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Competency based training and assessment focuses on the development of competencies required for effective performance in employment. Most competency standards are designed to have a broad relevance to employment across an entire industry. The objective is to have workers who are capable of applying their skills in new situations and work organisations, rather then simply confirming their competence to perform current tasks.

Competency standards are best thought of as a picture of performance that is built up from many snapshots of businesses across the industry. For this reason, the range statement for each unit of competency allows for a wide range of contexts and ways of working. Similarly, the evidence guide gives flexibility in the way assessment of competence may be carried out.

The wording of parts of the competency standards should be translated to suit a particular workplace or off-the-job provider.

The challenge for trainers and assessors in enterprises and institutions is to design delivery and assessment strategies that are relevant to their context while protecting the integrity of the competency standards and qualifications. This task is often referred to as 'customisation'.

Customisation will normally involve four steps.

  1. Refer to the customisation guidelines in the relevant Training Package.
  2. Align the unit(s) of competency with the range of work and levels of performance expected within the particular workplace to identify a relevant job profile.
  3. Identify the kinds of evidence that candidates may be able to provide in their job roles that will satisfy the requirements of the standard.
  4. Prepare evidence plans for the candidates.

Customising a unit of competency to suit an enterprise

To illustrate how to customise a unit of competency, a unit has been selected at AQF 4 from the Frontline Management Competency Standards. This set of standards has been selected because:

  • it is 'cross industry' and therefore not specific to a particular industry or occupation; the units require translation into an industry context before they can be related to a particular workplace or employment context
  • Frontline Management Units are incorporated in high-level qualifications in many Training Packages.

The unit chosen for customisation is BSXFMI403A: Establish and manage efficient workplace relationships.

To customise this unit of competency to suit particular enterprises, it is important to first decide how this unit (at AQF 4) aligns with the levels of performance expected of different management classifications in the enterprise. Once job profiles are identified with the levels of performance expected, it will be possible to identify the kinds of evidence that managers may be able to provide as part of their normal work.

The range statement in this unit will provide general guidance. According to the chosen competency standards, frontline managers operating at AQF 4 level are normally engaged in roles in which they:

  • are autonomous, working with general guidance
  • may supervise and organise the work of others and guide teams
  • apply some in–depth knowledge and skills to a broad range of tasks and roles using established guidelines and advice
  • exercise some discretion in the planning and allocation of resources for themselves and others and the use of services and processes to meet work objectives
  • solve problems requiring some complexity in the choice of possible actions and are able to cope with non–routine tasks
  • operate in a relatively diverse workplace environment.

To illustrate how to customise the Unit of Competency BSXFMI403A, following are selected examples of frontline managers from enterprises in two sectors. Examples are:

  • a large construction materials company in the civil construction sector
  • enterprises within the retail industry that vary according to size and ownership arrangements.

Step 1: Customising the unit of competency in accordance with the requirements of the Training Package

Customisation of competency standards is actively encouraged to enable the units of competency to be used in a wide variety of contexts. In general, it is possible to:

  • replace general directions, generic equipment/processes/procedures in performance criteria with enterprise specific ones
  • alter the wording of the range statement and evidence guides.

In either case, the RTO must ensure the integrity of the competency standards.

Step 2: Customising the unit of competency according to the range of work and level of performance

The Frontline Management Competency Standards contain generalised statements about the range of work that managers perform and the level of performance expected of them. These statements will need to be translated into job roles and tasks that are relevant to a specific enterprise.

Table A shows examples of frontline managers at AQF 4 and their management roles in the two industry sectors.

Table A - AQF level 4 management roles in the construction and retail industries


Titles for managers

Management tasks

Large construction materials company

  • Plant Manager
  • Area Supervisor
  • Project Supervisor
  • Laboratory Supervisor
  • Quality Supervisor
  • Accounting Manager
  • Regional Sales Manager
  • Credit Manager
  • Manage one large plant or two/three small plants
  • Manage a large project or many projects within one area
  • Manage a support function

Small retail shop

  • Manager


  • Manage business, possibly in conjunction with accountant, banker, solicitor
  • May manage daily operations

Chain of retail stores

  • Store Manager
  • Manage facility, merchandising, stock control, store security and sales
  • Liaise with suppliers, creditors and debtors
  • Manage employee relations, training, work schedules
  • Develop strategic and operational plans
  • Manage financial resources

Shopping centre operation

  • Operations Manager
  • Manage functions such as finances, property,
  • Marketing and retail operations
  • Develop own operational budget and business objectives
  • Liaise with contractors, leaseholders and suppliers
  • Report performance.

