitable.

Solution (S): be realistic, even conservative and consider all costs and choose a mid range of student numbers and not the best scenario. Business start ups are rarely profitable and take time to grow and make a profit; accountants and auditors are aware of this.

4. Incorrect and incomplete Tools; the various sheets do not reconcile and/or are not completed correctly; leads to a Tool with a red light and automatic rejection.

Solution (S): We only see these issues when the tool is done by the director’s or another advisor and RTO Accountants are brought into review. Working with an accounting firm experienced with the Tool is the solution, alternatively spend a lot of time and hopefully get it correct.

There is a lot to consider including future, actual, historical financial and operational information that reconciles. Forecasting the balance sheet and cash flow in software and not excel. Accurate financial reporting of this complexity is difficult even for qualified accountants using specialised forecasting software.

5. Forecasting Accuracy

Solution (S): It is a forecast of the future, no matter what you do it will not be 100% correct; consider all the information currently available to you and find a comfortable balance in the level of detail, we can guide you.

Sukh Sandhu: We understand that you also assist organisations with the selling and purchase of RTOs; could you perhaps elaborate a little more for our subscribers?

David Jepsen: For sellers we can help to clarify or prove the value of your RTO via forecasting and a valuation of the RTO. We can provide a report on this that improves the sale process for you; attracting more buyers and a higher price as you are able to articulate the RTO value via this document and discussions. The report can be presented to brokers and potential buyers.

For buyers it is usually Due Diligence (DD) work on the RTO you are considering acquiring. The potential scope of Due Diligence work is very broad as its ultimate objective is to ensure the RTO financial position is as the seller’s state in their financials; the process is like a financial audit. We want to check that you are buying the RTO you think you are. The scope of work is discussed and decided with the client and can change through the process. Many buyers don’t undertake DD as it is a cost that may be large compared to the purchase price; the potential consequences and costs of not undertaking DD when you purchase a RTO can be much larger than the purchase value as the buyer inherits the past of the RTO including any compliance, legal and financial issues, and risks. Our DD findings have saved clients millions. There are many examples including:

  • A $200k RTO purchase we discovered that the RTO had not paid tax or GST for years and the new owners would be responsible for the $150k; the buyers purchase cost is doubled once penalties are included
  • In another DD the RTO was accounting for training revenue on a cash basis prior to training delivery and therefore it looked more profitable than it was. Once discovered the sale price was renegotiated from $1m to $750k; $250k savings.

DD work prior to the purchase is more effective than resolving via enforcement of the share sale contract post sale. Enforcement of the share agreement is difficult and includes directors time, court costs and an unknown outcome. Our due diligence work is focussed on the financials, and we work with other specialists on the DD. Engaging RTO specialist lawyers and consultants should be considered.

DD can also be done for sellers, though is less common. It is more likely to happen if the seller is relying on the new owner’s performance; for example, if the sale includes an ‘earn out’ whereby the sale proceeds will depend on the performance post change of ownership, you want to ensure the buyer will keep the RTO profitable.

Sukh Sandhu: What are the most significant financial risks that training organisations face in today’s environment?

David Jepsen: It depends on the RTO of course, though broadly speaking COVID still looms large for me as a risk to business and the economy for some time, I hope we have seen the worst of it. The last 18 months turned out better than many RTO’s envisaged as they cut costs, received Government support for their business and education became an economic priority and recovery plan that has led to funding of training. I know many colleges have not been so lucky, especially those exposed to international students.

General Government support of the economy, such as Jobkeeper, Jobsaver and disaster payments will be withdrawn and that may also pose risks to the economy and perhaps then student expenditure on courses.

From history we know that funding of training can be withdrawn quickly and that is a risk that directors should remain aware of and have plans in place for.

The regulator has been subdued in its compliance actions since January 2020 and I think that may change as they start to conduct monitoring reviews on inactive or suspected non-compliant RTO’s.

Management and understanding of the RTO operations and financial position, to ensure that you are making a profit and are cash flow positive in the medium to long term. There can be a race to the bottom in reducing student fees against competitors and you need to ensure the fees you are charging will cover your operations and provide the owners with a return on their investment.

Sukh Sandhu: When it comes to working with the national regulatory authority, how has your experience been?

David Jepsen: I have had meetings with the regulator on the FVRAR; that took a little time to organise though they were productive meetings.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) attendance to defend a client’s financial viability against the regulators legal team and forensic accountants. The outcome for the client was favourable, though being questioned by a legal team is never too much fun, though it was challenging and satisfying to explain the financials in that environment.

Recently the regulator seems more communicative and proactive regarding its role and how they will undertake that role, hopefully we will see this in its actions going forward.

Sukh Sandhu: Are there any suggestions you would like to offer to people who are interested in getting into the RTO industry?

David Jepsen: It is a regulated sector as education is a matter of public interest and therefore there will be scrutiny on your affairs and how you intend to operate your business and maintain financial viability. This level of scrutiny will mean setup takes more time and costs more. Most sectors do not have this scrutiny; though writing a business plan and a financial forecast would help all start-up businesses and deter those not ready for the responsibilities of running a business.

Buyers of an RTO business need to get to know the sector and do your due diligence. Training is a happy and positive sector, the conferences are enjoyable, the people involved care about their students/clients.

As the accountant I have to say businesses have a responsibility to society, their clients, staff, suppliers, and other counterparts. For all the efforts and stress please ensure you make a decent return out of it. Understand your financials, risks and what you are making from the business, get regular reporting not just once a year.


For those who wish to connect with or follow David Jepsen, you can do so via his Linkedin, here – www.linkedin.com/in/david-jepsen

Interview with Peter Doukas – Managing Director, Denison Toyer Education Lawyers

Peter owns and operates Sydney based education law firm Denison Toyer.

Working in the field of Education Law and Corporate Governance since 2007 Peter has acted for over one hundred Registered Training Organisations and Higher Education Providers in various stages of the education management cycle. He routinely acts for colleges in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and provides extensive advice to RTO Management, Higher Education providers, Educational Conglomerates and Universities. His professional practice also includes providing legal and governance advice to listed and unlisted company boards. He has acted in some of the largest cases involving ASQA in the AAT.

Peter is also active in the multicultural space and acts as a volunteer director on various boards. He is the current chair of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW. He also works providing pro-bono legal assistance to new and emerging communities, particularly in the establishment of associations and governance structures within NSW.

Peter was awarded Honour of Member of the Order of Australia for services to Multiculturalism on Australia Day 2020.


Here is a copy of Peter Doukas’s interview with Sukh Sandhu:

Thank you, Sukh for the opportunity to be part of the publication. I think it is exceptional that you have maintained the publication throughout the COVID period and it is in my view has never been a more critical time in the history of VET to properly liaise with the sector in all its shapes and sizes and the publication does this.

What are the top five genuine reasons for a regulatory body to take strict action against a training provider?

This is an interesting question. The word ‘genuine’ is something that has troubled representatives in the profession and around the sector for the last 10 years. What constitutes a genuine problem or a genuine reason for a regulatory body (any regulatory body) to take strict action against the Training Provider. The unique example of VET is one which we should bear in mind moving forward as it is the current question before us. In my view, strict action including sanctions should be the last resort. By sanction I mean the sanction of either cancellation, suspension or any other form of sanction which directly affects the ability of the organisation to trade. In my view, there are a number of items where such strict action should be taken. These include but are not limited to:

  • Criminal conduct by the Provider
  • Conduct that is not criminal but unlawful such as breaching the provisions of the NVR Act. If it is proven however to a criminal standard.
  • The use of the VET framework to further commercial interests. It has occurred routinely that I have seen individuals (either Providers and non Providers) use the mere fact of the highly regulated VET environment to further their commercial interests when pursuing them against an RTO.
  • When there are examples of mistreatment of students. This is an extension to the student centred approach that ASQA has taken in the recent past in which in my view students and their experience while studying in our VET Sector should be prioritised above all else.

