RTO Compliance – is it really that hard?

Too often I hear people in the VET sector say running an RTO is difficult, that there are so many regulations to follow and it’s an administrative nightmare…but is it?

If you ask any business owner—be it a café, petrol station, child care centre or even an aged care facility—about their regulation and what they have to live with, by comparison you’ll probably find running an RTO is really not as hard, or at least not much harder than running any business.

Now I’m not saying it’s not challenging to run an RTO, but show me a business that is not. Most business owners you talk to will express their concern about various challenges, business regulation or some sort of government red tape. So where are all these comments coming from?
I have my beliefs and while it may not be the case every time, over the past 15 years, I’ve seen some common elements. Often RTO owners choose not to invest in key areas of their organisations, like staff development and the quality of their assessment tools and resources.

I could almost guarantee that any RTO that has accurately followed the standards relating to these three things (SNR 15.3, 15.4 & 15.5 / AQTF 1.3, 1.4 & 1.5), will do better in running the RTO.

So, where do RTOs go wrong?

  1. RTO owners can fail to properly understand the regulations under which they operate.
    Understand your obligations and don’t just rely on what you hear from others or read on LinkedIn. You wouldn’t believe how much misinformation is posted by ‘experts’—much of it is opinion, not fact, and is often wrong. Visit the ASQA or State regulator website, download the factsheets or invest in a consultant to undertake an internal audit—it could save you money in the end.
  2. Ensure your staff understand and are empowered by their responsibilities.
    Your staff must know how their roles fit within the Vocational Quality Framework (VQF) and how the VQF fits into their roles so invest the time to get your staff on board with the standards. Try incorporating one standard into staff meetings and discuss what it means to each staff member. Build on the level of understanding of your team.
  3. Invest in your assessment tools and ensure everyone understands them.
    • In my opinion, the best option here is to write your own tools. Make them suitable for your learners and your industry.
    • The next best is to buy a set of tools. I often hear organisations say they want to purchase assessment tools, but they cost too much. Work out how much it would cost you if you were to write them from scratch. Quality tools cost money.
    • Lastly…Validate, Validate, Validate! This is and has been a requirement for years.
  4. Don’t focus on audits—pleasing an auditor doesn’t equal quality.
    The aim of the game is to provide quality training and assessment services and not to simply pass an audit.
  5. By owning or working in an RTO, it’s your responsibility to understand the standards.
    Take some time to read them, understand them and find out how they align to your organisation. Talk to your fellow staff and undertake professional development. If you immerse yourself in the RTO and embrace the context of the standards, they’ll make more sense and you’ll gain a better understanding of them.

Running an RTO is not hard, but running and managing a business can be. The standards are one small part of the whole RTO operation. The more you understand them, embrace them and empower your staff to do the same, the easier it will be to run a quality and successful RTO.

Maciek FibrichMaciek Fibrich is Director and Principal Consultant of RTO Consultancy Group providing an end-to-end solution for organisations wishing to establish or build a successful, prosperous and reputable RTO.