Questions about training quality

Sue Simpson
Research Officer

A recent report from the Australian Skills Quality Authority on the marketing and advertising practices of Australia’s registered training organisations questions the marketing practices of “up to a half of registered training organisations” as “potentially misleading to consumers”.

Possible breaches included promises of qualifications irrespective of the outcomes of assessment and guaranteeing a job after training; collecting fees in advance above the limits set for registered training organisations (RTOs) and time frames for courses that fell far short of the volume of learning required.

Industry Skills Council consultations have also raised issues concerning:

“•Inappropriate use of online learning that lacks work-based context;
“•Training delivery that does not provide the appropriate knowledge and skills which results in the issuance of qualifications to students who have not demonstrated the required competencies;
“•Inappropriate use of recognition of prior learning;
“•Trainers who lack recent industry experience;
“•Enrolling students without the required prerequisites;
“•Delivering training that the RTO is not registered to deliver;
“•Training (delivery and assessment) that varies in quality for certain target groups; and
“•Pressure to push students through programs quickly to address skill shortages or to deliver qualifications required for employment.”

Significantly for issues of quality, Industry Skills Council consultations cited the trainer qualification, Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, as an illustration of inappropriate practices, with “RTOs, often with employer support, providing training in extremely short time-frames”. If the trainers are not properly trained, it is hard to have any confidence in the standards of their work.

The organisations reviewed were not named. Certainly the big private providers seek to promote their courses as quality. Nevertheless the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) concluded: “The information available to ASQA indicated that misleading marketing and advertising practices were not confined to small numbers of RTOs or particular industry sectors, but were prevalent across the training sector.”

At the request of federal Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley, ASQA will be reviewing the standard of courses for early childhood workers required under the National Quality Framework childcare reforms. Ms Ley is quoted: “… we need to ensure courses are up to scratch and not just a ‘tick and flick’ service to get people over the line.” A 2011 Productivity Commission report identified inconsistencies in the quality of early childhood education and care training (The Australian, January 24).

At Senate Budget Estimates on June 3, 2013, ASQA Chief Commissioner Chris Robinson gave frightening statistics concerning the standard of quality amongst RTOs and would be RTOs:

  • around 22 per cent of applications to set up an RTO are rejected; and
  • 11 per cent of existing providers renewal of registration applications are rejected.

With all these concerns about quality amongst training providers, now is hardly the time to be challenging TAFE quality through Smart and Skilled.