Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Shorting the System?

Monday, July 10 2017

One of the long-standing concerns with quality delivery in the VET sector is that of very short duration training and the risks its poses to students and industry. In all the strategic reviews it has undertaken in recent years, the Australian Skills Quality Authority has identified this as a significant concern.

To ‘get to the heart of the issue’ ASQA has just completed a detailed review of the prevalence and impact of very short duration training. The report, A review of issues relating to unduly short training, was released by the Assistant Minister, Karen Andrews, just over a week ago.

It’s clear from the report there has been some course delivery that is simply too short to give students the necessary skills. A bit like a number of issues confronting our sector, a few are ‘pushing the boundaries’ and making it just that bit harder for the great bulk of providers who aren’t prepared to sacrifice the quality of their delivery.

The report focuses on the need to specify minimum course durations to ensure that students get a quality training outcome. Fortunately the report proposes that this approach be adopted using a risk-based approach. That is, where a risk assessment indicates some minimum duration is warranted for new learners in identified courses. 

A great strength of Australia’s VET sector is it is competency-based. It provides the flexibility to respond to the diverse needs of our students and industry. We need to see it is maintained. So it is most important that any consideration of specifying minimum durations for particular courses is very carefully considered with advice from industry and quality providers.

We also need to be aware that setting of minimum durations (and assessment requirements, which is also canvassed in the paper) comes at a cost to the purchasers - governments, industry and students. At a time when government skills budgets are under pressure, or in decline, and economic circumstances are subdued these potential cost impacts need to be carefully considered, along with the benefits.

Of course, setting minimum durations for problem courses is no magic solution to real or perceived quality issues. Another big issue identified in the ASQA audits was the quality of assessment. It will be interesting to see how the changes to the Training and Assessment qualifications impact the quality of assessment.

ASQA, of course, needs to have the resources and focus on identifying and weeding out poor practices. Their move to a more student-centred audit approach is a step in the right direction and the recently announced review of National VET Regulator Act provides the opportunity to consider what further reforms are required.

The report’s recommendations will need to be considered by governments and bodies like the Australian Industry and Skills Committee. It will be important that industry and providers have strong input into what should be an interesting and lively debate.

Finally, the ACPET Board believes we need to significantly transform the ACPET brand and its position in the market so that when we speak out against the small number of rogue operators who are damaging the reputation of the industry, we are heard; and when we argue against bad policy, the media and key stakeholders take notice.

The Board’s decision has been taken mindful of the results of the 2016 Member Survey which clearly stated that:
“ACPET needs to recreate a brand for private education. Private providers have to work together under an ACPET brand or build a new brand.”

The Board requires the new strategy to be presented at the AGM on the 24th of August. To meet that deadline we need input from you, our members, by completing an online survey.The survey will take no more than 5 minutes of your time but will help us determine the kind of leadership our members expect from ACPET. The survey can be found here. Please make sure you complete the survey before the deadline of the 17th of July so that your voice is heard loud and clear.

Rod Camm


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