Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Contextualisation to Meet Learner's Needs

Recently I was asked to explain how Training Packages, accredited curricula and learning resources can be contextualised to meet the needs of individual learners without compromising standards.
First, let's look a little bit at standards. Standards are important things, without standards the quality of any given product can be found to be lacking, usually as a result of an underlying weak system.
When standards are compromised, the remaining product is something that lacks (in quality) credibility and value when measured against the unadulterated original intention. This can lead to the integrity being questioned, and ultimately confidence in the product or service, and ultimately the brand being lost.
You only have to look as far as the proverbial dodgy Forklift Licensing Assessor who issues forklift licences over a number of years and is found to be not just bending, but blatantly breaking the rules (and standards), which results after investigation in all previous candidates who were assessed as competent, requiring reassessment (see Maryann deFrutos WorkSafe investigation 2005).
So what does this have to do with contextualisation?
Contextualisation of Training Packages, accredited curricula and learning resources can be achieved without compromising the standards. Contextualisation is the addition of industry specific information to a unit of competency, accredited curricula or learning resource to tailor the standard to reflect the immediate operating context and thereby increase its relevance for the Learner.
Contextualisation is ultimately defined as; the activity undertaken by a Trainer/Assessor to make units of competency, accredited curricula or learning resources meaningful to the learner.
Resources such as “Contextualising teaching and learning, A guide for VET teachers” explain how learning activities can be tailored to suit varying workplaces and individual learners, steps in contextualisation, examples of contextualised teaching strategies and professional development activities.
Contextualisation can assist in the delivery of the material in the practice environment by drawing on common understanding as a frame of reference and/or building on the individual Learner's understanding with relatable information, activities and tasks to facilitate the delivery of a new or developed understanding of the information covered. Thus improving the understanding of the Learner and working towards achieving competence and a practical, relatable application of the points delivered. The overall aim is to deliver to the individual Learner's needs as much as possible in a comprehensive manner.
The main steps to successful contextualisation are through:
· Being familiar with the units of competency, accredited curricula or learning resources
· Getting to know your Learners
· Taking account of the learning setting
· Developing learning activities
Training Packages provide the industry standards required in the workplace, but they normally don’t specify any one rigid way to teach these standards. Training Packages can be contextualised to suit the needs of the Learner to the extent that the lesson is made tangible for them.
This does need to be done carefully so as to not undermine the requirements in the Units of Competency. The end result needs to be in line with the demonstration of competence within the required outcomes of the assessment process. This is inclusive of modifications to specific terminology (generic terms in the performance criteria) used in industry altering the competency outcomes. The elements and performance criteria in a Unit of Competency cannot be changed. The range statement can be made to reflect specific needs as long as the changes do not detract from the breadth or portability of the competency.
This contextualisation requirement therefore carries over to accredited curricula (where the course leads to an AQF qualification or a Statement of Attainment being issued) and any related learning resources (which in their content use contextualisation as a means to convey the lesson).
An example of contextualisation to suit the needs of Learners and maintain the standards could be covered in the delivery of training and assessment for Learners who are undertaking a qualification in order to gain employment. Contextualisation can be achieved through the establishment of a practice environment (e.g. simulations) or entering into a workplace placement arrangement to meet the needs of the Training Package where the training and assessment are completed outside of a workplace.
Contextualisation can be very useful in situations where it may be difficult or even unsafe to seek to use real life occurrences such as those linked to the Unit of Competence ‘Apply accident and emergency procedures’. For example, observations of skills may be restricted to contextualised simulations when looking at dealing with chemical spills. The substance that is used as a substitute inside marked dangerous goods packages could be water, instead of a very dangerous corrosive substance. The application of the processes in the response would still need to be in line with the requirements, but this would diminish the potential harm within the training environment without detracting from the requirements within the training and assessment. And so you have appropriate contextualisation.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Movember Election 2012

It's almost time to Grow the Mo in support of Movember.

I recently added some pictures of potential ideas to our Facebook page for all of you out there to vote on. The suggestion that attracts the most 'Likes' will be the one that I go with.

I'm also open to suggestions outside of those in the photos being included to vote on.

Here's what the (scary) lineup look like so far...

Time to vote. "Like" on Facebook if you think I should grow the handlebar or horseshoe moustache.
Time to vote. "Like" on Facebook if you think I should grow the Magnum PI moustache.
Time to vote. "Like" on Facebook if you think I should grow the creepy pencil thin moustache.

If you would like to support our team in this worthwhile cause, you can access our page on the Movember site at  http://au.movember.com/mospace/3155405

I'm currently clean shaven and waiting for the 1st of November, so get in while there is still time!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Holidays, Fatigue, Movember and Duckling Rescues...

Well it has been a while since our last post and so may things have been happening. To fill you in on the gaps July was a month that provided me with the opportunity to travel and experience a few things I’ve been looking forward to since I was about 10 years old. Six weeks of travelling through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala comfortably scheduled between some time in California and Florida proved to be the recharge that my batteries needed. I’m working on an account of these travels which I have given the title of “Raiders of the Lost Shaker of Salt” which has its roots in a number of associated areas for me (more info to come in future posts).

