Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Well what a welcome!

Monday, September 12 2016

I started working for Australia’s Private Education and Training sector just 6 weeks ago, and have been overwhelmed with the wonderful welcome by ACPET’s team, stakeholders and great members. It is fantastic to be back in Australia’s dynamic education and training sector. Already, I am struck by the range of issues that are being managed on a day to day basis by ACPET and the sheer tenacity of our members, dealing with the complexities of our national education and training system.

Of course the work of our great private providers is currently on display through the State Training Awards. We have been warmly congratulating these winners through our NMU and, as we lead up to the National Awards in November we look forward to showcasing more of their incredible efforts.

Last week, ACPET proudly released its full communique from the 2016 Hobart Conference. The purpose of the communique is to bring together the key outcomes and themes emerging from the gathering, within the context of the conference. The full communique is on our website and we are looking forward to engaging with our members and stakeholders on its calls for action. These ‘calls’ include reform to current policy settings, empowering students and real outcomes based on assessment of genuine quality.

A quality system that empowers student choice is something that ACPET takes very seriously.  Currently our team is gearing up to begin our annual cycle of ASTAS renewals. Running the ASTAS for our sector is a significant responsibility and part of a broader integrity model, built on our Code of Ethics and Practice. The model consists of three areas of work (pillars if you like) which are:

  • Capability Development – providing support to professionals in the sector to deliver best practice educational experience for students. (for instance our PD programs and opportunities)
  • Organisational Systems – providing support for private providers to check that they are meeting the base line of regulatory requirements, and tailored coaching and guidance for private providers to stay ahead of the pack. (Our recently released Quality Endorsement Process and regulatory checks are included here.)
  • Assurance – based on a wide ranging set of evaluation points, the indicators of industry risk are monitored through our tuition assurance scheme (ASTAS)

I do get concerned about the current rhetoric that appears to be normalising terms as “dodgy providers” and “shonky providers”. These terms appear to be so conflated with the private education and training sector that we are failing to question some of the bigger fundamental assumptions that drive these terms. Working to understand the real characteristics of risk surrounding provision of education and training debunks some of these assumptions and liberates us to mitigate future hazards.  

ACPET holds a significant body of knowledge on industry risk and the opportunities that are available to maintain a strong sustainable education and training sector. Our model practically identifies predictors of high performing training providers, the hazards that impact the national industry and the strategies that can be put in place to build individual capability and organisational capacity. It is a “glass half full” approach that, to my way of thinking, identifies a far richer set of characteristics of success, than perhaps current policy measures do.

For many of our members who are about to be contacted by our team about ASTAS, you will be asked for a series of pieces of information. Please be assured that the purpose of this request is not to burden you further with ‘administrivia’. We are in fact building a picture of industry risk by which, as an Association, we enter into an understanding of assurance. The assurance is based on appreciating a range of factors including ownership, corporate and governance structure; regulatory history; penetration of scope against market; student and revenue levels; financial performance; asset base and skills and credentials of leadership. The end product of the process is to comprehend the exposure of our education and training sector given current providers’ educational capacity and overall business structure.  Good providers (public and private) assess operational risk on these types of evidence all the time - industries outside of education and training do so regularly. The approach enables our Board and underwriters to develop a very keen sense of the hazards in the sector and the confidence required to respond.

All the team are keen to discuss this part of the framework – including ASTAS - with our members. Please be assured that the information that we request, and the process that we engage in is all about maximising our industries resilience in an already dynamic and changing sector. We know that for many of our members, contributing to the broader integrity of our industry is a core part of the reason why they are a part of our Association.

Thank you to those of you who have provided me with such a warm welcome and who have already offered your insights, encouragement and wisdom – it is very much appreciated! I am looking forward to working with you and, also, getting to know more of our members in the near future as I work with our team to develop the services to our members.

Kit McMahon


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