Compliance has always been a flimsy business for most RTOs. This is usually the case for training providers failing to comply with the minimum regulatory requirements concerning training standards, third-party arrangements, assessment practices, and learning resources, making them ultimately vulnerable to being flagged by non-compliance when audited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).
A 2017 ASQA report has found that around 72% of RTOs failed their initial assessment audits and that was when they were still operating under their old audit model. Their new audit model has become quite more stringent and rigorous in emphasising the consequences of non-compliance.
In ASQA’s new audit model, an RTO, when faced with non-compliance:
- may be unable to rectify critical non-compliances;
- may be unable to reapply, especially initial registration clients.
Even with the new audit model and how ASQA has changed their audit processes over the past years, many RTOs would still be found with non-compliance by the ASQA. In a March 2023 report, ASQA has conducted over 220 performance assessments from July to December 2022, with 125 being initially registered and 95 being existing already-existing providers. Out of the 95 existing providers, 76 were found to lack quality measures and compliance risks. This led the regulatory agency to cease the registration of seven providers and denied three renewal applications.
With that, here are a couple of non-compliance risks that your RTO should be aware of:
- Over or under assessing
- Lack of appropriate learning resources or assessment tools
- Lack of practical industry knowledge, policies, and procedures
- No proper compliance framework in place
- Unsuitable mapping between criteria and necessary knowledge and skills
- Insufficient tasks to meet the unit of competency requirements
- Vague or unclear instructions provided to students
- Trainer bias
Aside from the suspension of business registration your RTO could face, you need to be wary of the other consequences such as fines and penalties, voided contracts, and damage to reputation. When you’ve been a registered provider for quite some time, you will be assigned a Compliance History by ASQA that should contain information regarding the status of your compliance and other performance-related issues. Be aware that frequent instances of being unable to fulfil regulatory obligations will lead to a stronger regulatory response by the body.
So how do you ensure that your RTO is fully compliant with ASQA and the Standards?
- Invest in employee training
An RTO must take care of the needs of their employees and must provide opportunities for them to
hone their knowledge and sharpen their skills. Being at the forefront of the VET sector and a provider of external training to other organisations, you will be expected to be the primary driver of fostering excellence among your own staff. Your employees are your greatest asset, especially if they are the ones running your internal compliance procedures and making sure that your RTO is adhering to relevant industry policies and procedures.
Conducting in-house training can help your team develop their competencies to do their respective duties. You could also employ the assistance of external trainers and organisations to ensure that your team is being trained only by the best on the best practices of risk management, assessments, and internal audits.
- Have your tools and resources industry-ready
One of the best ways to manage risks is to ensure that your training resources and assessment tools are high-quality, appropriate, and adequate for you and your learners. If you’re thinking about purchasing training resources then you need to verify that they come from accredited and trusted VET learning resource developers and publishers. However, if you’re leaning towards developing your own assessment tools then it is important to keep some factors in mind such as planning, the content, the tasks involved and administering consistent quality checks so you don’t inadvertently impact the learning quality of your students.
It can be easy to simply buy your training resources off the internet, whether for convenience or they’re offered at half price, but you must think about how these poor resources will result in students joining the workforce with insufficient skills and lacking the relevant competencies to safely and efficiently perform their jobs.
- Conduct regular internal audits
Big external audits can be nerve-wracking for most RTOS and compliance professionals, but you can minimise your worry and dread when you choose to conduct regular self-assessments that keep your training and assessment, governance and administration, and learner support in check. In-house audits can be a nifty way to help you prepare for the formal ASQA audit and provide you with the necessary insights to improve business performance and rectify areas of non-compliance.
Develop a regular schedule and have your team of in-house auditors and compliance professionals ready the requirements your RTO is going to be audited against. Stick to the schedule—you can perform these bi-annually or annually, as long as you’re diligently monitoring and keeping everyday track of your compliance.
- Collect and analyse student and client feedback
A great way to know if your current processes are still effective in doing their intended purpose is by collecting feedback from your students and clients. Feedback is extremely important to maintain the quality of your products and services—whether they’re positive or negative, it is still vital data to help you keep what currently works and improve what’s not.
Develop ways in which students and clients can get a hold of you. This can be done by employing surveys or focus groups to help give you a glimpse into the student experience so you can improve and overall enhance the quality of your training and assessments.
- Regularly evaluate and revise your policies and procedures
Compliance is an ever-changing landscape. There will always be policies that require updating and standards that need revisiting, so your current in-house policies and procedures on compliance and risk management must also remain relevant to cater to these new developments.
Having your company policies up-to-date can steer you away from potential non-compliance threats, fines and penalties, or even worse, forced cessation of business. Just make sure that everyone in your company is well-informed of these changes and that they are easily accessible and understood.
Future-proof your compliance plan with our RTO Compliance Manager Certification Program. Learn everything you need to know about ensuring compliance from understanding relevant policies and standards to making a continuous improvement plan for your RTO. We’re already on our way to Melbourne (26-27 October) so register now!