When should RTO representatives seek the advice of a legal professional?

The question of when a RTO representative should engage a legal professional has plagued me for some time. I have too often been brought into cases that have been run or attempted to be run by Providers without the involvement of a lawyer. This ends up costing Providers exponentially more and in some cases the problems are too large to fix before a sanction either takes effect or can possibly be unwound. In my view is prudent for an RTO to permanently retain (this does not need to be on a financial basis) a lawyer or law firm for the sole purpose of providing legal advice. If you have a lawyer ‘on the books’ it would make the function of dealing with sanctions or any inquiries from the regulator more easy. We must remember, the VET Sector is a highly regulated environment and a VET Provider particularly a CRICOS Provider operates in the framework of multiple interlocking contracts, agreements and regulatory requirements. The idea that RTOs could go along without having legal advice outside of leasing and other contracts on an Ad-hoc basis is not realistic. For larger Providers I strongly recommend the establishment of a Board of Directors of which a retained lawyer and compliance expert sit as advisors to this Board (not necessarily Directors) but provide routine advice on compliance and on structures of the business of VET delivery.

This question is an extension to the previous question, in what ways can a legal practitioner, such as yourself, assist an RTO who is experiencing a legal problem with the regulatory body?

To answer the question about how a lawyer can address the problem facing a regulatory body or facing a registered training organisation is not as appropriate in my view as to when to involve that person. We in this Sector operate in a very unique regulatory framework. ASQA as a regulator has to face Providers which for the most part try to do the right thing but often find themselves on the wrong side of regulation or audits. I have seen on many occasions legal practitioners in some cases from very large firms find themselves completely out of their depth with regards to the implementation of the NVR Act and audit reports as part of regulatory functions. I have noticed the impact of regulatory decisions that have been taken by the regulator not being properly addressed either due to fellow practitioners not fully understanding the way the NVR Act works nor the way that AAT matters should be run. AAT litigation in the RTO space is unique and is very rarely dealt with by legal practitioners operating outside of the RTO space. There are a number of lawyers in Australia who have experience in these matters and I would encourage RTO owners to seek out lawyers who actually have acted in the AAT and ideally brought a matter to final hearing. It is not enough to simply ask a lawyer when shopping around ‘have you taken an RTO to the AAT?’. The real questions that need to be asked is whether:

  • The lawyer has taken a matter to final hearing
  • They have run a contested stay application; and
  • They have conciliated an outcome to the benefit of the RTO.

As you would have noticed, there was a time when RTOs were being cancelled left, right, and centre for trivial reasons that had no or little influence on students. Do you still witness the same pattern, or have the processes been improved?

I think the Regulator’s processes have improved dramatically in the last 18 months. In my view, the Regulator has made a genuine attempt to engage with the Sector and have as an outcome a collaborative and collegiate system of compliance and regulation. Also, it must be said that there were quite a few more RTOs at the beginning of 2018 than there are today. This can partly be due to the cancellation of many in between 2018 and 2019 and also of course a result of the impacts of COVID-19. In 2018 and for most of 2019 I remember running at least one stay hearing each week. This was a time when RTOs were being shut or sanctioned as a result of audit reports that didn’t really hit the mark. There are a number of factors I believe that have changed this. Some of which include some significant wins for RTOs and in final hearing before the AAT,other factors involve the change in perspective from ASQA to a more collaborative model of compliance. I think it can be said generally that the RTO space we are going into in 2022 is fundamentally different from the RTO space that we had in 2019. I am excited at how the Sector will look because I think that we now have a Regulator who can see the value of a competitive, compliant but confident VET Sector that isn’t always looking over its shoulder.

What are the primary reasons for the departure of so many people from the vocational education and training industry?

The departure of people from the Vocational Industry I believe will be reflected as one of the most dramatic and problematic events in Australian commercial history. I have a colleague who is looking to conduct a PhD in Vocational Education and is unable to find a supervisor. It is the case that people have left the VET Sector and found opportunities elsewhere for many reasons, but central is the lack of focus that has been placed at the sector at a policy level. RTO owners shutting or selling their RTO’s tell me that they have lost faith or lost confidence in the Sector. I have worked tirelessly to try to convince people to remain within the Sector and either keep their colleges open or at least keep themselves in the space in some way. I believe that we are about to embark on a significant period of growth in VET and we need as many experienced operators as possible. This is due in part to the combination of a skills shortage in Australia and the gradual opening of our borders to international students.

Any legal advice you’d want to share with people who are interested in entering into the RTO industry or who are currently operating in the industry would be greatly appreciated.

My view is that VET is about to take off. Unfortunately, I am looking to the government to support the Sector and support the entrance of people into the Sector. When I say government, I do not mean the Regulator but education policymakers in Canberra. We need to remember that international education is either our second or third largest export market depending on the context. Could you imagine what would occur if mining in Australia had experienced the nearly 30 per cent decline in people working in the Industry? This is VET since 2019. I believe government should look both into the push and pull factors affecting how people engage with the Sector. They have certainly addressed the push factors by the reforms of the Regulator and I think that now finally ASQA has the framework of a forward-thinking and flexible Regulator in a competitive international market which can finally be compared to Regulators in other Anglosphere jurisdictions such as Canada, New Zealand or the United Kingdom.

As to the pull factors, I believe that we really need to focus on trainers and RTO owners. These are the people who dedicate huge chunks of their life to the training of VET Students and it is these people who need our support and credit in what I hope will be a re-emergence of our VET Sector.


For those who wish to connect with or follow Peter Doukas, you can do so via his Linkedin, here – www.linkedin.com/in/peter-doukas/

ASQA publishes scoping study on VET in schools

The scoping study on vocational education and training delivered to secondary school students was issued by the national regulating agency in order to protect the quality of VET delivery.

It is ASQA’s role as national regulator for VET to work in partnership with training providers to guarantee compliance with the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015.

In response to the findings of the study, ASQA has stated that they have committed to the following activities to assist the continuous improvement of vocational education and training (VET) in the schools:

  1. provide clearer guidance to assist compliance
  2. work with other VET regulators to identify risks
  3. engage more directly with education departments and schools
  4. engage with states and territories on shared risk, promotion of continuous improvement
  5. apply clause 1.6 of the Standards for RTOs (The RTO implements a range of strategies for industry engagement and systematically uses the outcome of that industry engagement to ensure the industry relevance of:
    • its training and assessment strategies, practices and resources; and
    • the current industry skills of its trainers and assessors.)

It is also recommended that the Australian, state, and territory governments evaluate how the observations made in this scoping study might assist in enhancing the effectiveness and continuous improvement of VETDSSS when drafting the new National Skills Agreement.

You can read more information at asqa.gov.au/news-events

Interview – Andrew Shea – CEO, Builders Academy Australia

Andrew is an educational and business professional and known intrapreneur who specialises in leading high performing teams, optimising business processes and quality assurance and compliance frameworks. He is a proven transformational leader and has successfully fulfilled managerial and leadership positions across a range of industries.

