Working together for better regulation

Australian and state and territory governments are currently working with the VET sector to finalise a VET Reform Roadmap designed to drive improvement in the quality of VET. Over the coming months and years, there will be a range of changes for both ASQA and the sector more broadly, in line with the government’s commitment to strengthening the VET sector.

There is widespread acknowledgement of the need for VET reform, including to ASQA’s regulatory approach.

There is also significant concern about the changes and challenges arising from the impacts of COVID-19 on Australia’s VET and international education sectors. ASQA has worked closely with the Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC) Emergency Sub-Committee to enable short-term and urgent adjustments to qualifications and training package requirements to respond to areas of critical workforce and skills needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has allowed providers to roll out fast tracked national training products to meet immediate and longer terms skills needs to support community and economic recovery, in particular in the area of infection control. We are conscious that the combination of reform and recovery from COVID-19 will bring new approaches and complications and that our shared responsibility for the quality of VET is more important than ever.

ASQA’s regulatory strategy for 2020–22 will ensure that we are focused on implementing the recommendations of the Rapid Review of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s Regulatory Practices and Processes (Rapid Review). In doing so, we will continue to engage with and support providers to deliver quality training outcomes.

Rapid review implementation

A crucial foundation for quality VET is an effective and best practice regulator that has the confidence of all stakeholders.

On 30 April 2020, the Australian Government released the Rapid Review report into our regulatory practices and processes. The Rapid Review found that, while ASQA’s overarching vision and purpose remain appropriate, adjustments to our practices are needed to improve our engagement with the sector and ensure our regulatory approach is guided by necessity, risk and proportionality. The review report includes 24 recommendations for reforms to the way ASQA operates and provides a long-term vision for better regulation of the VET sector as a whole.

We have commenced a program of work to implement the recommendations of the review and will adjust our regulatory culture, approach and practices, to promote and support a culture of effective provider self-assurance and best practice regulation.

Regulatory activity includes our:

  • engagement
  • education and guidance
  • communication with the sector
  • processing of applications
  • consideration of both provider and systemic risk, including through strategic reviews.

Our overarching goal is to move from input and compliance controls to a focus on self-assurance and excellence in training outcomes.

Improving quality and confidence in the sector is a shared responsibility and ASQA will work with the sector to this end.

Implementation of the recommendations of the Rapid Review will occur through a staged approach. Some of the identified areas for improvement can be progressed immediately, while others will take time and require close engagement with stakeholders.

During 2020-21 our reform focus will be to:

  • align our practices and governance, and implement an internal restructure in line with the new governance arrangements proposed in the Rapid Review
  • strengthen our routine and risk-based monitoring
  • build a common understanding of self-assurance
  • expand the set of regulatory tools we use
  • improve the way we conduct audits, write reports and describe evidence and non-compliances
  • improve internal practices to achieve greater consistency in both audit approach and decision making
  • become more transparent in identifying areas of risk and provide guidance that will support providers
  • strengthen our engagement and education programs, including commencing the Stakeholder Liaison Group (SLG).

Working with providers to support quality training during COVID-19

ASQA’s approach in working with providers to respond to the challenges arising from the recent bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic reflects our increased engagement with the sector and commitment to supporting quality training outcomes.

There is no doubt that this has been a difficult time for VET and ELICOS providers, and for their students. We have focused on supporting providers to maintain the quality of training and assessment during rapidly evolving public health and economic conditions.

To do this, we have engaged with stakeholders including the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), TAFE Directors Association (TDA), Community Colleges Association (CCA), Enterprise Registered Training Organisations Association (ERTOA), English Australia and Adult Learning Australia (ALA) to understand what providers need.

In response to this engagement and feedback, we have added targeted advice to our website, enabled providers to temporarily cease operations, extended transition and teach out periods for superseded training products, extended registration periods for some providers. applied regulatory flexibility where appropriate, and implemented the Government decision to waive or reimburse some fees and charges.

We have also provided advice for current and intending students about what to expect from providers, and what to do if they have concerns.

Many providers have reviewed their business operations to respond to the needs of students, to keep their students and staff safe, and to deliver the training that will give their students the best chance of gaining employment and contributing to the recovery of the Australian economy.

Over 2020–22, we will build on our existing engagement mechanisms, working with the SLG and our key stakeholders in government and industry to inform our regulatory approach and continue to provide support to providers in responding to the challenges of delivering quality training during the pandemic.

Working with providers to respond to risk

While ASQA has modified its regulatory approach and activity in recognition of the practical constraints for providers, we continue to monitor and respond to concerns that some providers may not be meeting their regulatory obligations.

Initially, we have focused this effort on helping providers understand the three key risks to quality training that we have identified as arising from COVD-19:

  1. Providers will add training products to their scope of registration in order to meet changes in demand, without the necessary industry engagement and expertise in those areas.
  2. Providers will transition to online or other distance modes of delivery without adequate student support or validation of assessment.
  3. Providers will be unable to place learners in workplaces to fulfil assessment requirements because businesses may be unable to operate or can operate only with limited people on the premises.

We are making information available for all providers on our website and communicating directly with affected providers, including producing:

  • general advice to the sector on the issues that can arise in relation to these risks and the impact if providers do not manage these risks
  • a dedicated page on our website with advice for providers on how to manage their own compliance risk, including:
    • information on distance and online delivery methods
    • webinars focussing on these key risk areas
  • targeted advice for individual providers that have:
    • applied and been approved to add training products to their scope of registration during COVID-19
    • notified ASQA of a move to online delivery.

The advice to providers is designed to support their understanding of ASQA’s expectations and the type of issues that we would seek to assess if they are audited in the future.

We are also continuing to actively apply regulatory scrutiny to high-risk providers and:

  • have established a dedicated page on our website with advice for students that supports them to ask informed questions of their providers and select quality providers.
  • continue to engage with other critical stakeholders, including peak bodies and funding agencies, to support ASQA’s work to address these key risks by providing early advice of ASQA’s concerns.

In 2020–22, ASQA will expand these actions to monitor current and post-COVID-19 risks as they emerge in the VET and international education sectors.

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