Self-assessment and planning to improve quality are key elements and integral parts of the RTO’s compliance program.
Benefits of self-assessment:
- Identifies and builds on the strengths of the RTO
- Identifies and addresses non-compliances and areas for improvement
- Results in a quality improvement plan with time bound actions and targets for continuous improvement, and
- Provides a sound basis for improving the quality of training and assessment services and raising standards.
The level of priority the RTO’s senior management gives to self-assessment and quality improvement planning is a reliable predictive indicator for the success of the RTO’s quality improvements and compliance results.
RTOs must systematically identify strengths, areas for improvement, and potential non-compliances. Quality RTOs have an appropriate improvement plan and regularly rectify and/or improve it and review the plan’s progress.
Evaluations should be underpinned by an on-going analysis of key performance data. The RTO sector, including regulators, have been shifting the compliance focus from process-based to a performance-based. However, the lack of clear benchmarks for compliance performance across the sector, have made the transition rather slow and occasionally inconsistent.
The world of vocational education and training (VET) is multifaceted and demands a combination of the RTOs capabilities to achieve quality-training outcomes. These highly technical capabilities come from the educational domain (considering the learning environment), and the industry domain (considering the workplace environment). The main objective of vocational education and training is to prepare individuals to competently perform a job role, process, or task.
Self-evaluations and quality improvements should focus on the two main areas that affect RTO’s ability to achieve those objectives:
- Aligning training with current (and potentially future) industry needs, and
- Training and assessment practices.
Aligning training with current
National Training Packages and Accredited Courses provide a competency benchmark, but we must keep in mind that these benchmarks are an abstraction, a conceptualisation, codification of the actual occupational standard that these training packages represent. The world of work is alive, and changes to workplace conditions occurred after the competency picture was taken and will provide training packages with an inevitable level of expiration. This means RTOs will need to be compensated in collaboration with the industry.
RTOs unpack, decode and interpret training package components to create their training and assessment strategies. They follow an instructional design process conducted under the perspective of the RTOs experts and industry stakeholders used at the time.
These coding/decoding processes give us flexibility to meet the needs of specific industry sectors and employers while still issuing portable and trusted Nationally Recognised Training. But also create a glass-wall with a distorted picture of the competency benchmark that will be used by trainers, instructional designers, and auditors, among other key stakeholders. The thicker the glass-wall, the more distorted picture we work with.
While RTOs are not involved with developing training packages, their self-assessment process must produce data to establish the degree of success in interpreting and matching industry required skills with training packages (units of competency and/or qualifications) used.
It is important that RTOs include the process of self-assessment and quality improvement in their instructional design practices (documented in the TAS) and take any necessary corrective actions in a timely and appropriate manner. Staff at all levels (managers, instructional designers, trainers, admin) should be fully involved and committed to the process.
Training and assessment practices
The RTO provides training, assessment, and certification services within its own controlled learning environment, set by the RTO’s operational model and practices.
To effectively meet the VET Quality Framework requirements, the quality objectives for the RTO’s operational model and practices must be aligned with RTO’s values, stakeholders’ expectations, and regulatory requirements. The self-assessment process in this case must measure the RTO’s performance against these objectives, and not only regulatory requirements.
Senior managers should review self-assessment reports and highlighted actions for improvement/rectification should become part of the overall quality assurance priorities. Quality RTOs conduct quality improvement meetings quarterly (or at least three times a year) where improvement/rectification actions are monitored and amended as required. The RTO’s CEO should monitor these quality processes rigorously and regularly.
A clear strength for RTOs’ compliance programs is embedding self-assessment and quality improvements into a Quality Assurance Cycle across all training products and areas of operation.
A common challenge for RTOs when setting self-assessment processes, is determining internal benchmarks and performance descriptors. The binary nature of regulatory requirements sets the line that separates legal from illegal actions, but it’s not an effective benchmark to guide and measure incremental improvements of performance. RTOs must establish quality indicators and benchmarks that allow them to monitor the implementation of their operational model in areas such as:
- Outcomes for students
- RTO leadership and management
- Quality of training and assessment, and
- RTO’s capability development.
In my next article I will expand on specific quality indicators for each area.