Step 3: Identifying evidence relevant to the frontline management roles

The next step is to identify the kinds of evidence of competence that would be appropriate to the job roles and tasks of the frontline managers in the enterprise. A good place to start is to collect examples of relevant job descriptions and duty statements. Talk to people who are performing the job roles and to their supervisors. Ask them questions like:

What do the performance criteria mean in terms of your workplace?What does the range statement mean in the context of your workplace?

Analysing the relevant unit(s) in detail should assist in developing a table similar to the one presented in Table B.

Table B: Illustration of the range of evidence available in different workplaces for the unit BSXFMI403A



The candidate could provide evidence by:


The candidate could provide evidence by:

3.1 Gather, convey and receive information and ideas

  • Preparing staffing rosters, daily sales and productivity returns
  • Preparing stock turnover reports
  • Preparing one page summaries of product information (features, benefits, etc)
  • Explaining product information and company procedures to staff making allowance
  • Preparing a task plan with timeframes, resources and costs that will achieve business objectives
  • Explaining information clearly to minimise language barriers
  • Providing team leader briefings and regular communication between management and crew leaders
  • Preparing job reports, worksheets,

3.2 Develop trust and confidence

  • Monitoring sales targets and customer service and providing effective feedback to sales team
  • Implementing an incentive scheme to achieve sales targets
  • Maximising sales staff performance through effective scheduling, cooperation and team work
  • Providing a consistent high standard of customer service (eg arranging special
  • Orders, transfer of goods between stores in the same chain, ‘going the extra yard’)
  • Explaining company standards and procedures relating to customer service, sales, commissions, conditions of employment
  • Explaining the company’s values, social and ethical standards, customer service standards, environmental protection requirements, business targets
  • Managing the information flows between the construction teams, area managers, customers, company and private drivers, state and local authorities, contractors and members of the public
  • Keeping company management and crew members informed of progress and problems
  • Respecting confidential information
  • Using company networks to ensure that teams achieve allocated tasks with the
  • Resources provided

Step 4: Designing an evidence plan for the candidate

The next task is to design an evidence plan to show how the sources of evidence identified in Table B could be collected for a particular candidate.

References: competencies in higher qualifications, Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, 2001ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals, ASTD Press, 2008

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A research recently published by NCVER, shows some important information about the VET workforce. The mentioned study focuses on a critical aspect of the vocational education and training (VET) workforce: initial VET teacher training. It has identified the generic teacher education courses offered both by the VET and higher education sectors, ranging from the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (now the Certificate IV in Training and Education) to graduate diplomas. The certificate IV is not only the most significant in student number terms, but it is also the one true initial qualification. All the others are post-initial and targeted at teachers with some experience.

The key messages identified by Tom Karmel, Managing Director (NCVER) are:

  1. Student numbers are very high for the certificate IV. Numbers are modest for the VET diploma programs, and the total numbers in higher education courses are declining.
  2. The certificate IV is delivered well by some providers. However, more stringent regulation of this qualification is required, given its current pivotal role in providing initial teaching skills.
  3. Initial teachers also need access to a sound induction process and support from more experienced mentors to underpin, increase and help cement their foundational teaching skills.
  4. There needs to be an increased emphasis on high-quality continuing professional development. This should come in a variety of forms: formal courses at diploma level and above; effective non-formal learning; and a supportive and challenging learning culture and practices within the providers themselves.

To access to the full research report click here.

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Barriers to Continuous Improvement

As a frontline manager or supervisor of quality within a RTO, you need to be aware of barriers that industries or organisations can place in the way of continuous improvement.  This well help you deal with difficult situation as they arise.

