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C H A P T E R    2

Spotlight On trainers and assessors:
Vocational competence and currency

Chapter 2 aims to help RTOs determine the workplace competencies of trainers and assessors.

It is important that RTOs know they are responsible for confirming that trainers and assessors have the required workplace skills and experience to confidently and competently train students, as required in the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 (the Standards).

Workplace competency requirements

Vocational competency


Vocational competency in a particular industry consists of broad industry knowledge and experience, usually combined with a relevant industry qualification. A person who has vocational competency will be familiar with the content of the vocation and will have relevant current experience in the industry.

Vocational competencies must be considered on an industry-by-industry basis and with reference to the guidance provided in the assessment guidelines of the relevant training package.

Industry currency


The maintenance of a trainer's vocational technical skills and knowledge, enabling the trainer to deliver and assess vocational training relevant to current industry practices.

Glossary of VET National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2020,

Understanding vocational competencies

The Standards require that a trainer and assessor is capable and experienced in the requirements of each training product being delivered by that person, at least to the level described in that specific product.

Your RTO should be sure that your trainers and assessors are vocationally competent in all units of competencies they are delivering. Many training packages are structured to enable an RTO to flexibly design a qualification and select from a range of units. Where your trainers and assessors are not vocationally competent in a particular unit, this may mean that unit cannot be advertised or offered to prospective students, because your RTO is not resourced in that area.

Many trainers and assessors will hold the units of competency that they are delivering. But vocational competency can also be demonstrated through equivalence of competency. Demonstrating equivalence of competency means that the trainer and assessor has the broad knowledge, skill and experience requirements similar to actually holding the unit of competency.

A consistent approach to equivalence

Your RTO should apply a consistent approach to assess whether a prospective trainer and assessor has an equivalent unit of competency. Your approach should:


establish the requirements for the applicable unit of competency

determine a clear relationship between the evidence provided by the trainer and assessor and each of the requirements

confirm that the trainer and assessor has broad industry knowledge and experience for each of the requirements

verify the evidence provided by the candidate.

Understanding current industry skills

When recruiting trainers and assessors, it is crucial that candidates are able to demonstrate current understanding and skills relevant to the vocational industry in which they are looking to deliver. Their currency means your students can be taught in a way that reflects relevant industry practice, allowing them to progress more easily into the workforce.

Keeping skills updated


The skills and knowledge required in the workplace do not remain static. However, just how often your trainers and assessors will need to update their skillset will vary based on the industry. For example, changes in technology or the development of new products mean that workers need to learn new skills and keep abreast of these changes. Because trainers and assessors are training the individuals moving into these occupations, they also need to update their own industry skills and knowledge.

Resources for updating skills


Some training package companion volumes are a suitable resource for RTOs to give advice on industry currency requirements and opportunities suitable to a particular vocation. These resources give direction from the industry representatives – including employers – who are active in VET and the workplace.

Managing your RTO’s staff skillset

While the method and frequency of maintaining current industry skills will vary for each trainer and assessor, the method your RTO applies to manage this process for trainers and assessors should remain consistent. Steps for efficient RTO skillset management include:


maintain effective engagement with industry to identify current industry practices and expectations relevant to the applicable unit of competency being delivered


establish the requirements for the applicable unit of competency


determine a program of opportunity for industry experiences, providing varied but comprehensive exposure and opportunities for trainers and assessors to participate


reflect on how current industry participation opportunities align to the outcomes from industry engagement and unit requirements, and


retain evidence of the opportunities and of how the resulting reflection continuously improved training and assessment.

Effective industry engagement


To keep up to date with current workplace practices, your RTO should:

  • remain connected to your industry using effective engagement techniques
  • engage with employers and other industry representatives based on your learner cohort
  • ensure you are directly aligned to the types of workplaces and industries your students are part of or are seeking employment in.

Employers can provide insight to recent changes to practices and resources, and can also guide you in other methods to maintain industry currency of skills.

Trainers and assessors that visit a workplace:


to experience the latest techniques, processes and resources could use this engagement to contribute to the demonstration of currency
to deliver training and assessment to a student, would not contribute to the demonstration of currency.

Collecting evidence of vocational competency and industry currency

Evidence to demonstrate vocational competency or industry currency might include:


  • current or recent employment or placement in industry
  • attendance at relevant professional development activities
  • completion of related formal or non-formal training
  • active participation in networks, communities of practice or mentoring activities
  • active participation in industry release schemes
  • personal development through the reading of journals
  • participation in projects with industry
  • shadowing or working closely with other trainers and assessors.

Other requirements to consider

Some units of competency require assessors to hold additional, specific vocational and/or industry skills and experience.
These extra requirements will be found in the Assessment Conditions of the unit of competency.


An example of Assessment Conditions which have these extra requirements can be found in the unit of competency SHBHCUT002 - Create one length or solid haircut structures. This unit requires any assessor delivering the unit to hold the following competencies and experience:


Assessors must satisfy the Standards for Registered Training Organisation’s requirements for assessors; and:

  • hold a Certificate III in Hairdressing, or a Certificate III in Barbering, or a Certificate IV in Hairdressing, or be able to demonstrate equivalence of competencies; and
  • have at least three years full time employment experience as a hairdresser in a salon environment where they have applied the skills and knowledge covered in this unit of competency to assess this unit as part of a hairdressing qualification; this cannot include any indentured traineeship or apprenticeship period; or
  • have at least three years full time employment experience as a barber in a shop or salon environment where they have applied the skills and knowledge covered in this unit of competency to assess this unit as part of a barbering qualification ; this cannot include any indentured traineeship or apprenticeship period.

Useful tips to help determine competencies


Verify and record any documents or processes

See the advice given in Chapter 1 of this series on how to ensure you verify and record evidence that your trainers and assessors have the needed competency.

Engage industry

The best source you will have to determine the industry skills trainers and assessors need is industry itself. When you engage with industry as part of your planning process, ask them what skills, experience and knowledge trainers and assessors need to demonstrate a current understanding of the industry and use that information in your recruitment processes.

Map competencies

Mapping the competencies required to deliver a training product against the skills, knowledge and experience of your trainers and assessors is not mandatory but it is a useful way to ensure that the requirements match.




Still have a question? Check out the Users’ guide to the Standards for RTOs 2015, or send through a question for consideration for our webinar via our website.


Contact us



Follow the links below to visit other chapters in the Spotlight On series.

Visit Chapter 3

Professional Development – ensuring trainers and assessors are given opportunities to improve their educational and vocational skills.

Visit Chapter 1 Chapter 1 discusses the recruitment of qualified trainers and assessors.


Register for our next Spotlight On webinar





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