Areas of specialisation include:

♦ C-Suite executive across ASX and non-ASX businesses
♦ Experienced Chair
♦ Conference speaker
♦ Governance, audit and risk specialist
♦ Not for Profit Board member
♦ Business improvement and compliance advisor
♦ Tertiary Education digital marketing advisor

Over the last 15 years, Andrew has managed and/or consulted with a number some of Australia’s best known Registered Training Organisation’s. As a teacher by trade, he for has personally delivered training and coaching sessions to over 2000 individuals over this time.

In addition to his organisation development and leadership capabilities, Andrew is well recognised in relation to his instructional design and course development capabilities having developed high quality training and assessment materials in the fields of Hospitality, Security, OH&S, Construction, Training and Assessment, Business Management and Leadership.

Andrew has a thorough knowledge of both challenges experienced by training organisations and also industry best practice having led a number of award winning training providers.


1. When it comes to your work as the Chief Executive Officer of two Registered Training Organisation’s that have been recognised with multiple awards, what lessons are there for other providers in what you have learnt in your role?

I am really proud of the recognition that our team at Builders Academy Australia and CWBTS has received across a number of years including being recognised multiple times as the Victorian Training Provider of the Year, NSW finalist for Training Provider of the Year, and last year as the Australian Small Training Provider of the Year at the Australian Training Awards.
Despite our growth and recognition for innovation, quality and great outcomes, we have not necessarily focussed on building our business, but instead on building the capacity of our people, and in-turn, our fantastic team has then helped to grow our business and help more students across Australia through embedding innovative practice whilst maintaining quality outcomes.
We are pleased that we have been able to sustain quality outcomes for our students and employer partners for a number of years, despite the challenges from Covid-19 restrictions and these outcomes have been supported by maintaining a deep understanding of who our students are, the motivations they have towards completing their studies, and embedding industry engagement, and current and future industry skills into all content that we deliver. Through utilisation virtual reality and 3-d walkthroughs of actual building sites as part of our virtual classroom delivery model, we were able to continue to support students despite Covid-19 related limitations for periods.

My team has been proud to showcase that a focus on people, while being a for profit organisation, are not mutually exclusive measures of success in the training system. In 2020/2021, our agile business model, responsive staff and well-developed virtual learning platform has meant that not a single student has missed a training session due to COVID-19. Even the most kinaesthetic of learners has benefitted because of our real commitment to replicating on-site experience, student success and quality outcomes.

I think that maintaining a focus on what industry needs, and reverse engineering our learning and assessment strategies around how we can best support students to achieve those outcomes has had us well placed. We also deeply respect the impact we can have outside of the formal learning environment and dedicate much focus on initiatives such as diversity across the building and construction sector, supporting disengaged youth towards employment opportunities, men’s mental health awareness initiatives and reducing homeliness across our community.

We are as proud of our involvement in these areas as all other achievements and our genuineness in this focus, I believe, is respected and appreciated by both our fantastic staff, students and business partners.

2. You personally have also been recognised for your leadership in your organisation and across the sector with multiple awards such as the Professionals Services and Educational Executive of the Year at the CEO Awards. What lesson have you learnt about the importance of strong leadership in our sector?

In the 6 years I have been in my current role, and my previous senior executive roles, I have focussed on embedding a values-based culture that invests in student success – with enthusiastic staff, robust systems and innovative platforms.

I believe in a human-centric leadership approach and have attempted to build a culture of trust within my team, with a clear vision, and regular and open communication that drives greater empathy among employees and overall improves performance across the divisions of the business. This was particularly important during the uncertain periods that Covid-19 resulted in.

This focus flows through to the relationships we have with our students, as we ensure that we engage personally with people as individuals, utilise stories and marketing as tools for transformation, and engage actively in the macro-level conversations of our industry and the broader VET sector. This collectively shapes our delivery and development, which leads to outstanding outcomes and career pathways for a diverse range of students and staff.

I am a passionate ambassador for the VET sector and am proud to be part of a sector with such dedicated professionals who focus on helping students achieve their learning and career ambitions.

Over the previous 17 years, I have worked across public (TAFE), enterprise and independent training organisations, holding Senior Management and Executive level positions, delivering across diverse cohorts including to domestic students, onshore to international students and offshore to international students. This is a sector that I believe is integral to Australia being able to meet its current and future skilled labour requirements and maintain efficient and productive workplaces.

It is a sector that I look forward to continuing to take part in and positively impact for many years to come.

3. Could you briefly elaborate on your role and responsibilities at ITECA as well as how ITECA is assisting the RTO industry?

I have been actively involved with the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) (previously the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET)) over the last 12 years, and I am pleased to have been able to play a role supporting the Peak body for independent tertiary education providers.

With ITECA, I am proud to be currently a Non-Executive Director and Board member, as well as Chair of the National VET Steering Group, Chair of the Governance Committee and Chair of the Victorian State Community. ITECA is supported by a strong executive team, highly respected Board members, and passionate VET professionals who represent strongly on State and National Committees.

With Independent tertiary education providers delivering the majority of training across Australia, ITECA plays such an important role as a strong voice representing the interests of its members, as well as the broader independent sector. This representation and the community of practice that ITECA has created has become even more important over the last 18 months where a range of providers have faced significant challenges aligned with Covid-19 restrictions.

The role of Peak Bodies such as ITECA is integral through the functions they complete including research, policy development, advice to government and sector advocacy and representation. ITECA plays an important role in championing the great outcomes being achieved by independent provides across Australia, and through research papers such as their ‘State of the Sector Report’, they help to ensure that government policy is, as much as possible, aligned with real outcomes and data rather than more ideological reasoning.

Whether it being with ITECA, other Peak Bodies or industry associations, I would recommend to all that they look to join and become active in helping to drive positive changes for our sector.

4. You are one of the very few recognised quality industry experts and leaders that we have in Australia, so how has your experience been working with the regulatory body ASQA to assist them in the transition process that they are currently undergoing?

I think that we have a range of quality representatives and consultants in Australia who add much value across the sector.

My pathway towards becoming a CEO is one that is potentially unconventional for our sector having followed a pathway from training delivery, into Training Management, into managing Resource Development and Curriculum Design, into Quality Assurance and Compliance Management and then as a VET Quality Consultant across public and independent providers.

I do remember speaking at a conference many years ago and being introduced as one of Australia’s first Compliance CEO’s which to me seemed a strange thing to be noted due to how highly regulated our sector is and the significant importance of a CEO being intrinsically involved in ensuring quality and compliance across their organisations.

I have always seen a strong focus on quality and compliance in our sector as a business enabler and to this stage of my career I believe the investment into understanding the VET landscape including all aspects of regulation and compliance has been highly beneficial in my role as CEO as well as someone who often speaks at industry events and conferences, with a focus on providing helpful guidance to others in our sector.

I believe that a short number of years ago, the disconnect between the National Regulator and the regulated community was something unhealthy for our sector and the uncertainty for RTO’s on what they could expect at audit and how to ensure their own operations where compliant with respect to each aspect of the Standards was to the detriment of our sectors reputation.

With significant changes to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to adapt its culture and relationship with the sector, including a move away from their previous audit model to a performance assessment framework, I think that genuine change has been occurring and across a number of areas the rubber has been genuinely hitting the road.

I was pleased to be appointed to the ASQA Stakeholder Liaison Group (SLG) and I have been impressed about ASQA’s openness to take on feedback from members of the SLG, using this feedback to update key documents including their Corporate Plan and Regulatory Model to reference areas such as the importance of education and consistency in audit activity and outcomes.

