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ASQA releases findings of national strategic review into course duration

30 June 2017

The long-term quality of Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector is at risk unless the issue of unduly short training is definitively addressed, a new report has found. 

Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, today welcomed the release of the findings of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s (ASQA) national strategic review of issues relating to unduly short training.

Minister Andrews said unduly short courses were, in many cases, resulting in learners not gaining the competencies specified in the training packages for certain industries.

“This has the potential to lead to a loss of confidence in VET and long term costs to industry, individuals, the community and governments,” Minister Andrews said.

“For more than 20 years Australia’s training sector has been competency-based rather than time-based. That is, if a learner can demonstrate that he or she has the required competencies then the learner is eligible to receive a formal qualification.

“While a competency-based training system that puts industry at the heart of determining the skills required for real jobs should remain at the centre of Australia’s VET sector, more needs to be done to address the risk of unscrupulous providers exploiting this flexibility where there is pressure to deliver short courses.

“The findings of ASQA’s national strategic review provide further evidence of the need for all VET sector stakeholders to work together to address this issue and protect Australia’s world-class VET sector.

“While the Government has undertaken a number of significant reforms to strengthen the VET architecture and enhance ASQA’s powers, it is clear from this report that further work needs to be done.”

ASQA Chief Commissioner Mark Paterson said ASQA initiated the strategic review in response to concerns raised through its regulatory findings and previous strategic reviews that unduly short training prevented some learners from gaining the skills and competencies required to be certified as competent from VET courses.

“ASQA’s strategic reviews of training for the aged and community care, early childhood education and care; construction and security industries identified unduly short courses as being a key risk in these industries as well as the wider VET sector,” Mr Paterson said.

“The latest review found that in competency-based training systems there are still circumstances in which mandating duration is seen to be necessary as one means of regulating quality where there is a risk of unduly short training.

“It also found that the regulation of duration in VET was complex and confusing and the requirements are different across the two different types of nationally recognised training products, and that there was insufficient consistently-presented and comparable information available to enable VET consumers to make informed choices between RTOs.”

Mr Paterson said ASQA had made three broad recommendations to address the issues identified, including changes to the way course duration is regulated.

“The report recommends that the Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015 be amended to include a definition of the ‘amount of training’ that focusses on supervised learning, and that training package developers be able to set a mandatory amount of training where there is a persistent risk of unduly short training,” he said.

“ASQA has also recommended that RTOs be required to publish user-friendly and concise product disclosure statements for each training product on their scope of registration that includes the amount of training.  This would empower consumers to make more informed choices and help protect the overall quality of the VET system.”

Mr Paterson said ASQA looks forward to working with the Department of Education and Training and other stakeholders in the VET sector to implement the recommendations.