A pretty big addition for us is that we have got our YouTube channel up and running with the first five in a series of who knows how many “Fatigue Management” videos. The first cluster of videos are focusing on understanding fatigue and the requirements for managing fatigue from a Driver’s perspective. As the series develops we will look at some of the more specific compliance related aspects that Drivers, Fleet Controllers, Allocators, Consignors, etc. need to be aware of to support their obligations in the Chain of Responsibility as parties in the supply chain.

Discussions with our Trainers and Assessors has also provided inspiration for a number of other projects that we hope will support Learner’s development and experience by providing the sometimes needed boost to help clarify or contextualise some often unclear topics we often receive questions about.

From a community perspective, some of our people are signed up and ready to go in this year’s Movember to raise awareness and funds in support of men’s health. More information about this worthwhile initiative can be found on the official Movember site.

And what would any blog be without closing on a heart warming animal story? Late last week at the Border Express Albury branch a group of caring individuals rapidly sprung into action when the chirping of ducklings was heard coming from the sump near the site’s bowsers. Braving spiders and trucks the now famous Border Express Animal Rescue team scooped up five of the seven ducklings using the best tools they could get their hands on in such short notice. Mother duck and her more fortunate other two ducklings were searching high and low for the missing five. After some strenuous efforts and contacting the local animal welfare department they were reunited at Brown’s Lagoon where they swam off together into the distance the way all happy stories should end.

Heath, Jayde, Tim and Kristy braving the depths to rescue the five stray ducklings.

Although they were distressed, they were comfortable in a dry box waiting for their siblings.

You can't tell me this isn't a cute picture.

Last one finally scooped up from the depths.

Monday, July 2, 2012

VET professional discussion on Trainer/Assessor qualifications provides some hope for qaulity in the system...

A recent thread on LinkedIn provided an interesting forum for discussion around the varying views and opinions about Trainer/Assessor competencies, requirements and the VET system has handled this in the past.

The discussion began with the following post:

Have you been wondering "How long can I continue to train and assess on my TAA for? Is my BSZ still OK? Do I need to do something now about getting my TAE?"

This post may provide some helpful information;

Hannu • Although people may deliver courses and assess under supervision without a full certificate, where a qualified person takes all responsibility of the outcomes, in real world this is quite rare. RTOs do not hire people without full current qualifications for practical reasons. There are exceptions where the person is an expert in an unusual profession where the RTO has no choice but to hire.

Good posting anyway, thanks for your information.

David • Why doesn't ASQA/NSSC simply bite the bullet and say that everyone who is a trainer in VET has to have the most up to date version of the trainer qualification? I can't think of any other industry where it's ok for the supposed experts NOT to be the most qualified. I'm guessing it's the TAFE lobby who is against this as most of their people don't even have TAA and have continued to be able to train with that pathetic qualification of yesteryear - BSZ. It's a joke and yet another example of how poor and dumbed down the VET system is.

Why is it ok for a person to train other people under the supervision of another more qualified trainer? Who does that anyway, as Hannu points out above? My guess is no one and it's simply a loophole for lazy RTO bosses and TAFE "leaders" to bypass the system that they are responsible for implementing.

Yet again - shame on you, you who run VET in Australia!

Hannu • Good on you David, you said what many would not dare. I have personal experiences with TAFE teachers that do not want to learn TAA or TAE, they do not need the skills apparently, and the TAFE management is prepared to rubber stamp supervisor reports claiming that they have the skills when they have no idea.
However, a positive point to TAFE, they are slowly moving towards having all trainers TAE qualified, by the year 2025 I guess... Any Government organisation takes long time to change, in terms of generations, not years.
Saying that, there are many TAFE teachers that are well qualified and should not be offended by my comments.

Matthew • David, I totally agree! The slide rule that is effectively in place with the allowances for the wind to blow this way and that is far too prone to inconsistency.

What I struggle to accept is that vocational currency can be substantiated by subscribing to newsletters and attending the odd workshop here and there (not that this is really monitored in any way).

I struggle to swallow how a VET Trainer/Assessor in something like Transport and Logistics, as an example, with minimal exposure to hands on industry currency (where this is really a critical aspect) can 'hand on heart' provide current training or make assessment determinations if they are not consistently in the mix themselves.

D'arcey • Why are so called L&D professionals so unwilling to do the required PD to say current?
My God-BSZ-so far off the pace?

David • I agree. It's ludicrous that we're even having this conversation! Come on ASQA - get your act together, refuse to buckle to stakeholder pressure and actually do something useful for a change.

Kerry • I agree it is vitally important to have current competency in industry, as well as training and education qualifications. I also believe that, as professionals in an industry which is continuously developing, that the TAE and its relevant updates cannot be the only professional development one should have in this industry. To focus on this as the only and essential PD for all trainers is limiting.
Top speakers / trainers have additional training and experience in tools such as NLPs, behavioural and psychology tools and fun activities and games used metaphorically in delivery. They differentiate between their learners and apply innovative instructional design to their training on a regular and reviewed basis.
Unfortunately the TAE can become a tick-a-box ticket to deliver (just look at the quick-fix BSZ upgrades competing on-line).
Bravo, I say to those who have the TAE and seek to learn about and include other tools in their design and delivery. Give me a trainer with passion any day!

