National support for the Standards
The Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) Industry and Skills Council is responsible for endorsing vocational education and training (VET) standards. The Council consists of the Australian, state and territory ministers with responsibility for industry and/or skills within their jurisdiction. Therefore, the Standards have been endorsed by a body representing the interests of all Australian states and territories, as well as the Commonwealth of Australia.
All registered training organisations (RTOs) in Australia are responsible for ensuring they fully comply with the Standards at all times as a condition of their registration. In regulating the Standards, ASQA acknowledges there are some new requirements that will take time for some RTOs to fully implement. Details of arrangements for transitioning to the Standards are published on ASQA’s website.
The Standards are enabled by the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (NVR Act), which aims to:
- provide national consistency in regulation of the VET sector, using a standards-based quality framework and a risk-based approach
- promote quality, flexibility and innovation in VET
- promote Australia’s reputation for VET locally and overseas
- promote a VET system that meets Australia’s social and economic needs
- protect students undertaking or proposing to undertake VET in Australia, and
- ensure access to accurate information regarding the quality of VET.
Purpose of the Standards
The purpose of the Standards is to:
- describe the requirements that an organisation must meet in order to be an RTO in Australia
- ensure that training delivered by RTOs meets industry requirements (as set out in the training package or accredited course) and has integrity for employment and further study, and
- ensure RTOs operate ethically and consider the needs of both learners and industry.
The Standards describe outcomes RTOs must achieve, but do not prescribe methods to achieve these outcomes. This allows RTOs to be flexible and innovative in their VET delivery. It is an acknowledgement that each RTO is different and needs to operate in a way that suits their clients and learners. RTOs take a multitude of forms, including very large TAFE institutes and other public providers; enterprise RTOs that are part of larger organisations and only train staff of those organisations; community-based providers; commercial colleges; and many more. These organisations are diverse in size, structure, governance and the scope and volume of services provided. By describing outcomes rather than inputs, the Standards encourage flexibility and innovation while assuring the quality of training.
How the Standards ensure VET graduates are job-ready
To ensure VET graduates are job-ready, the Standards focus on ensuring industry influences how VET is delivered in Australia. RTOs must engage with industry when developing training and assessment strategies and ensure their trainers and assessors hold current industry skills and knowledge.
Industry expectations of the skills and knowledge of VET graduates are expressed in training packages and VET accredited courses. The Standards ensure graduates meet these expectations by requiring learners to demonstrate their skills and knowledge through training and assessment. Learners do this through training that allows them the opportunity and the time to develop and practice these in a holistic and meaningful way.
The Standards require rigorous assessment to ensure learners:
- have absorbed the knowledge
- developed the skills, and
- are able to combine skills and knowledge to perform in the workplace to expected industry standards (as expressed in the training package or accredited course).
Quality training and assessment depends on the skills and knowledge of trainers and assessors. Therefore, high-quality delivery of qualifications for trainers and assessors is of vital importance. The Standards require that RTOs and people delivering these qualifications meet a high standard. The Standards specify that trainers and assessors are skilled VET practitioners with current industry skills and knowledge, so learners receive the training they need and graduates are properly assessed before being issued with a qualification or statement of attainment. While the Standards allow flexibility in how industry skills and knowledge are obtained and demonstrated, they also set clear expectations about this, and about the VET competencies that must be held by trainers and assessors.
Learners and employers must be able to make informed choices about which training and provider will meet their needs. The Standards ensure RTOs provide sufficient, accurate information to allow learners to make sound choices. While the Standards do not prescribe the way information is provided, they set clear expectations about what information is to be provided prior to enrolment. This is the case regardless of the medium used to advertise training, how learners are recruited or who is actually providing the information. The Standards make it clear that the RTO is solely responsible for all advertising and recruitment done on its behalf.
Third parties delivering training and assessment or other services on behalf of RTOs present a heightened level of risk to the compliance of RTOs. The Standards require that these arrangements are clearly articulated in a written agreement and that RTOs monitor the activities of third parties. The Standards also clarify that RTOs are wholly responsible for the quality of training and assessment provided by third parties.
It is important that a balance is achieved between the need to regulate the VET sector and doing so in a way that minimises the regulatory burden and maximises transparency. The Standards achieve this by describing outcomes, allowing RTOs to comply with the Standards in a way that best suits their organisation and their learners.
Structure of the Standards
Each Standard consists of:
- the Standard itself, which provides a broad statement about the required outcomes of that Standard
- a context statement, which provides background information to aid understanding, but is not part of the Standard itself and does not describe any compliance requirements, and
- one or more clauses that describe the outcomes an RTO is required to achieve to comply with that Standard (for an RTO to comply with the Standard, it must fully comply with all of the clauses in the Standard).
The Standards also include a glossary (refer to Appendix 1). Where a word is defined in the glossary, it has that defined meaning with regard to the Standards.
Benefits of a quality VET sector
As the people being trained and/or assessed by an RTO, learners have the greatest stake in the quality of VET. Learners often rely on VET outcomes to gain employment or career advancement. While learners cannot always be expected to fully understand the complexities of the sector or what constitutes quality, they must be able to make informed choices about training that best meets their needs. Learners must have confidence that, no matter which provider they choose, they will receive quality training and assessment that is responsive to industry needs and to their needs.
Employers rely on RTOs to provide essential skills and knowledge to both new entrants and existing workers. The Standards require RTOs to maintain strong engagement with industry to ensure their services remain relevant to the needs of employers, and graduates are job-ready.
Collectively, the governments of Australia and its states and territories are responsible for policy on how VET is regulated. Governments are also significant purchasers of VET through public funding programs. The Standards represent the expectations that governments place on RTOs and provide government with confidence to invest in training that contributes to a skilled Australian workforce.
VET is a significant contributor to Australia’s economy domestically, being the primary mechanism to meet the skilling needs of the Australian community. VET also contributes greatly to the valuable export education market. An appropriate regulatory model ensures that the VET sector can remain viable in the long term. This gives the community confidence that RTOs are delivering quality training and assessment that is highly regarded both locally and overseas.
RTOs are dependent on the value that other stakeholders place on the Australian VET sector. To ensure the sector is able to provide high-quality training and assessment, a balanced approach to regulation is required. The Standards provide a rigorous (yet flexible) outcomes-focused regulatory framework that encourages innovation and flexibility while ensuring quality Standards are met.