One of the significant changes that ASQA has implemented has been its launched educative function which I believe has added great value to RTO’s in understanding their obligations, as well as hearing from industry representatives on how they implement best practice in their own organisations.

I have been glad to be able to work with others to positively support ASQA’s launching of this educative function, and their initial content production, having taken part myself in 6 education sessions so far covering topics such as regulatory practice, audit expectations, online education quality and compliance expectations and trainer capability.

I look forward to further ASQA webinar sessions over the coming months where I will be presenting on teacher/trainer capability and the upcoming review of the TAE Training Package.
All involvement in these groups, working committees and conferences I speak at, I do unpaid, and volunteer my time in order to positively support the VET sector.

5. You are Chair of the Education Industry Reference Committee and the Foundation Skills Industry Reference Committee through PWC – Skills for Australia, what changes to Training Packages can we expect to see over the coming period.

I was humbled to be nominated by my peers as Chair of these IRC’s that have such high quality and respected VET sector representatives on them. I don’t take lightly the importance of getting Training Packages right for training providers, students and the industries which employ graduates, and this will be particularly the case for an upcoming new version of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

The Industry Reference Committee has on three previous occasions requested to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC), that a review of the TAE Training Package take place to ensure that any disconnects with industry needs can be addressed. It has been the view of the IRC for an extended period that the Training Package does not fully address modern workforce needs including the Certificate IV’s insufficient flexibility regarding packaging rules.

Pleasingly, the AISC has now approved the review, and redevelopment can take place and the IRC is looking forward to receiving robust feedback from providers to ensure that improvements can be made.

The review itself will take part in two stages, with an initial e-learning and e-assessment development project to be completed by December in 2021, and a full review of all qualifications within the TAE Training Package to be completed by late November 2022.

One important point is that it will be the strong recommendation of the IRC, that any new version of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, be recognised as the successor to the current (under clause 1.14 / 1.15 in the Standards for RTO’s) so that the current workforce who hold the TAE40116 will not be required to upgrade their qualifications.

I have already delivered a number of webinars on these topics and for those who wish to take part in helping with the review and redevelopment I would encourage to go to the PWC – Skills for Australia website and sign up for their newsletter which will provide information on upcoming sessions and working groups. Readers are also welcome to follow me on Linkedin where I will be sharing updates on the project.

6. What are your opinions on all of the changes that will occur in the VET sector in the near future, including the new regulatory framework, the new TAE certificate, the new AQF framework, the cessation of ISCs and SSOs, the redesign of units of competency, and everything else that will occur?

In 2020, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) released a research paper identifying that the VET workforce includes some 246,000 representatives with another 177,000 who work in volunteer roles. I think the significance of our sector, and its importance in helping Australia meet its current and future labour needs can’t be understated.

There are a number of VET Quality Reforms underway at present, with a focus on ensuring that our sector is fit for purpose and is regulated and supported in a way that will help achieve the outcomes required.

In addition to a current review of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations that is underway, earlier this year, Skills Ministers agreed to establish new industry-based clusters (Industry Clusters) with broad roles and responsibilities for skills and workforce development by December 2022. Industry Clusters will replace Industry Reference Committees (IRCs), Skills Service Organisations (SSOs) and Skills Organisation Pilots (SOs).

The establishment of Industry Clusters is intended to enhance the role of industry in the national training system with a broader role and greater accountability to industry.

I am part of a number of consultations on this review activity through the different hats that I wear, and in each I do raise my concerns regarding the potential to not intrinsically involve Registered Training Organization’s as part of the process of Training Package design and implementation. I think to not do so, is not only disrespectful to a sector that employs or engages a workforce of over 400,000, but would also be counter-intuitive to achieving positive outcomes that draw on the knowledge from strong relationships that RTO’s have with the industries they help serve with graduates.

With the approved review of the TAE Training Package now underway, I was pleased that aligning with this a TAE Strategic Advisory Committee has been established with myself being an invited member. This Committee will act as a sounding board for the Education IRC throughout the TAE Training Package re-development project, with the key goal of ensuring appropriate linkages between the review and broader VET workforce policy and regulatory directions and settings.

This will allow for input on topics such as clauses 1.17 to 1.20 within the Standards for RTO’s to ensure that the Standards continue to allow for the provision of supervision of trainers where needed, even where the standards and training package may be updated, with an additional skill set that may be agreed to be recognised under this clause being developed.

7. I clearly remember that we first spoke in 2010 when you were the CEO of a different training organisation and I was a Director of Studies somewhere else; what do you believe has changed in the VET sector in the last 10-11 years and what do you believe we will see over the coming years?

I have enjoyed seeing your journey as a highly respected VET sector representative, and it does feel like a long time since then.

It is important to remember the significant role our sector plays in supporting Australian workforces with our VET sector made up of over 3500 registered training organisations (RTOs) delivering nationally recognised VET, and a number more delivering micro-credentials and non-accredited training. In 2020, 3.9 million students were enrolled in nationally recognised vocational education and training (VET) despite challenges faced over the period including a significant reduction in international students.

Increased and inconsistent regulatory activity; reduced and/or inconsistent State and Federal investment into the sector; changes to visa and related conditions for international students; and delivery impacts caused by Covid-19 restrictions have all challenged providers in their continued support of student learning outcomes and this has seen a significant reduction in training provider numbers over the last decade.

I think that our sector has also taken a number of years to recover from the reputational damage caused by a small number of unscrupulous providers related to the use of VET-FEE Help who took advantaged or a poorly structured and regulated scheme.

Despite this, the very large majority of training providers of all types, continue their focus on student centric, high quality delivery and student and employer satisfaction rates continue to show that largely positive outcomes continue to be achieved throughout the sector.

I think what we will see over the coming years is a much greater focus on collaboration, and organisations either working as part of a consortium or as a minimum as part of a strong community of practice. This will support the sharing of ideas, and quality practices across organisations, and make benchmarking easier for the betterment of all. Consultants also play an important role in conducting reviews across an RTO’s operations and giving insight into best practice and innovation they have seen in other areas of the sector.

I think that the importance of RTO’s being part of their Peak Bodies, or other quality and practitioner networks will continue to increase, and, in a post Covid-19 environment, the importance of the VET sector will be more so than ever. This will include the return of international students with Australia able to continue to build on its strong reputation in supporting students who wish to study both onshore and offshore.

Despite the challenges that Covid-19 created in limiting face to face delivery for periods, the online learning workforce capability this fast-tracked will be of great benefit to providers and the sector moving forward. From a recent paper released by ASQA, survey data from over 3000 participants at a webinar series that I was part of regarding online learning, showed that over 90 per cent had started or increased delivery via an online mode over the last 18 months. Although online learning is not suited to all student cohorts, or all qualifications, and rarely can it meet the needs of delivering full qualifications, this capability will better aid the sector in meeting student needs and expectations moving forward.


For those who wish to connect with or follow Andrew Shea, you can do so via his Linkedin, here – www.linkedin.com/in/andrewjshea

Interview with Anurag Kanwar – BEc, LLB, LLM, GDLP, AAPRI, FIML, MAICD.


Anurag has over 15 years of experience in higher education all within the private higher education space. She is the executive secretary of the GCA Board of Directors. She is a prolific commentator on LinkedIn with over 6000 followers commenting on international education, technology and continuous experience.

She is a practising lawyer specialising in the area of corporate governance and risk. She is also an experienced lecturer and publishes in the area of international education and business law. She is a board member of the Australian Risk Management Institute, and a member of their Education Committee of the Australian Risk Management Institute. She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Managers and Leaders, an Associate of the Australian Risk Management Institute and an Associate Director of the Project Management Institute Sydney Chapter.

