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What You Need to Know About RTO Quality Reforms & the New Standards for RTOs

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The Australian Government has announced its commitment to improving the quality of vocational education and training in the VET system, specifically through RTO skills reforms and by developing new Standards for RTOs.

This reform is in line with Australian Skills Quality Authority’s (ASQA) CEO Saxon Rice’s announcement in May 2022 about the changes in the organisation following the rapid review of ASQA’s Regulatory Practices and Processes.

RTOs can expect a lot of changes in the coming year with Quality Reforms underway. To keep you abreast with all the changes, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about the recent developments with the RTO quality reforms and how it affects your RTO in this article.

What can RTOs expect from the RTO quality reforms?

The latest RTO quality reforms are based on feedback from RTOs, industry stakeholders, and others involved in the VET sector during ASQA’s consultation process. The new Standards for RTOs will focus on providing a clear definition of what “high-quality training” is and how to provide it.

By having a defined understanding of “high-quality training”, RTOs will have an easier time complying with the Standards for RTOs. A clearer understanding of the Standards means RTOs can confidently deliver compliant training with less difficulty. This will also help boost learners’ and employers’ confidence in the VET system as it ensures training providers can deliver the required training to gain necessary skills.

In addition to updating the Standards for RTOs 2015, the Quality Reforms will include development of a VET workforce blueprint to foster and support growth in the VET workforce.

What problem does the new Standards for RTOs aim to solve?

ASQA has identified the following issues RTOs encounter with the current Standards:

  • Too focused on outcomes
  • Too focused on inputs
  • Highly prescriptive
  • Too broad
  • More administrative in nature

According to feedback from RTOs, requirements aren’t focused enough on delivering quality learner outcomes. With the new Standards for RTOs, the goal is to solve these problems and ensure that the requirements are geared towards quality of learner outcomes rather than knowledge of administrative processes.

The new Standards for RTOs will be consolidated and divided into three parts that will each serve different purposes. These parts will be:

  1. The Standards for RTOs that provide outcome-focused requirements.
  2. Guidelines found in the Standards and will outline the credentialling requirements for RTOs and identify which training products are subject to additional validation requirements.
  3. ‘Compliance-based’ requirements which are essential administrative requirements for RTOs to maintain their registration.

The changes in the three documents under the new Standards for RTOs are as follows:

New and existing requirements are strengthened under the Standards for RTOs

The latest RTO quality reforms focus on a framework of five key Quality Areas which reflects the essential components of RTO practice. All the Quality Areas will be supported by focus areas which will have individual outcome statements. Focus areas reflect the vital components of the Quality Areas and easily communicate the expectations of RTO performance and intended outcomes clearly.

This will give RTOs an easier time identifying what they need to do to provide high-quality training. The five quality areas each provide a high – level outcome for RTOs to know what goals should be met.

Changes in the draft Standards

The draft Standards will still cover similar information to the current Standards but will strengthen some requirements and introduce new ones to better safeguard learners.

  1. Training and assessment
    • Stronger focus on training quality
    • Reframed principles of assessment and rules of evidence for clarity and consistency
    • Clearer validation requirements through outcome-based statements
    • Introduction of a new requirement on the pre-validation of assessment tools to ensure high-quality assessment
    • Clearer recognition of prior learning (RPL) to reinforce it as an assessment process accessible for learners with relevant experience
  2. Learner support
    • Strengthened requirements around learner wellbeing
    • Stronger focus on equitable policies and practices with emphasis on learner diversity including ensuring culturally safe training for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners, as well as minors’ and other vulnerable individuals’ safety
    • A requirement in relation to reasonable adjustments to align with existing requirements of RTOs under the Disability for Standards of Education 2005
    • Stronger focus on RTOs considering learners’ capability such as language, literacy, numeracy, and digital proficiency, prior to enrolment in providing advice on whether training is appropriate for their needs
    • Additional requirements to ensure learners have reasonable access to trainers and assessors
    • Stronger focus on supporting learners through transition of training products, to minimise disadvantage
  3. Workforce
    • Working under supervision’ is changed to ‘working under the direction of’ to clarify that one-on-one supervision is not required
      • Includes Certificate IV in Training and Assessment or a diploma from the Training and Education (TAE) training package learners to work under the direction of fully qualified trainers and assessors
    • Improvement in capacity to engage industry experts to deliver training and assessment under direction
    • Changes in workforce competencies requirements to clarify the expectations from trainers and assessors in terms of industry skills and knowledge relevant to what they are delivering
    • More focus on professional development and ensuring the currency of training and assessment skills
  4. Engagement
    • Additional requirement to form linkages with others in community including educational institutions, community groups, job networks and wellbeing support services to support learner progression
  5. Governance
    • Stronger focus on good governance, culture, and accountability which are key indicators of success and support excellence in training delivery
    • Strengthened requirements relating to continuous improvement where RTOs systematically monitor and evaluate their performance

These changes can be found in the Consultation Paper of the Draft Standards for RTOs which aims to improve the quality of training delivery by focusing on learners’ support and experience.

