New Year… New Standards?
The hype behind the standards for Registered Training Organisations in 2015
If you haven’t yet heard, all RTOs (except the 350 odd currently registered under the VRQA) have new standards to follow. With all the hype from various stakeholders leading up to the end of the year, the countless seminars and the ‘new’ policies for sale, the question has to be asked, what’s so new about these standards?
Leading up to the New Year, I spent much of my holidays reading, interpreting and evaluating the standards, and in my opinion, not a huge amount has changed. For this reason, I get very concerned when I see owners and even Compliance Managers within RTOs going out and buying a new set of policies, thinking that buying a generic set will make their RTO compliant.
Being compliant is not about buying new policies
Primarily, it’s about ensuring the practices undertaken within an organisation align to the standards, and the systems and approaches are sufficient to demonstrate a systematic approach to quality assurance. It is very unlikely that buying a set of generic ‘off-the-shelf’ standards will lead to this.
So, having gone through the ‘new’ standards, I’ve listed below some of the main differences I have identified. While most are not new requirements, there is a greater focus on structure:
- We’ve gone from 11 to 8 standards, and we now have clauses
- Training and Assessment Strategies now also focus on the RTO’s practices
- Volume of Learning has become more of a focus within the standards
- There’s a stronger and more defined focus on industry consultation
- There’s a greater focus on ensuring the principles of assessment and rules of evidence are covered
- There’s a more formal approach to Assessment Validation
- There’s a more defined approach for the qualifications needed to be held by Trainers and Assessors, especially after 1 January 2017
- The transition process is more defined and generally shorter
- Partnerships and third party arrangements are more defined and rigorous
- Stronger focus of fraud protection with the issuance of certificates
- A new requirement to issue certificates within 30 days of being deemed competent has been implemented, however, certificates no longer have to be issued to students who still owe the RTO money
- There’s now a requirement to collect a student’s Unique Student Identifier (USI) prior to the issuing of a certificate
- There’s a greater focus on informing potential learners of third party arrangements and providing accurate and factual information, including information related to their chosen course, student recruitment, funding and VET FEE-HELP
- There’s a more defined complaints handling process requiring RTOs to settle complaints within 60 days or provide a reason for the delay
- Finally, two significant additions include, any third party delivering services on behalf of the RTO is required under written agreement to cooperate with the VET Regulator, and the RTO will now be required to provide an annual declaration on the compliance with these Standards.
So how do you become compliant with the new standards?
- Make sure you and your staff read the standards and the User Guide. This might seem obvious but there are many RTO owners out there who are yet to read them.
- Evaluate what you do, and if your practices align to what the standards say and expect.
- Look at your existing policies, procedures and processes, and check to see if they align to what you actually do as well as what the standards require.
A ‘bonus’ with these Standards, is that ASQA made a decision to release a Users’ Guide to the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 as well as publishing FAQs on their website. Both give significant guidance as to how the standards can be implemented.
So, if there is a misalignment between your processes and the standards, you can use the User Guide and the FAQs to have a go at fixing the gaps and any issues you identify. Some may be quite simple to fix. Failing that, there is no harm in asking someone to look at your process and your existing policies and helping you to align them to the new Standards.
Remember, you should never be reliant on your consultant. A good consultant will spend time with you and your staff to ensure systematic issues aren’t repeated. They’ll also educate staff moving forward to be able to self-identify any non-compliances, and more importantly, help fix them. Getting your consultant to do everything will not fix the issues long term. It may provide a Band-Aid, but not a long-term solution.
Finally, I acknowledge it’s sometimes easier to start with a blank canvas like with a new set of Polices and Procedures. Sometimes, organisations just need a fresh start. However if you can avoid it, don’t be tempted to go out and just buy a generic ‘off-the-shelf’ set of policies and procedures that probably won’t align to what you do and will only take you back to square one. Work with a good consultant to develop them with you, ensuring proper implementation along the way.
Think about the issues you’ve identified, plan remedial actions and then act.
Maciek 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.