She is also a member of Law Ninjas online networking group for in-house lawyers and the former deputy convener of the admissions and compliance working group of IEAA. Outside of the international education and law space, Anurag is a member of the Career Progress Network Sydney Chapter a group dedicated to helping young people and immigrants gaining employment.

Anurag is currently the Compliance and Continuous Improvement Director at Group Colleges Australia.


Sukh Sandhu: As a supporter and promoter of vocational education and training in Australia, what roles have you played?

Anurag Kanwar: I worked for a number of dual sector providers, and in private practice, I assisted RTOs in meeting their compliance obligations through internal audits and performing audit rectification work.

Sukh Sandhu: What are your thoughts on the ways ASQA is currently changing its regulatory and legislative practices?

Anurag Kanwar: I don’t work in VET anymore but from my reading, ASQA is now moving towards more self-assurance for institutions with a greater emphasis on evidence.

Sukh Sandhu: Why has working in the vocational education and training sector been rewarding?

Anurag Kanwar: The sector is dynamic and has the means to change people’s lives.

Sukh Sandhu: Why is working in the VET sector challenging?

Anurag Kanwar: Changes to the regulatory environment. There was a time when there were changes every 2 weeks. This then creates a high cost of compliance.

There are also a number of consultants in the sector who are not legally trained which also can be problematic. There is also sometimes a mismatch between the various pieces of legislation. For example, a number of providers found themselves in breach of the ESOS Act because they were delivering short courses such as responsible service of alcohol to international students. The providers were not CRICOS registered.

Sukh Sandhu: What do you believe are the primary threats to the Australian VET system?

Anurag Kanwar: The pandemic with its challenges and the high cost of regulatory compliance.

Sukh Sandhu: What do you wish someone had told you when you first started out in this position?

Anurag Kanwar: A sense of humour is a must. Another tip is to understand risk and what mitigation strategies can be used.

Sukh Sandhu: What would you like to communicate to training providers operating within the regulated environment?

Anurag Kanwar:

– Sign up for ASQA and TEQSA alerts
– Twitter is a good source of information from government agencies.
– Connect with other industry people. We can all share from each other.


Anurag Kanwar can be contacted through the LinkedIn profile. https://www.linkedin.com/in/anurag-k

Various phases of the assessment and validation processes (Part 4)

This is Part 4 of the article, where we are discussing the different phases of the validation processes an RTO should be following to ensure they meet regulatory requirements and industry expectations.

In the previous articles, we discussed the following regarding the validation of assessment resources:

  • Explanation of assessment validation
  • Typical benchmarks used during the validation processes
  • Stages of validation (before, during and after the assessment judgements)
  • Regulatory requirements for conducting validation
  • Assessment systems
  • Who conducts validation?
  • How is validation different from moderation?
  • How external consultants can help you with validation of assessment and learner resources?
  • The regulatory requirements around validation of learner resources.

In this month’s article, we will explore the following:

  • Why do you need to keep validators information
  • Why validation of assessment and learner resources should be systematic and ongoing
  • How you can schedule validation
  • What is statistically valid sampling
  • Validation outcomes

Why do you need to keep validators information?

You need to keep for validators information for the following reasons:

  • To demonstrate that the RTO’s assessment system can consistently produce valid assessment judgements.
  • Validation is undertaken by one person or by a team of people. The RTO must ensure the review process is completed by people who collectively hold:
    • vocational competencies and current industry skills relevant to the assessment being validated
    • current knowledge and skills in vocational teaching and learning, and
    • the TAE40110 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (or its successor) or the TAESS00001 Assessor Skills Set (or its successor).
  • A regulatory body such as Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) may request evidence of it during audit activity.

Reasons why validation of assessment and learner resources should be systematic and ongoing.

A unit of competency needs to be regularly reviewed to ensure that  it meets current industry and regulatory requirements, therefore, you must have a systematic and ongoing mechanism to track any changes and to ensure all your resources are up-to-date and current.

How to schedule validation

The first step is to  develop a “validation schedule” used to validate each training product (AQF qualification, skill set, unit of competency, accredited short course and module) on your scope of registration.

A validation schedule is a five year plan and each training product must be reviewed at least once in that five-year period, and at least 50% of your training products must be validated in the first three years of the schedule. Your RTO might choose to validate its training products more often, for example, if risk indicators demonstrate that more frequent validation is required. Indicators of risk might include:

  • the use of new assessment tools
  • delivery of training products where safety is a concern
  • the level and experience of the assessor, or
  • changes in technology, workplace processes, legislation, and licensing requirements.

Once you have your validation schedule you need to complete a validation plan with dates and timelines. The more detailed your plan is with regards to the who (needs to be included), when (what date and for how long), and what (which units is being validate, what information will be needed, from where are we getting it) the better your outcomes for your validation will be.

What is statistically valid sampling?

A statistically valid sample is one that is:

  • large enough that the validation outcomes of the sample can be applied to the entire set of judgements, and
  • taken randomly from the set of assessment judgements being considered.

Use ASQA’s validation sample size calculator for more information. It can be found here:

https://www.asqa.gov.au/news-publications/publications/fact-sheets/conducting-validation#validation-sample-size-calculator

Validation outcomes

You must keep all records as a soft-copy/scanned format or in hard-copy. The records must include all the tools used to conduct validation such as assessment resources, validation forms and checklists, profiles of validators etc.

The validation outcomes should identify recommendations for improvement to the assessment tool, assessment process or assessment outcome.

Sometimes the validation outcome can identify critical issues in the collection of valid evidence.

When this occurs, you may:

  • increase the validation sample size to assist in identifying patterns of issue
  • validate completed assessments from other units of competency to see if the issue is spread across the whole of the qualification, and
  • look for patterns of error (for example, consider if it is one assessor making invalid judgements—this could indicate the assessor requires further training in competency-based assessment).

Your validation plan must clarify how you will document and act on validation outcomes. For example, an assessment validation checklist addressing the principles of assessment and rules of evidence may be utilised to document the validation outcomes. Outcomes of validation may be acted upon through your RTO’s continuous improvement processes.

Your RTO must have a records management process to retain the evidence of the validation. You should retain evidence of:

  • the person/people leading and participating in the validation activities (including their qualifications, skills and knowledge)
  • the sample pool
  • the validation tools used
  • all assessment samples considered, and
  • the validation outcomes.

If the validation outcomes recommend improvements to the assessment tool, you should implement these recommendations across all training products, not only those included in the sample. If you make changes to the assessment tool, complete quality checks and review the revised tool prior to implementation.

ASQA’s strategic review of online learning

As part of its ongoing maintaining quality and compliance assurance requirements surrounding online learning in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is now conducting its strategic review.

The organisation began the strategic assessment in 2020, motivated by the large number of providers who transferred their distribution to the internet in response to the circumstances generated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic in the country.

Between December 2020 and May 2021, three popular ‘Feedback Loop’ webinars, which were held as part of the strategic review, were recorded and published in this insights report.

You can read more information about the strategic review, Click here.

Resource Validation Services: Why outsourcing can be a great option

Following the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020, ASQA has made a significant upgrade to the architecture of the vocational education and training (VET) sector and its approach.

The rapid change roadmap includes strengthening ASQA’s strategic stakeholder engagement and education to build provider capacity for self-assurance.