The Guidelines will operate alongside the Standards

The Guidelines were developed to operate alongside the Standards. The Guidelines contain the prescriptive information relating to the requirements for training and assessment, as well as training products that are subject to validation requirements.

The Guidelines will include two parts: Part 1 Credential Guidelines and Part 2 Specified Training Products, as specified below:

  • Part 1 Credential requirements outlines the required credentials for those delivering training and assessment, working under direction, providing direction, and undertaking validation of assessment as referenced in the draft Standards requirements 1.2.6 and 3.1.2.
  • Part 2: Specified training products outlines the training products in requirements 1.2.6 of the draft Standards for undertaking validation following learners’ completion of training and assessment and ensuring that validation is undertaken by people who are independent of the RTO delivering the training product.

Additionally, the credential requirements mentioned in parts 1 and 2 listed to give a clearer understanding of the Guidelines.

  • Requirement 1.2.6 which outlines credential requirements for those undertaking validation, and references specified training products which are those products that have additional validation requirements
  • Requirement 3.1.2 which outlines credential requirements for those delivering training and assessment

The Compliance Requirements are simplified

The current Standards for RTOs 2015 heavily emphasised the administrative processes or ‘compliance-based’ requirements, which negatively affected how RTOs see the regulations and restricted training delivery.

The structural changes proposed in the new Standards will give RTOs an easier time complying with requirements while also focusing on delivering quality training. The draft Standards have a trimmed down ‘compliance-based’ requirements section containing only the most relevant information and ensuring that it has clear links to learners’ quality outcomes.

Here are some of the requirements found in the current Standards for RTOs that were deemed irrelevant for the draft Standards:

Hold public liability insurance that covers the scope of their operations throughout the registration period

Notify the VET regulator of some issues within specific periods

Provide an annual declaration of compliance with the Standards, and

Use the Nationally Recognised Training Logo following the conditions set out in Schedule 4 of the Standards

While these requirements are still essential, they will be treated more like conditions separate from the Standards but still regulated in the current conditions of registration.

What is the VET Workforce Blueprint?

The VET Workforce Blueprint was proposed by VET ministers to serve as a framework to guide the industry in identifying effective strategies to attract and retain a high-quality workforce.

While there have been previous attempts to improve the sector through the draft VET Workforce Quality Strategy (also known as Quality Strategy), it has become apparent that the sector needs to address the broader workforce issues for the plan to fully work.

The blueprint aims to tackle this need by providing practical strategies to address workforce issues like attraction, retention, career development, and succession planning to ensure the long-term sustainability of the VET sector.

What stage is the Quality Reforms currently in?

The draft Standards for RTOs and consultation papers are available on the Skills Reform website for reading and downloading.

The draft will still be refined to ensure it addresses the key issues in the VET sector. ASQA is also developing support materials to help build RTO capability and capacity through different tools and resources.

A VET Workforce Blueprint is currently being developed to support and expand the VET workforce, contributing to the VET sector’s long-term sustainability. Reforms to the National VET Regulator, ASQA, are also underway to ensure that ASQA’s regulatory approach is fair and to enhance the focus on education quality.

How will these changes affect your RTO?

The new Standards for RTOs can be a game-changer for training providers since it simplifies the process for meeting requirements. The latest draft of the Standards for RTOs has key structural changes and changes to requirements that were created to make it easier for RTOs to follow and provide a better learning outcome for students.

Still, the draft’s proposal for a stronger focus on several requirements can be overwhelming for RTOs considering that the requirements mentioned (i.e., focus on equitable policies and practices on learner diversity) will not be easy to accomplish. It may take time and effort for RTOs to implement these requirements despite having a clear understanding through an outcome-based approach of the draft Standards.

Nonetheless, addressing the Standards’ issues of non-compliance, clarity, and prescriptiveness, can significantly boost RTO’s quality of training. Since training delivery standards will emphasise more autonomy for RTOs, they can also have more freedom in terms of training delivery.

What can your RTO do now?

Since the RTO quality reforms are still undergoing and will be completed in 2023, it’s best to stay informed about the latest developments in the new standards so you can participate in some of the consultation forums held by ASQA.

The forums are held face-to-face in all capital cities in Australia, while online forums are an excellent alternative to provide feedback about the reforms. Check out the Skills Reform website to know how you can have your say about the draft revised RTO Standards.

You’ll need to familiarise yourself with the Draft RTO Standards Consultation Paper before attending either the face-to-face or online forum; nonetheless, since we’ve already provided you with the essential things you need to know about RTO quality reforms and the VET Workforce Blueprint you can easily follow ASQA’s live discussion.

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