The Focus of Education

Over the Christmas break many friends and relatives wanted to talk to me about the headlines that have been appearing in the newspapers and social media over the last few months—VET FEE-HELP rorting, training companies going into liquidation, the freeze on government funding, and student debts etc.

However among clients and colleagues, while these topics are touched on, the more common themes were regarding funding contract changes, audits and the regulations that came into force on 1 January 2016.

It struck me that no one was discussing the students. Surely the students should be the focus of all training? For myself, it was the ‘light bulb moment’ that got me into the training industry—when you’ve taken the time to explain a new concept to them and they ‘get it’ or solve a problem they were thinking about.

So in this age of ‘volume of learning’ debates, quality verses compliance, and dwindling profits, our focus needs to return squarely to the student. We need to consider modern learning styles and technology, preparing them for the jobs of the future and assisting them to achieve an employment outcome.

In Victoria, the State Government has included ‘student-focused outcomes’ in the 2016 VTG funding contract, confusingly named ‘PUSH’ (Program Unique Supervised Hours). These are defined as:

The total number of unique (non-overlapping) hours of supervised training and assessment activity for the Program (course/qualification) enrolment. This should be determined from the student’s perspective. For example, if a student undertakes two units concurrently over the course of an eight-hour day, the PUSH for that student would be eight hours.

This aims to have RTOs report student teacher contact hours as opposed to nominal hours, which has always been a source of confusion for students and many administrators and trainers.

In many ways, RTOs have become caught in the headlights of the compliance juggernaut, and lost contact with the student perspective. We talk in the ‘alphabet soup’ of VET jargon within our marketing and student-induction programs. We provide training plans (that are meaningless to most students other than telling them the name of the units they have enrolled in), unit codes that make no sense to the uninitiated, mark assessments as ‘C’ or ‘NYC’ rather than the A-F or numerical scores we received in high school, and refer to funding sources as VFH, VTG or C3G. It’s little wonder the general public is confused!

So with the New Year already in full swing, let’s collectively work to recalibrate our industry focus. When someone asks you, ‘what’s the focus of your training?’ perhaps the best and most accurate response is, ‘the students’. I’m certain this approach will bring back the smile to our faces, and remove the confusion from theirs.

Interested in finding out more? Connect with Marie on LinkedIn to keep the conversation going

Marie Vassaio

Marie Vassallo has more than 15 years of experience in vocational education. She has worked at all levels within a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), including as CEO for a large national RTO. Marie has also worked as a Skills Victoria Auditor. Since 2008 she has managed her own company, Marie Vassallo Consulting, and brings her business and compliance skills to the table, delivering real world solutions for RTOs. Her consulting business provides assistance with regulatory and funding authority audits, contract applications, validation and moderation workshops and professional development workshops for all levels of staff. In 2014 Marie became an Accredited VETtrak Consultant, providing training to administration staff and management in how to gain the most from this student management system.