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The Compliance Risk Putting Your RTO in Jeopardy

December 1, 2017

Maciek Fibrich, RTO Consultancy
Founder and CEO of RTO Consultancy

Based on ASQA's own figures, the majority of non-compliance issues are related to the practice of assessing, and assessment tools.

An extraordinary number of RTOs don’t pass an audit on first attempt because of their assessment tools. As a core part of an RTO's product, this is a shocking representation of our industry.

When they fail, many organisations blame the ASQA or the auditor, or find a way to pass the buck . But I believe different—over the past 15 months I’ve participated in over 180 ASQA audits for clients and partners, the majority of which have passed at the time of audit, or by the time the audit report is complete.

I’ve worked with hundreds of RTOs, and I believe that for assessment tool problems, the key issues often relate to two areas.

1. Laziness and quick fixes

RTO owners sometimes purchase assessment tools, sold by developers who claim that the tools have passed ASQA audits. Unfortunately, this is often untrue. We find serious compliance issues with the majority of tools that are on the market today, and most need to be amended and fixed to pass audit.

Many RTO owners pursue this "quick fix" strategy, as they want to start earning money today! Nothing wrong with that, but in reality, the tools are often deficient, and re-development is extremely risky. Using these tools off the shelf is like serving raw food in a new cafe because you're desperate to open your doors, or risking your family's life in a defective car because you want to get moving.

We forget that assessment tools are an integral part of the VET sector, and are critical in ensuring a quality education system. Defective tools impact people’s lives, with graduates joining the workforce with insufficient skills, and depending on the qualification, potentially leading to serious injury or death.

Poor tools also waste time and money for the business. Assessors waste time because there’s minimal guidance, administrators waste time because they don’t know where things get filed, and CEOs lose sleep knowing that their tools could be better, but keep their heads in the sand because it’s all too hard.

2. Ignorance and non-education

To be a trainer and assessor, you need to hold the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, right? This means you understand assessment tools…right?

Sadly not. Based on my own observations, which are echoed by many people in the industry, holding a Cert IV doesn’t always mean an assessor is competent. We need to fix how we teach trainers and assessors before we can fix the system, but that’s an issue for another blog.

As a side thought , we need to ensure that resource developers are educated in the same way our staff are educated, so that we’re all talking the same language. This year I participated in 5 RTO/VET conferences, and at each of these events, there were a handful of resource developers selling "off-the-shelf" assessment tools. They didn't seem interested in the valuable info that presenters were offering. I personally think that shows a lack of commitment to developing their own skills and products. Obviously that’s not all developers, but I would like to see a significant shift next year.

Back to our trainers and assessors. Working or writing assessment tools is not like riding a bike. It’s not a skill most people hold once acquired, especially when they haven’t worked on the tools for a while. These two key issues—purchasing defective assessment tools, and having a poor understanding of assessment tools—are not mutually exclusive. We often see RTOs with both problems.

What’s the solution?

Writing and supplementing assessment tools isn't necessarily difficult , but can be time consuming and needs an in-depth understanding of what’s required. Having said that, I make no apology for the time or money it takes to develop tools that are fit-for-purpose. We could be saving people's lives! I believe every RTO has a moral and legal responsibility to ensure their tools are industry-ready, just as training packages should offer the correct wisdom. No RTO should ever believe that the tools they purchase are "fit for use" without reviewing every unit. Mapping guides must also be checked, and the RTO should ensure that all staff understand the full requirements of assessing. When I write or review assessment tools, I echo the phrase "verb and context". This means it’s critical to understand the verb(s) contained within the performance criteria and other parts of the unit, and the context of the verb. You need to read the whole criteria/phrase and refer to the application and context of the element, and the unit as a whole. This is critical when developing valid tools.

This is just a snapshot of the issues facing industry assessment tools, and RTOs’ attitudes towards them. It’s the responsibility of the RTO, not the provider of the tools, to deliver quality assessment tools. The provider won’t get slapped on the wrist for giving you poor assessment tools, but you will by ASQA. It’s also the RTO’s responsibility to ensure they have the right attitude towards assessment tools, the right education to ensure their people have the expertise to write and validate assessment tools, and that they’re regularly checked and updated to meet industry needs. Doing the above will diminish the risk to RTOs, with better outcomes for the industry and sector, and higher-performing, properly qualified graduates.

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