Defining the development of a new TAS as a project 2Common barriers relate to:

  • Lack of systems to support continuous improvement e.g. policies and procedures, systems to document continuous improvement processes, methods for gaining customer feedback, processes for training or retraining staff.
  • Lack of management commitment, which can lead to inadequate staff or financial resources being allocated to continuous improvement activities.
  • Lack of commitment by staff to continuous improvement often due to a limited understanding of the relevance of continuous improvement to them.
  • A she'll be right" attitude by staff and management which shows that the organisation has a culture where planning is not valued and where there is resistance to change

Change Management

Because continuous improvement is part of a change process, it is important for people who are involved in change to understand:

  • The need for change
  • The processes that lead to change
  • Their part in the change process

People are often threatened by change, especially if they feel it is imposed on them.  It is your responsibility to help them work through change constructively and actively.

You need to:

  • Help them understand how continuous improvement affects them – communicate openly with them and present information in a way that makes sense to them
  • Give them plenty of opportunities to ask questions and discuss issues
  • Listen to them – listen to their concerns and encourage them to talk about the concerns they don't articulate.  If you can address their concerns, do so.  If you can't, explain why you can't.
  • Involve them in each step – from identifying opportunities for improvement to developing plans for improvement and reviewing these plans
  • Use these people as a resource – you can learn a lot from them

When introducing change, look out for people who are enthusiastic and who want to be involved – they can help you work with people who are less positive.

What should be audited?

When conducting quality audits, auditors are not only auditing the system but the processes that are carried out and achieve the goals stated in the process.  The emphasis in the AQTF is not on determining whether or not a process is in place but whether or not it has been implemented and is effective in achieving the outcomes determined by the RTO and those outcomes sought by industry.  It is not satisfactory to simply review a policy or procedure and not address its implementation, nor would it be considered appropriate not to discuss the functions and outcomes with the users of the policy or procedure.

rtos continuous improvementA procedure is audited by verifying compliance to the written procedures, checking to see if who does what, when, where and how is the same. Additionally, the auditor should check to see the effectiveness of how the requirements are being met and looking for opportunities for improvement.

The audit process should be:

Systematic – a clear system about the process of the audit and what is being sought to determine quality/compliance/best practice – must establish an appropriate sample (would you audit everything all the time – no!) – the audit process must support the audit findings and place emphasis and confidence in the decisions of the audit team.

Outcomes focused – what are the outcomes sought by a policy or procedure, what are the outcomes sought by a training program or piece of assessment, what is the learner expected to be able to do once they are identified as competent.

Evidence based – this does not always have to be a piece of paper – evidence can be gathered from the results of evaluations, data analysis, through discussion with staff/students/stakeholders.

Flexible – you need to be flexible enough to explore a range of evidence and have the auditee explain where necessary how a particular system/process achieves the required outcome – focus on the position of who you are auditing and remain objective in how your audit progresses and the type of evidence you are seeking.

Focus on continuous improvement – this is where your risk management should come into play.  If you feel there is a particular process/system that is not 100% compliant or of high quality, what is the risk to your organisation?  Is there a systematic approach that you can put in place to rectify the issue through a process of improvement?

Fairness – openness – transparency – This is of utmost importance – discuss general issues – ask group if they have been in an audit situation where the auditor was not using these principles.

For Internal Audits

  1. Do not audit your own material. If you audit your own material you risk not seeing the issues – always have someone else audit anything you have designed or developed. Those of you operating on your own are going to have to be more objective and critical than larger organisations
  2. Use a Technical Expert. This is not always possible but they are the ones who are going to be able to advise you on whether or not your assessment is going to achieve the level of skills and knowledge required by workplaces
  3. Record everything and Document Improvement Requirements. Goes without saying – this will drive your decisions on improvement and how to go about it – it will be an ongoing record of the achievement of quality continuously improved systems
  4. Implement systems to monitor improvements. Risk assess everything – by doing a risk assessment you will be able to determine timeframes and justify change particularly to staff involved in using the system

Source: Learner resources for Diploma in VET Registration and Management developed by Narelle Duncan (Anntek).

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