In line with this new approach, ASQA has shifted its regulatory approach into practical engagement with providers. Five best practice principles underpin this method – one of them being a focus on self-assurance, i.e., to support the quality of RTOs through their self-assurance.

Thanks to ASQA’s new blueprint, more than any time ever, ASQA is driving engagement and cooperative relationships with RTOs and promoting and building a shared understanding of self-assurance and excellence in training outcomes.

In a working paper issued in April 2021 under the title “Approach to Assessing Performance”, ASQA has made it clear that the performance assessment (the new language for auditing) will mainly focus on self-assurance. The paper also clarifies that ASQA’s increased focus will be on clause 2.2 of the Standards for RTOs. In other words, RTOs existence will depend on their validation and the self-assurance attested through their validation practice.

In light of ASDA’s new approach to self-assurance, validation has become the centre of gravity of compliance. Having such clear communication by ASQA, the ball is in the RTO’s court.

What is self-assurance and clause 2.2, and why is validation in the centre?

Self-assurance refers to the way the RTO’s operations are managed to ensure a focus on quality, continuous improvement and ongoing compliance. In contrast, Clause 2.2 systematically monitors training and assessment strategies and practices to ensure continued compliance.

Both are centred at one point – Validation. The best way to systematically evaluate and use the outcomes of the evaluations to continually improve the RTO’s training and assessment strategies and practices is through evaluation information collected under clauses 1.9, 1.10, and 7.5, validation outcomes, client, trainer and assessor feedback and complaints and appeals.

It is for obvious reasons that in 2020, ASQA identified the following clauses of concern in its regulatory strategy, which are directly related to lack of thorough validation:

1.8 implement effective assessment systems
1.1 have appropriate training and assessment strategies and practices, including the amount of training
1.3 have the resources to provide quality training and assessment, including sufficient trainers and assessors, learning resources, support services, equipment and facilities
3.1 AQF certification is issued only where the learner has been assessed as meeting training product requirements
1.2 appropriate amount of training is provided, taking account of the learner’s skills, knowledge, and experience and mode of delivery.

Time and history have repeatedly testified that RTOs do not focus on validation; hence, more than 60% of RTOs have their assessment tools deemed non-compliant..

There are very few, if any, who have not been handed a dreaded report by ASQA, a non-compliant report. The two common non-compliance that consistently turns up in audit reports are the Training and Assessment Strategy and the Assessment tools – the latter being the top non-compliance.

The main reason for the above is the lack of conducting appropriate validations and ensuring compliance with Clause 1.9, 1.10 and 1.11 of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations.

These clauses relate to the requirements for assessment validation, including the need to have an assessment validation plan, meet minimum validation benchmarks and conduct it in a way that ensures its validity and integrity

ASQA has identified systemic risks in the following qualifications: Equine, Security, Early Childhood Education and Care, Aged and Community Care, Construction (white card training) and Training and Education (TAE). ASQA advises that for Clause 1.10, training products in these areas may need to be validated more frequently.

Despite ASQA’s reminders that assessment validation is a vital tool for providers seeking to get the best results from training and assessment systems, many RTOs are not clear about validation’s role in ASQA’s performance assessment process.

The price tag that comes with the 1.8 non-compliance is dire because if the RTO is found to have non-compliance in 1.8, that will by default trigger non-compliance in 3.1 as non-compliance in 1.8 means issuing AQF certification where the learner has NOT been assessed as meeting training product requirements.

The result is a recall of all students who have participated in the unvalidated assessment tool and revoking their qualifications.

But why do RTOs fail the validation audit when they think they have validated their assessment tools?

There are several factors. The main reason is that not many RTOs realise that the compliance requirements that RTOs face when conducting validation are more complex than many understand or acknowledge.

Validation is more than:

  • Having a checklist that ticks and flicks,
  • Having a compliance officer that signs the signature boxes
  • Having a validation schedule that never materialises.
  • Finding consultants who are happy to endorse any validation without worrying about professional and ethical obligations and the RTOs risks.

So, the questions are:

  • How do you ensure that training and assessment strategies align with training package requirements?
  • How do you ensure that practices align with training and assessment strategies?
  • How have the outcomes of industry engagement been incorporated into your strategies and practice?
  • How do you know, from an organisation perspective, that you issue a qualification to a competent student?

Multiple questions, but the answer is one – organise quality-focused validation by an independent validator, who is not employed or subcontracted by the RTO and has no other involvement or interest in the operations of the RTO.

Validation requires systematic processes and ethical and pragmatic components to compliance. It requires more than an internal team to manage and maintain a positive reputation. It requires experts to decipher confusing or abstract standards and establish and integrate best validation practices. It requires engaging external validators to evaluate your training and assessments.

This is the very reason why RTOs should involve independent subject matter experts like CAQA in their validation plan and practices

Here at CAQA, our seriousness starts from our definition of Validation.

CAQA goes beyond the classical definition of validation as an assessment health check tool. We see validation as the destination of high-quality training and assessment. For us, validation is the cornerstone of high-quality training and assessment that equips students for employment or further study, and a means to success in their chosen career.

How does CAQA conduct Validation?

Our validation’s overarching vision and purpose is comprehensive and does not focus on the assessment tool only.

By engaging in the validation process, we will make sure that we:

  • Check that your assessment tools have produced valid, reliable, sufficient, current and
    authentic evidence,
  • Enable your RTO to make reasonable judgements about whether training package (or VET
    accredited course) requirements have been met
  • Review a statistically valid sample of the assessments and make recommendations for
    future improvements to the assessment tool, process and outcomes and acting upon such
    requests.
  • Ensure your assessment validation plays a vital role in ASQA’s performance assessment
    process(audit).
  • Make it an integral part of your self-assurance to achieve excellence in training outcomes,
  • Make it an integral part of the systematic monitoring procedure of your training and
    assessment strategies and practices to ensure ongoing compliance with Standard
  • Ensure it becomes routine practice to evaluate systematically and use the outcomes of the
    evaluations to continually improve training and assessment strategies and
    practices
  • Review how practice aligns with systems and how to monitor, review and improve
    techniques.
  • Align assessment practice with the requirements of the relevant Standard.
  • Ensure you own a system for ensuring ongoing compliance with the relevant Standard.
  • Ascertain a mechanism to monitor, review, and continuously improve
    (self-assurance) to ensure compliance with the relevant Standard requirements on an
    on an ongoing basis.
  • Strengthen the interaction between practice, systems and continuous improvement
  • Provide validation related professional development to management and staff to help

you manage your operations and ensure a focus on quality, continuous improvement and
ongoing compliance.


Call us on 1800 266 160 or email info@caqa.com.au to find out more. Let us bring CAQAs Validation professional team to you – don’t wait until your next audit is due.

Part 1- The trainer and assessor files

Compliance of your trainer records is a must for any Registered Training Organisation. If you do not know what you are looking for, you will always have difficulty finding it. The purpose of this article is to provide you with the required information and resources to ensure you can audit and review your trainer and assessor files to be compliant with the current regulatory requirements and standards.

Legislative and regulatory requirements:
Trainers and assessors must comply with the following SRTOs 2015 requirements:

  • Clauses 1.13 – 1.16
  • Trainers and assessors who deliver any Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) qualification or skill set from the Training and Education Training Package (TAE10, TAE or its successor) are also required to meet additional requirements, outlined in Clauses 1.21 – 1.24.

Requirements for all trainers and assessors:
Trainers and assessors must meet the following criteria and guidelines:

  • the vocational competencies at least to the level being delivered and assessed
  • current industry skills directly relevant to the training and assessment being provided, and
  • current knowledge and skills in vocational training and learning that informs their training and assessment.