D'arcey • Passion is one thing we all like to see in a trainer but give me an instructor who can deliver the MUST KNOW within the right time frame and an assessor that has the ability to interpret and assess according to complex guidelines ensuring that competency is actually met and "the paperwork is done properly".

Let’s start at that base level for everyone and I will be happy!

Lewis • For those who are aware of my applauding "educationalist" VET teachers for what they contribute to the melding of strengthening social capital and human capital attributes of a VET learner, I trust that my "like" for what Kerry offers is understood. However, in a related manner, there is a silence in this overall discussion regarding the quality of learning outcomes from both TAA Cert IV (in the past) and continuing in TAE Cert IV (of the present) which I suggest should be put on the table.

For me, the key issue is not whether a VET teacher/assessor holds the TAA or TAE Cert IV, but whether they do indeed have the competency which is implied. My sense is that the system is moving toward insistence that whatever Cert IV qualification is held (and however dubiously achieved - we can't turn back the clock) this is an entry qualification (held ticket) which must be built upon. And this building upon is likely to be subjected to rigorous scrutiny regarding the quality of engagement and outcome - the pendulum will swing.

Ann • In 2010, when RTO's were applying to have TAE put on scope, I attended a VET workshop which was addressed by a representative from VETAB. That person explained that Trainers/Assessors only need to have TAE (over TAA) if they intend to train TAE. This has also been confirmed to me by a senior member of staff at Gymea TAFE who is part of IBSA and writes some of the material for TAE. I have been treating this information as correct. I suggest that if you want a correct answer to your question that you contact IBSA via email and get them to send their reply in writing so you have it on file.

Derek • @Ann, also it depends upon what the actual Manager of the RTO stipulates or in my case the Board of the Institute of the TAFE where I am employed. If one applies a Risk Based approach to managing an RTO then prudence would dictate having one’s employees and contractors being able to acquire or demonstrate (RPL) the most up to date qualification. Of equal if not more concern would be the currency of the person’s actual vocational skill as well.

@Lewis, again you raise an issue which is extremely pertinent. The proposition put forward by Dr John Mitchell of novice, skilled and master practitioner is one that has a great deal of merit plus incorporating the notion of maintaining vocational currency. But at the end of the day the Cert 4 level Training and Assessing qualification is only that initial building block and should be the spring board to obtain higher credentials.

Ann • Thank you for your thoughts. I am extremely stubborn when it comes to occupational currency. There is morality and integrity in all this as we (the VET sector) hold the future of Australia's skills in our hands. The problem that this leaves, obviously, is that it extremely hard to find trainers/assessors who tick all the boxes. Trainer/assessors are our inventory. I don't think we have seen the impact of ASQA auditing yet and I believe there will be a progressive consolidation of RTOs. Let the best men remain standing!

Janelle • Regulations are one thing, implementing them is another. I know this is a "soap box" of mine, but the appalling training of Trainers and Assessors must be addressed. I have recently been delivering PD and Upgrade to TAE to people who hold the TAA40104 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. All are currently working as Trainers and Assessors in RTO's. This is just a taste of the basic knowledge lacking:
1. Don't know anything about Industry Skills Councils
2. Don't know what a Training Package is
3. Don't know what Training Package the qualification that they are delivering and assessing comes from
4. No idea about Principles of Assessment
5. No idea about Rules of Evidence
6. No idea about how a Training package is developed and by whom
7. Never heard of Validation
8. Didn't know about where to find "Packaging Rules"
9. Never heard of "Training.gov.au"
10. "My RTO has a policy of not offering RPL"

To abide by AQTF Standard I must accept the qualifications issued by another RTO. This is a joke! I believe that a fair majority of people walking around with a TAA qualification shouldn't have it. Yet there is nothing I can do about it! People deliver this qualification in 3 Days. Another joke! If the VET Sector is to be taken seriously these issues need to be addressed. We have been talking about this for years, yet nothing has been done.

I gave my input to IBSA when the TP was being updated, as did a lot of other people, yet still nothing much has changed. How can a trainer, not matter how "vocationally" competent and up to date, deliver quality training and assessment, when they don't even know the basics of the VET system?

I would really like to see these issues addressed urgently. Is anyone else prepared to get involved and what can we do?

Ann • Hi Janelle I am with you all the way. I think that RTOs that are prepared to be compliant should stick together. I've had the same experience where last year (before ASQA) I held a Trainer PD day just to educate them in AQTF.

I am prepared to get involved and believe we could start with getting ISCs on board. We would have to put a plan together to get to the end goal.

David • I support everything you say Janelle. I'm an RTO owner in Sydney and just run TAE40110 courses plus, of course, RPL upgrades.

The 1st day of my course pretty much covers all those items you list and it's amazing how even people who have been involved in VET for years have no idea about most of them.

I'd like to get involved.

Kathleen • Not 'blowing my own trumpet' ... (well I guess I am a bit) ... but I actually stepped away from a paying contract to deliver & ASSESS the TAE40110 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification when I was not supported in ensuring all the points above (for e.g.) were addressed.

