During the past several years, enormous amounts of resources have been spent to examine vocational education and training sector’s regulatory framework and realign PD programs to enhance a regulatory compliant workplace with a positive culture that adheres to ethical and moral values. Recently, the BSB Training Package included the Compliance Skill Set as the national standard for individuals working within a compliance framework.
I have been personally involved for more than 20 years in the design and delivery of more than 500 training programs and events to support RTO’s compliance and participated in discussions about methods to continue to build on our ethical bases to promote relevancy and mutual trust between students, RTOs, regulators, industry, and the broader community.
There is no doubt that RTO ethics and compliance has been the centre of attention over the past several years, exposing shameful behaviours such as those related to VET-FEE-HELP debacle. Leadership noncompliance with the VET Quality Framework continues to exist in the current RTO community. This can be a frustration to students, industry, and the regulated community whose trust in our institutions may continue to erode if these behaviours are normalised. Mutual trust can be fragile, and if some training organisations can get away with these types of actions, what prevents others in the training community from thinking they have a right to cut corners on ethical decision-making?
The role of regulations
Providing a balance to the negative external forces that may impact ethical business cultures are the defined rules, regulations, and other standards and contracts that govern the provision of training services and products in Australia. The number and complexity of laws and regulations within the vocational education and training sector are subject of continual reviews and reforms.
Responsibility and accountability
Understanding and accepting the ethical concepts of responsibility and accountability in the business culture is a necessity for all agents of an RTO. Compliance and ethics programs provide periodic orientation and training to staff, management, senior leadership, and governing bodies on their morally based obligations and duties to others, as well as regulations and standards.
An RTO employee’s responsibility can be viewed as a collection of obligations associated with a role (i.e., delivering training aligned with units of competency, following principles of assessments, maintaining professional development requirements, and conducting assessment validations and internal compliance assessments). Only competent staff can undertake on those responsibilities and be accountable. RTOs must establish and verify staff competencies and capabilities, including compliance skills.
Leaders need to be constantly aware of the ethical and compliance risks that may occur in their RTO. There should be no contradictions in what is taught during ethics and compliance inductions and the practice that occurs on a daily basis. A consistent message should be communicated across the RTO about the objectives they are driving for and the acceptable methods by which these results can be obtained. Current scenarios of wrongdoing, either identified internally or during a regulatory audit, should be outlined at compliance training and translated to the workplace so that potential solutions may be discussed.
Positive ethical behaviour can be normalised over time with repetition and continued focus, just as toxic or unethical behaviour can. RTO’s leaders need to ignore the toxic of those organisations that claim success through unethical means and focus on their mission: Quality Training Services. RTOs must implement an effective ethics and compliance program, including systems, resources, training, internal control, and continuous improvement.
Is your staff competent in compliance? The Compliance Skill Set is the nationally recognised occupational standard for individuals required to work within a compliance framework: https://roiinstitute.edu.au/skill-sets/bsbss00122-compliance-skill-set