In addition, training and assessment may only be delivered by persons who have:

  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40110 or TAE40116), or its successor*, or
  • A diploma or higher level qualification in adult education.

Your RTO must also ensure that all trainers and assessors undertake professional development in the fields of:

  • knowledge and practice of vocational training, and
  • learning and assessment, including competency-based training and assessment.

Trainer’s CV
An RTO must hold valid files for all Trainers and Assessors (this includes files for contractors and employees). A valid file includes the following information:

  • A current copy of the trainer/assessor’s CV (usually updated on an annual basis)
  • The RTO’s name, the position title and a description of the job-role
  • Details about the vocational competencies that the trainer/assessor holds
  • Details about the vocational competencies that the trainer/assessor is delivering/assessing.
  • Information about industry currency and skills
  • List of VET professional development activities
  • Confirmation that it is a true and up-to-date copy of the CV (usually means the trainer/assessor initialling each page of the CV to confirm the accuracy of the information provided)
  • Signature and date of last update of the CV

It is also recommended that all resumes/CVs are verified for currency and authenticity through the undertaking of reference checks.

Reference:
Fact sheet—Meeting trainer and assessor requirements, published by ASQA https://www.asqa.gov.au/sites/g/files/net3521/f/FACT_SHEET_Meeting_trainer_and_assessor_requirements.pdf

(To be continued in the upcoming newsletter and blogs)

Check if you have an authorised copy of the training and assessment resources

Training organisations should double-check that they have an authorised copy of the training and assessment resources from the publisher of the resource before using them for training purposes.

In a number of audits, the regulatory body has requested proof of purchase because a number of stakeholders are aware that there are some offenders in the sector who do not purchase the actual copies of the resources, resell when they do not have authority, or obtain materials in other illegal ways.

The benefits of confirming the authorised copy

There are a number of advantages to confirming the licence of your training and assessment materials, including the fact that licensed resources are usually linked to a quality assurance guarantee and are usually eligible for free updates, which you do not receive if you obtain the resources in an illegal manner, as well as the fact that making and distributing resources that you are not licenced for is likely to infringe copyright and may be a criminal offence. This can also affect your reputation and registration under the governance and copyright clauses (Clause 8.5, particularly of Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015, provides: “The RTO complies with Commonwealth, State and Territory legislation and regulatory requirements relevant to its operations.”)

In addition, when applying for accreditation of a VET course, the national template requires that the applicant must:

Provide evidence that the applicant for accreditation either owns, or is licensed to exploit the copyright in any units of competency or modules. Include the name of the legal entity or individuals who own the copyright.

Copyright legislation in Australia

Training and assessment resources will generally be protected by copyright in Australia under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Copying and distributing these resources without the appropriate licence will usually be an infringement of copyright.

You may be aware of the Statutory Education Licence that is administered by the Copyright Agency. You need to pay the Copyright Agency an annual fee to obtain this licence. However, the Statutory Education Licence does not permit copying or transmitting an electronic copy of 100% of a resource if it is commercially available, but only allows use of a reasonable portion (eg 10%). Copying or transmitting an amount of the resource that would unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner is outside this licence. If you want to use more than a reasonable portion of someone else’s training and assessment resources, you will need to obtain a licence from the copyright owner or you will infringe copyright.

The consequences of copyright infringement can be significant. A court can order you to stop infringing and you could be liable for compensatory damages or have to pay the amount of your profits from using the unauthorised resource as well as handing over infringing copies to the copyright owner. You may even have to pay “additional damages”. These are a form of punitive damages that can often be more than the compensation payable. Plus, if the matter goes to court, there can be adverse publicity as well having your business tied up in litigation for a significant period of time. All this just to try and avoid a fee. Copyright infringement is not worth it.

For more information see the ASQA web page on RTOs and copyright: asqa.gov.au


By Sukh Sandhu and Margaret Ryan

Margaret Ryan is a lawyer and trade marks attorney with over 30 years’ experience in intellectual property, including copyright, and consumer protection law, working with organisations to find solutions, maximise the value of their IP and protect their business. IP by Margaret® – www.ipbymargaret.com.au

Staying on top of compliance

Introduction

RTOs are required to comply with an increasing number of constantly changing regulations and reporting and there is a heavy price to pay if found non-compliant.

With ASQA’s emphasis on RTOs self-management of ongoing compliance through systemic monitoring, what is the best way to stay on top of and adapt to the journey of compliance in an ever-changing landscape whilst remaining cost-effective?

The answer is often ‘why not hire a compliance manager’? Sounds easy? Not really.

The compliance requirements that RTOs face are complex. Having a compliance officer focused on managing risk is an essential piece of the puzzle but not the complete answer.

It requires more than one person to develop systematic processes to compliance. It requires more than an internal team to manage risk and maintain a positive reputation. It requires experts to decipher confusing or abstract standards and determine how to establish and integrate best practices.

What does ASQA’s data indicate?

ASQA, in their 2018 Course Owner Report, identified that:

  • 67% of RTOs were non-compliant in their development of enterprise units
  • 58% of RTOs were non-compliant in AQF qualification type and level Volume of learning
  • 56% of RTOs do not have sufficient evidence of consultation/validation activities, industry need and support.

One of the reasons for these findings could be because an RTOs compliance culture suffers from the ‘comfort with status quo’ syndrome. RTOs who depend mainly on an internal process find it difficult to accept change due to their lack of confidence in the unknown new system and culture. They fail to redesign, rethink, and reorganise new compliance policies, procedures, and processes as they struggle to disengage from the existing culture.

Many compliance officers have tried to set the tone of compliance to protect the organisation, hold employees accountable, and lead a culture of compliance. However, they are often seen as the bearers of bad news and often not supported.

Why are compliance services becoming increasingly important?

Today more than ever, RTO executives and owners seek out unbiased and impartial subject matter experts and consultants to look into all areas of their organisation. External consultancy like the services CAQA provide are engaged for registrations, internal audits, validations, etc.

In light of all this, CAQA has designed its Ongoing Retainer Agreement. The objective is to provide ongoing consultancy services to RTOs with a compliance program that institutes a system of checks and balances at every level.

Seven (7) benefits an ongoing Retainer Agreement can provide.

As an external consultant, we have the advantage of a bird’s-eye view of the RTO to spot compliance issues, hear about trends, and identify new risks before they become findings that result in the consequences of suspension or de-registration etc.

Our approach is a holistic perspective with proactive rectification. Our culture is solution-oriented, ensuring RTO’s self-assurance.

Bringing our professionals to you will have the following benefits.

  1. Proactive action. We will identify your areas of improvement before they become non-compliant and create significant problems. All we need from you is a commitment to an effective compliance program.
  2. Independence. Our reporting is unbiased and that can assure you the information in our report is entirely objective.
  3. We bring a wealth of audit experience. We work with many RTOs. Our experts are engaged in auditing daily, and their expertise adds more value. We use this knowledge to recommend improvements and provide you with a systematic solution to your quality management system.
  4. Exceptional success record. Our consultants have been providing compliance and regulatory assistance to training and education organisations for over 25 years. They are a team of dedicated and seasoned professionals trained in ISO quality management standards with an exceptional success record.
  5. No data smog. In this era of over-information, many RTOs suffer from 21st century’s syndrome of data smog that is characterised by the velocity of over-information along multiple channels that often results in the collapse of healthy business cycles. We provide you with the correct information required, no less no more.
  6. Consistency. By signing an agreement with CAQA to conduct internal periodical audits, you will offload that responsibility and simultaneously ensure that you will get consistent results through scheduled visits.
  7. Cost-effective resourcing. We understand that not all organisations have the resources to hire the audit professionals they need to excel within their chosen field. Our service allows you to utilise high caliber resources for a fraction of a price of what it would cost to employ a compliance person.