The client / participants had all these stories of a 25 min 'napkin folding' session = C in x4 UoCs (delivery / assessment/ validation!!! / & work instructions).

I am passionate about our industry and our standards & I did / do try to share that passion (make it relevant / explain the importance & value etc.) - but obviously not well enough.

At the end of day I refused to have my name associated with 'new trainers' who might have come to your RTO (or mine) & simply did not know what they should.

I know my story isn't unique & I guess many of us here are in the same boat. I guess this is just a little collective pat on the back for those of us who do 'stand our ground' on these matters.

Kathleen • OH PS - If any of you ever come across someone who says "Kathleen Zarubin trained / assessed me on 'this'" (whatever it is) - & they are not up to standard - Feel free to drop me a private email & let me know. I would personally revisit any missing gaps and address them for free. There - that is putting your reputation 'on the line'.

Janelle • Thanks Ann, David and Kathleen! You have given me hope! I have even considered giving up training and delivering the TAE qualification, because of the expectation that it can be delivered in a few days. But, like all of you, I'm passionate about training and assessment as a profession. It is difficult for an RTO to deliver this qualification in a financially viable way, because clients are always telling me:
1. "Why would I do this course with you (10 days of face to face training, plus significant project work over 6 months) when XYZ Training will give me the qualification in 3,4,5, or whatever days.
2. What do you mean you need to observe me delivering training sessions, XYZ Training doesn't do that?
3. Why do I need to understand about compliance, we've got a compliance officer for that?
4. My friend did their TAE with XZT Training and she didn't have to develop 2 learning programs at that contain differentiated learning program designs to reflect particular needs, contexts and timelines, at least one of which must be based on competency standards or accredited courses and must cover at least one entire unit of competency or accredited course module.
5. I don't design learning programs; I just deliver them so why do I need all this other stuff?

I could go on, but I feel my blood pressure rising!!

My answer, well do you want to become a training professional or do you just want a piece of paper? Sadly, most of them just want the piece of paper. My perfect job would be delivering TAE40110 on a full-time basis with a reputable RTO who values quality delivery and assessment and is not just a sausage factory churning through students as quickly as possible. Sadly, I've yet to find such a place.

PS: Apologies if there really is an RTO called XYZ Training somewhere.

Kathleen • You know part of the problem was IBSA's REFUSAL to keep a 'BSZ' type Q for in house industry trainers who actually have nothing to do with accredited training. They quite rightly say ... "What is all this rubbish? I don't need it - and they DON’T. If a 'BSZ type Q still existed - even at a Cert III level - then all of us could easily say - "hey - if you just want to 'fold napkins' / make a kite etc... then do this Q - BUT KNOW - you cannot use it to be a Trainer and Assessor for accredited training .... (I keep on banging my head about this for the life of me I just can't understand WHY this doesn't make as much sense to others as it does to me? Feel free to enlighten me please.

Peter • I’ve always found a major negative element in the whole process of nurturing industry professionals into VET stems from their complete negativity regarding actually having to learn anything regarding the science and process of training. They want to be valued for their position in industry and see the system of actually training the trainer (excuse the pun) as being unnecessary and overly complicated. This doesn’t apply to the majority but a sizeable portion in my experience. I can’t count how many I’ve lost in the first few months. The usual answer is to go to some fly by night RTO and come back to me with a worthless piece of paper. No classroom experience. No familiarity with training packages. I loved my teacher training. Would have assumed everybody does, or why go into that field?

Monika • Hear-Hear Janelle!
I am all for it - Shall we form a lobby group? Count me in - I just don't know how to begin...

Robert • Given the gaps which have been identified in trainers and assessors who hold the TAA, and or TAE you have to question the RTO's who signed off on them in the first place.
I worked at an RTO where all staff, not just delivery and assessment staff, had to complete a program specifically covering the contents of most of the gaps Janelle has detected in her work. I believe all RTO's should have to do a similar thing, and all VET staff should have to attend and pass an assessment on that knowledge, especially when it comes to advising and administering on RPL. A lot of focus is put on trainers & assessors having qualifications, too many other VET staff who affect outcomes have nothing. Who regulates these cowboys?

Debra • I am fairly new to the VET system and really appreciate this venue. I sit reading and nodding in agreement regarding much of what is discussed. Thank you all for your contributions.

I finalized my TAA40104 at the cross over time of the entrance of TAE40110, and have continued studying a dual Diploma in Vocational Education & Training and Diploma of Training Design & Development. I anticipate finalizing these well before July 1 2013, but still have a question regarding my current qualification if anyone could shine some light on it for me I would appreciate it.

I have searched extensively but cannot find the answer to this question: Should I still upgrade to TAE or is the TAA sufficient as the Diplomas incorporate the recent changes?

Hannu • You are right Kathleen, there are TAE cowboys and I don't want to have anything to do with them either. It is difficult when you have to balance between income and morals, trying to improve the training delivery but the client is only interested in making a quick buck.

Lesley • I am always amazed at how many trainers/teachers complain when we have an upgrade to the Cert IV training qualification - as trainer and assessors surely we need to be lifelong learners ourselves - in both our industry areas as well as in the area of training and assessing. It never ceases to surprise me how many trainers/teachers with Cert IV in TAA know next to nothing about the VET system.

I have just left an RTO where we actually developed our own Assessment for Cert IV in TAE and taught basics of VET and then built on this so that by the time the student (most are practicing High School teachers) finishes the course they will have a good grounding in the VET system as well as how to read and understand UOCs and Training Packages, evidence requirements, and the who and what of VET, etc. The teachers wanted to learn all this information, and we felt that we were the best ones to deliver it, and also we were able to contextualise the course for the teachers own particular industry area. This way we could monitor what they were learning from the course and ensure that they were then implementing quality courses with their own students, and the teachers felt they were getting something out of the course, as they were developing material they were actually going to use.

Hannu • Debra, welcome to the forum. In your case I would not worry too much about upgrading to TAE, once you have completed your Diplomas and have more training deliveries and development done, you should be able to get TAE by RPL. I doubt that your diploma directly earns you upgrade from TAA to TAE, as the main difference between them is solid training delivery and personal and professional development.

Debra • Thanks, and thanks for confirming my thinking Hannu. I am already putting together evidence for the RPL process.

@ Lesley...seems the age old resistance to change syndrome raises its head in all arenas. Totally agree with us being lifelong learners ourselves. Personally I think the whole area of design and development is exciting as it has the ability to facilitate contextualised training as you say.

Tracey • Just want to add to the discussion ...I have no problem with being a lifelong learner and am highly supportive of the concept, however what I do not want to do is repeat the same training, the same learning on a periodic basis. Adding to my skill set, exposing myself to new developments and new discussion is imperative if I am to call myself a professional educator and trainer. I have come to the VET/TAFE sector as a secondary trained teacher and have added 4 additional years of training in order to teach and train to the best of my ability - and again I am studying to deepen my understanding of the relationship between student behaviour and relevant curriculum. I have also taught for 19 years in the TAFE sector - and these have been 19 different years and not just a repeat of the same where potentially no growth occurs. It would be a contradiction in terms for someone engaging in delivery of training and education to not value continued learning. What I do question however about the TAE, TAA, and any of its other forms is that I am often confronted with a trainer (and I in no way blame the trainer) and educational outcomes that really require me purely to be compliant in two ways with no other value added to my learning - compliant as in my ability to continue to be a TAFE educator and compliant in the sense of obedience whilst participating in said training. I do not believe that either of these forms of compliance makes me a better trainer. My students are upset when their skills are not evaluated correctly and they are delivered content that does not meet their needs and I am no different. I like many other question the need for such 'compliance' and the questioning is in no way referenced against lifelong learning which I embrace whole heartedly.

Lesley • Hi Tracey - I totally agree that the lifelong learning should be about learning and not just compliance. Nothing worse than attending training where you don't gain anything from it. That is why there is the need for RPL and gap training - so the learning focuses on changes and developments, and doesn't just go over what we already know.

Linda • I think it is amazing to read all of your comments. I know that as a Trainer and assessor having the industry experience and constantly keeping yourself up to date with current knowledge is so important. The only way this can possibly be considered or maintained at industry level or standard is if you are working in the industry on a consistent basis! VET is a profession and many people look at as being something you do when you are sick of working in the industry. For me it is about sharing the knowledge you have acquired through working in an industry you have a passion for. Trainers who do not have the knowledge and skills are the ones that are making our profession "dumbed" down, and the RTO's should be responsible for ensuring their Trainers and assessors are meeting the required standards on a regular basis. One would think in the Auditing process these trainers and assessors would be required to show their updated and consistent knowledge of their industries giving them the ability to continue to train. I know teachers are required to do PD year by year - are we as trainers developing and updating our knowledge and skills on a regular basis?

Hannu • Tracey, to break the boredom of "pre-fab" training you can have a variety of activities in your teaching resources bag from which you can choose the most suitable activities for the group on that day. Every class is different and even the same class has different likes on different days depending on what they have recently done. It is almost impossible to pick the perfect activity for today's class the day before; you'll figure it out in the first 15 minutes of the class in the morning. That is when you decide what activities you are going to use that day. Never read from a book and follow page by page your course book, nothing could be more boring. Always throw something new that has happened in the industry a day before, this triggers discussions and encourages students to read papers and internet for latest. I have found that after few days the student themselves come up with new things that they have discovered. This ticks all the boxes; it makes the learning interesting, relevant, personal, and improves confidence and develops their research skills and thinking.

Chris • I don't consider myself as a very experienced VET practitioner (as indicated by a few within these forums) and I accept their judgement, I do believe though I have shifting levels of expertise within my skills specialty. Reviewing this forum, there is a common theme of frustration. For my small place within the system, I don't get time to complete everything required of me to maintain parity with the industry. I suspect most people within the system are experiencing the same overload.

What we have is a system which is over regulated, under-trained, generally unprofessional all driven by policies which have created a community believe training is free (or close to it) whereby economies of scale were seen to be the drivers.