What you will get from an Ongoing Retainer Agreement.

  • One hundred (100) hours of consultancy services delivered over a ninety (90) day period.
  • Three (3) professional development sessions for staff and management on topics nominated by the Training Organisation over a ninety (90) day period.
  • Five (5) recruitment advertisements/month on CAQA Recruitment (over the period in which the Agreement remains in effect)
  • Five (5) advertisement in Career Callings Social media marketing (over the period in which the Agreement remains in effect)
  • Assistance with compliance and training organisation related queries
  • Validation of units of competency (maximum 2x per qualification/month)
  • Provision of industry consultation support (1x per qualification/month)
  • Updated information from the VET industry
  • Exceptional consultancy on Systematic Self-Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement
  • Regular news and updated information about the VET industry

Call us on 1800 266 160 or email info@caqa.com.au to find out more. Let us bring CAQAs professional team to you – don’t wait until your next audit is due.

COVID-19 and changes in the changes in the Financial Viability and Risk Assessment (FVRA)

It poses significant challenges for RTOs to continue to provide high-quality training and ensure that students complete their courses during periods of lockdown and restrictions. The commercial prospects of many RTOs have been adversely harmed by the quarantine at home and travel restrictions implemented here and overseas. Under these circumstances, RTOs are under a great deal of pressure to meet the standards of the financial viability risk assessment (FVRA).

The market research for any courses you may be considering to offer will need to be conducted in a different manner than it has previously been done. Furthermore, a COVID-like scenario will have to be taken into consideration as part of your plan.

The Financial Viability and Risk Assessment (FVRA) is a method used by ASQA to determine if an applicant who wants to register an RTO or an existing RTO has the financial capability to provide quality training and outcomes for learners.

According to the FVRA, the following circumstances for an RTO would be regarded as “viable” if they occur:

  • There is sufficient financial capacity for the business to acquire the necessary assets and physical resources to meet all of its registration requirements during the RTO registration period.
  • The organisation has the financial resources to engage qualified staff to handle both the administration and the teaching of the courses where the students have been enrolled.
  • Students can still benefit from the services offered by the organisation.
  • The organisation can run on a continual basis to ensure that each student completes the course they enrol in.
  • Even in an uncertain climate, the organisation is able to meet the aforementioned requirements.

The Financial Viability Risk Assessment (FVRA) tool, developed by ASQA, has undergone a number of updates. Financial Viability Risk Assessment Requirements 2011 is scheduled to sunset in October 2021. The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator’s (Financial Viability Risk Assessment Requirements) Instrument 2021 is now in force. It has been decided to make these adjustments in order to examine an institution’s financial viability to continue operating in the event of unforeseen situations.

The latest copy of the legislation can be found at legislation.gov.au

In short, the changes are:

Part 3 Authority

The insertion of ‘Authority’ in order to indicate the parent law. This instrument is made under subsection 158(1) of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011.

Part 4

In this section, definitions have been clarified in a detailed manner.

Part 6 Intent

  1. The National VET Regulator requires an NVR registered training organisation to demonstrate its financial viability at any point in time, upon request.
  2. The assessment of an organisation’s financial viability risk is directed at evaluating the likelihood of its business continuity, and its capacity to achieve quality outcomes. In particular, the assessment informs a judgement about whether the organisation has the financial resources necessary to:

(a) acquire the requisite assets and physical resources to deliver all qualifications on its scope of registration
(b) employ sufficient appropriately qualified staff to cover the courses for which it takes enrolments
(c) provide appropriate levels of student services to students
(d) remain in business to ensure that each student can achieve completion
(e) meet the above requirements, even in an unsure environment.

In essence, the legislation states that an RTO must be able to demonstrate its financial viability at any moment, independent of what is happening in the real world.

Part 8 Obligation to submit to assessment at any time

Section 8 of the new legislation includes requirements for auditing, which are described below.

  1. An NVR registered training organisation must submit to an assessment of financial viability risk by a qualified independent financial auditor nominated by the National VET Regulator at other times during the registration period as determined by the National VET Regulator in accordance with the Risk Assessment Framework.
  2. The obligation to submit to the assessment referred to in (1) also applies to parent organisations, affiliated companies or organisations that have a vested interest in the organisation.

The top 10 key takeaways

So, what are the top 10 key takeaways from the most recent legislative changes?:

  1. Concentrate on marketing and establishing your organisation as a successful venture.
  2. Prepare a comprehensive risk management plan, with particular attention paid to dealing with unforeseen scenarios (such as COVID-19).
  3. Make certain that the figures and estimates you report are correct.
  4. It is recommended that providers who are coming out of hibernation engage lawyers and RTO consultants such as CAQA before applying to return to regular status.
  5. Concentrate on how your organisation may use digital learning and offer courses online.
  6. Ongoing evaluation of your business plan and financial viability risk assessment should be a top priority (at least once on an annual basis)
  7. Have detailed policies, plans and processes in place to handle financial resources in the event of unforeseen events
  8. Include additional “reserve funds” to provide as a financial buffer in the event of unforeseen scenarios such as COVID-19.
  9. Pay close attention to liquidity and break-even, and whether or not your RTO can manage the cash flow necessary to pay outgoings, tax debt, and other fixed financial obligations especially in the event of unforeseen scenarios..
  10. Note that the FVRA tool must be developed and approved by a certified accountant before it can be used.

Confused? Need advice? Email info@caqa.com.au or call us on 1300 266 160

Part 3- How compliance and quality assurance are two separate but intertwined concepts

In this third and final part of our “compliance and quality assurance,” articles, we are continuing to discuss compliance and quality assurance requirements, standards, expectations and the differences between them.

How does quality assurance differ from compliance?

It can be overwhelming trying to keep track of all your organisation’s compliance obligations. That’s why many businesses put programs in place to ensure they can meet their obligations and identify any potential breaches of law, regulations or standards. These programs are often called quality assurance or quality control.

Quality assurance may include documenting your RTO processes and practices, having a specific organisational structure, or putting in place policy framework that guides how your registered training organisation operates. These give your RTO a systematic approach to meeting its professional and legal obligations.

While every business is different, there are some general standards that businesses can be certified in, as developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). Although not always essential, following these ISO processes can bring trust and confidence to your staff and clients.

Therefore, when differentiating between quality assurance and compliance, you can consider meeting VQF requirements to meet compliance needs and ISO to meet the quality needs of your organisation.

Putting in place quality assurance measures can benefit your business by:

  • Ensuring you identify potential compliance issues and resolve them quickly
  • Reducing your risk of missing any compliance obligations
  • Improving how your RTO is run and giving your employees more certainty over how to do their job
  • Reducing your risk if your RTO is subject to any legal issues or claims
  • Increasing the efficiency of your RTO because you will be spending less time working out how to do things or fixing mistakes.

Quality assurance is part of running a well-managed registered training organisation.

Do I need to do both compliance and quality assurance?

Compliance is not something you can choose to do; it’s legally required by bodies like ASIC. While quality assurance is not demanded by law, it is good business practice to put programs in place to help you meet your compliance obligations and run your business. Sometimes, Industry stakeholders may even ask your RTO to have quality assurance programs in place.