In a smart society, I ask one simple question. TAA / TAE have been introduced to ensure a level of quality. Why has the ISC not developed a uniform single training document / program, preferably on-line, run by single (or one per state) central organisation where everyone goes and undertakes a common TAA / TAE program / certification / qualification? To me it is a no brainer when we look at the variances we are all experiencing across the country. How much investment have we all lost in developing our own little TAA / TAE courses, resources and differentiators to market ourselves for the same program / course of instruction, all in the name of meeting compliance. Our differentiators are our individual styles we bring to the classroom whether it is online or face-to-face or a combination.

If we were a really smart society, and the Military is an excellent example, where all instructional material is the same for any given lesson, the variance is the uniqueness of the delivery.

I think we are tackling the "quality issue" of TAA / TAE from the wrong angle - set a common program in which everyone must use and comply with using the same materials, and on-line registration and assessment of core components supported by face-to-face where required and observation. Few could then shot circuit the system.

Just a 2 cent overview

Hannu • Good point Chris, this variance is due to the fundamental principle of Training Packages; they can be contextualised. Some RTOs exploit this fundamental and important rule to deliver substandard TAE qualifications ( I am referring to 3 week TAE courses).
What comes to maintaining professional development while being a trainer, it is a problem with most trainers unless they teach something like TAE, business, computing where the teaching actually is same as their work. For instance I run my own business, negotiate contracts and fees, advertise, behave professionally, maintain confidentiality and demonstrate high morale, do not discriminate, use technology in business and so on. If I was a trainer in the field of mining, I would have to make time to actually go to the mines and do some research.

Lewis • I have been following this discussion with keen interest and am intrigued by the nuances of sharing which have arisen from original TAA Cert IV versus TAE Cert IV question. With respect to the thought of a common approach to TAE Cert IV delivery, my view is that there is much to be gained by holding to the philosophy of diversity of learning pathways, but there should be insistence upon complying with the critical aspects of assessment as a minimum - by this means we will have confidence in the awarded qualification and the "Dodgy Brothers" will be driven out of the VET arena.

I am presently reflecting upon VET teacher professionalism in an Australian VET environment which (in my view) does not adequately applaud the educationalist qualities of many (if not most) of our colleagues; and, indeed, has let them down by tolerating for too long inadequate delivery of the Cert IV in Training and Assessment. My concern extends to those of our joining colleagues who have come to their VET teaching roles with good motives, but have been cheated by graduating from shallow TAA and TAE learning experiences and, because they know no better, are modelling their facilitation upon their TAA/TAE experience.

Having now partially relieved my rage by venting the above, I want to say that the diversity (and displayed commitment) of comments made during this discussion have gone a long way to reassure me that there is at least a core of VET teachers with capability and passion which promises much for strengthening the valuing of VET in Australia.

Some of you may be aware that I, and my wife Libby, are presently engaged in a second stage of our research into VET melding the strengthening of social capital with human capital; and that our first stage outcome was largely applauding the role of educationalist VET teachers whose learners (as a consequence) acquire more than just knowledge and skill. The second stage - partially touched upon at the recent VISTA Association of VET Professionals conference - is exploring the level of 'want' (implicit and explicit) which exists for VET to do more than address knowledge and skill. It is apparent that colleagues engaged in this discussion are highly 'educationalist' orientated, but I sense that the space to so act is reducing.

Tracey • My issue is simple too. How many times do we need to repeat the same qualification when we are working in the field right now and have well and truly covered the content of a TAE and much more? If the insinuation is that the only means of maintaining currency is via completing the TAE/TAA (through any method - classes, RPL or otherwise) then there is something really wrong with the system. I do not want to be taught how to 'suck eggs' every few years when I already know how and can even do so standing on one leg with a blindfold and doing a curtsy all at the same time! I have no issue with TAE trainers doing their job, I just feel that PD should be looked at not in a one size fits all manner but in a way that actually develops and builds skills. One of the biggest issues that I have to deal with in my sector is working with adults and young adults who have been switched off from learning because they were expected to be compliant/obedient when what they were being delivered didn’t meet their needs or stage of skills development. Please let us not continue this trend into teacher/trainer PD. I ask for sanity and common sense to prevail!

Students want instruction from people who know what they are talking about and want assessments to match what is expected by industry.

Hannu •  There is no such a thing as a perfect trainer, everyone can be further developed and that continuous need for development, personal and professional, is something every trainer should demonstrate to his/her students (and employer) as a role model. The world is constantly changing; one cannot assume that once learned skill remains valid forever, not in training, not in any other profession. As I see, the TAA/TAE is an attempt to improve existing trainer requirements, BSZ was bad, TAA was better, TAE is a bit better again, we should not complain about that. I completed BSZ in 2003, TAA later and TAE just recently, everyone is an improvement on the previous qualification.

Like Lewis pointed out, VET should not be just teaching skills, it should develop person's position in the society as well. I would go as far as promoting a principle of everyone engaging in some kind of learning all the time, whether that is subscribing to a professional magazine or undertaking a course or qualification.

Kathleen • Hi Hannu. I partially disagree with your statement "BSZ was bad". I think the "BSZ" Qualification was GREAT for people who wanted to learn and develop their overall skills and knowledge training and assessment in general. What it didn’t have was enough depth (or content) for the Nationally Recognised Accredited Training/Assessment world. However, for those people who wanted and for that matter still want, a qualification that prepares them for delivering and ‘assessing’ in house, non-accredited training it was a great qualification that had all the basics covered and help make some great ‘trainers’.

Now for the Nationally Recognised Accredited Training/Assessment Industry (i.e. working in an RTO) I think everyone agrees it just didn’t have the content required.

I, like many others, still hope for the day when a version of the BSZ will be re-born on the understanding it is directed at people who want and need a general training qualification but does not equal the ‘licence’ (for want of a better word) to Train and Assess Accredited Qualifications.

Those who want and need to be Accredited Training and/or Assessment specialists or professionals (i.e. work in an RTO) should be required to hold the Qualification that includes detailed and extensive knowledge and skills associated with the accredited VET world and all that entails (not better or more – just different for the different purpose and arena).

Some very interesting comments and directions taken in this thread. Thanks to all those who participated, hopefully our voices will be heard.

The theme coming through for me in this is the need to adopt not just a standard that is nationally consistent but one that that includes continual development and life-long learning. As a training professional who regularly participates in courses and various training sessions hosted by other providers, I would also like to see significant improvements in the system that support a qualitative outcome for the Learners.

If you could see any changes made to the system and how your business interacts with Registered Training Organisations, what would they be? Let us know by leaving a comment on this page.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Trainer/Assessor Qualifications and Vocational Competence

I was recently asked by someone interested in moving into Vocational Education and Training (VET) what is required to work in the industry. With all of the changes that the VET sector seems to consistently go through, a lot of people ask "Is my Cert IV still current?" A very good questions. So what are the requirements for working as a Trainer/Assessor in Australia?

Currently, an Assessor has obligations that must be met within their role as outlined through the SNRs (and where appropriate, the AQTF) and supported by the NSSC (the successor of the NQC), such as maintaining currency in qualifications and vocational competence (competencies and vocational currencies are held and maintained by the trainer/assessor). The RTO’s establishing and verifying of an Assessor’s qualifications is a supportive aspect of compliance with SNR 4.4(a) and 15.4(a) (Standard 1.4(a) of the AQTF).

The NSSC determined that (1);

     1. Trainers as a minimum need to hold the TAE40110 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification, or demonstrate equivalence of competencies.

     2. Persons delivering training who are working under the direct supervision of a Trainer who holds the TAE40110 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment must as a minimum hold the Enterprise Trainer Skill Set which is made up of the Units of Competence; BSBCMM401A Make a Presentation, and TAEDEL301A Provide Work Skill Instruction.

     3. The period in which individuals can operate as Trainers under supervision of TAE40110 qualified Trainers/Assessors without themselves holding the TAE40110, or under supervision of TAE40110 qualified Trainers/Assessors without themselves holding the Enterprise Trainer Skill Set or demonstrating equivelant competencies is limited to two years.

(1) This information is based on the NSSC determination dated 26th October 2011, to be published in mid-December 2011, with RTOs required to comply by the 1st of July 2012. Current as at June 2012.

Assessors are required to hold the TAE10 Assessor Skills Set or be able to demonstrate equivelant competencies. Most RTOs will opt for the full TAE40110 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, or equivalent, in order for Assessors to effectively make determinations of competence under assessment conditions.

Trainers and Assessors must also have the appropriate vocational competencies to level they are training and/or assessing or above as required within SNRs 15.2 and 15.4 (Elements 1.2 and 1.4 of the AQTF).
Remaining compliant and delivering a quality services to Clients is able to be achieved through the RTO supporting;
  • Meaningful engagement with industry and relevant professional bodies
  • Professional development in teaching and learning methods
  • Developing understanding in the requirements of the VET system
  • Fostering a culture of critical evaluation and innovation

How can I assess someone if I don’t have the relevant vocational competency?

Co-assessment is a process where a person, who holds the vocation competency and current industry experience, but not the assessment competencies, is able to work with another person who holds the assessment competencies to complete specific assessments. These types of partnerships often provide the opportunity for assessments to be completed in an effective manner where the person possessing the vocational competency and experience is able to act as a Subject Matter Expert and assist in the evidence gathering process.

The person with the assessment competencies acts to facilitate the requirements of the Training Package or accredited course and ensure the principles of assessment are upheld. The co-assessment process involves both the Subject Matter Expert and the Assessor working together to ensure the evidence gathered meets the dimensions under the rules of evidence in the areas of validity and currency.

The final informed decision in the determination of competence is made by the Assessor with dimensions of authenticity and sufficiency being considered in line with the outcomes related to validity and currency. See the NSSC’s December 2011 Communique, page A2, Appendix A, Part C ‘notes’ as the reference source.

Other arrangements that are common place in the VET Sector include auspice arrangements, often referred to as ‘mutually beneficial arrangements’ where as an example, an RTO is able to offer their tools and services (usually at a fee) to a qualified Assessor or organisation to use within an agreed environment or context to complete (training and) assessments. Auspice arrangements are subject to the same requirements within the determinations made by the NSSC.

The results of completed assessments are moderated by the primary RTO in the agreement to ensure the auspicing party are applying the principles of assessment, rules of evidence and the requirements for the specific Unit(s) of Competence/Training Package(s) in order to issue Statements of Attainment or Qualifications. Within the auspice arrangement it is critical that SNR 17.3 (Element 3.3 of the AQTF) be adhered to through the monitoring processes.

If (training and) assessment is to be completed through a contract arrangement, Contractor compliance is to be aligned with SNR 15.3 and 15.4 (Elements 1.3 and 1.4 of the AQTF).

Some helpful information about Assessor’s required competencies may include;

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New South Wales Budget 2012-13

The 2012 New South Wales budget was released today, and like all budget announcements there were (and will be more to come) mixed responses. The Infrastructure Statement released states in the area of education that;
“Education and training infrastructure investment ensures the best possible environment in public schools and TAFE NSW facilities to support teachers and enable students to learn and to develop the workforce skills required by employers. These investments contribute to the achievement of the following NSW 2021 goals.
  • Improve education and learning outcomes for all students.
  • Strengthen the NSW skill base.”

One of the provisions highlighted in the statement is a $3 million fund for TAFE NSW through the Connected Classrooms program which intended to support the online interactivity and accessibility of the classroom through interactive whiteboards and video-conferencing.
Committing $33 million to Trade Training Centres to improve and increase the number of courses available to secondary students certainly has a ring of correcting the mistakes of the (seemingly distant) past about it.  
There is an estimated $85 million budgeted for TAFE education services and infrastructure for the 2012-13 year. The majority of this has been identified as the continuance of 17 major TAFE projects to the tune of $62 million for 12 (out of 130) TAFE campuses.   
Although there are budget allocations for infrastructure investments to be made in these areas over the next financial year, it is still concerning to note that within the Department of Education and Communities there are variances from the current year to the next of a 6.3% reduction in VET from $396 million to $371 million. Hopefully this does not result in a wholesale slashing of funding in the number of areas similar to what has been witnessed in the past few weeks in Victoria.

It is important to remember that the educational pathways into the institutions providing the vocational skills required to support economic sustainability need to be made equally as accessible as the sites themselves.  

Given that it has been stated that the Education and Communities cluster connect all stages of education, and that it (the Department of Education and Communities) aims to strengthen and enhance the quality of life in communities, there is yet to be an indication of where the subsequent VET sector funding changes will occur. Some numbers to contemplate in the meantime… The forecast average cost per annual student hour for 2012 has been set at $12.03 which sits below the 2009 actual of $12.08 which is a 4.2% reduction on the 2011 actual of $12.56.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Traineeship funding cuts - Are we to the bone yet?

Recent changes to the Vocational Education and Training sector that have come about as a result of the 2012 budget are beginning to be realised by RTOs at State and Territory levels. Although these changes appear to be drastic, the effect of them may prove to work in the favour of specialised RTOs focusing on niche areas.

The majority of the noise being made in the media seems to be coming from TAFEs and similarly placed larger institutions, which typically depend heavily on government funded places to keep themselves afloat as businesses.

I have been in touch with a number of Victorian institutions over the past week and have found that a lot of them are withdrawing from offering the qualifications impacted upon due to the reduction in funding for these qualifications. In some cases where I have been making genuine enquiries for other seeking my assistance to enrol in a course, I have been told by various TAFEs that they are not taking any enrolments until after the financial year. This worrying strategy of ‘hand sitting’ will directly impact on them personally, with the access to current government funding (which they are entitled to) being denied through the selective processing of applications.

The Victorian reaction is one that we suspect will be mirrored in the majority of states and territories that are not achieving the same results as states such as Western Australia and Queensland.

Victoria has reduced the nominal hour funding rate across some 1,000 qualifications (so far) from Certificate I level to Vocational Graduate Certificate level. The dollar impact in this reduction has seen funding cuts ranging from 9.1% to 100%. The potential impact of this decision as highlighted in The Australian, may well be the catalyst for serious harm done not just to the VET sector, but to any unfortunate Learners who take on the services of ‘tick and flick’ RTOs. This perspective provides quality RTOs with some potential positives;
· Employers shying away from qualifications delivered by such providers based on reputation, and, 
· Learners (and Employers) seeking quality providers to secure qualifications viewed to hold real value in employability outcomes.

There has also been talk on the grapevine of a potential reduction in the number of nominal hours aligned to specific units/qualifications. The impacts of this will further reduce the allocation of funding to the Learner’s detriment.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Victorians. The Government has increased funding in areas including hospitality, business, customer contact, events, sports and recreation, fitness, process manufacturing, and retail. The range of these increases takes in a broad sweep of Certificate I through to Certificate IV level qualifications; with some seeing increase in funding of over 150%.

South Australia has also announced a number of reforms within their strategy. The biggest impact one Employer spoke to me about was the repeal of the Payroll Tax rebates for eligible Trainees and Apprentices. Although, to be fair, this cost was shifted from one area within the state budget to another to address needs in innovation and industry development.

The decisions made do cause one to quirk a brow, particularly when considered in light of the Government’s strategy for the targets coming out of the Bradley review and the findings of various ISCs in their independent studies; see TLISC 2012 eScan.