Feature Article: Five questions you should ask before engaging contract trainers and assessors

Feature Article: Five questions you should ask before engaging contract trainers and assessors

RTOs when hiring contract trainers and assessors should ensure systems are in place to retain and verify evidence that shows they can demonstrate appropriate competency, currency and professional development. Even if they are going to be employed by your RTO for a short period of time you need to ensure your recordkeeping of their credentials and supporting documentation is sufficient so as to minimise any risk of creating non-compliances. 

Do you have a current trainer profile that evidences your competency and currency:

If the contract trainer and/or assessor you want to employ doesn’t have a current profile and has recently been working for other RTOs that should raise concerns as it could mean they don’t have an awareness of their obligation to maintain their currency and it may end up costing your RTO time and money to develop them to the standard required by your organisation.  Some may also have learned poor practices in other RTOs that you will need to retrain them in to ensure your processes are adhered to. Recruiting unqualified or inexperienced trainers and/or assessors is a risk to your business and bad hiring decisions can have serious consequences for your RTO.

Does your work history relate to employment outcomes of the training products we want you to deliver:

Let’s face it you don’t want to employ a trainer and/or assessor that has never worked in a job role relevant to the qualifications you are asking them to train and assess in. If they don’t have relevant industry experience they will not been seen as a credible source of information by both students and employers. While you may come across trainers and/or assessors who hold the qualifications you want them to train in, if they don’t also have work experience in the industry behind them it is questionable how they achieved their credentials. Make sure you seek industry feedback as to what credentials and experience are considered appropriate from the trainers and/or assessors you employ. 

What have you done in the last 2 years to stay current in industry:

If the trainer and/or assessor you want to employ has not had a recent position in industry or does not currently have secondary employment in the sector they need to have been undertaking other activities to ensure they have been maintaining their industry currency. You should verify prior to employing them that they have records of relevant activities for each unit of competency they are training and assessing. Remember that your RTO should be consulting with industry to identify which activities your trainers and assessors should undertake and how often. Depending on the industry the frequency may need to be more often to stay on top of rapid changes in specific sectors e.g. IT. Your trainers and assessors records should reflect these requirements.

What professional development have you done in the last 12 months to maintain your knowledge and skills in vocational training and learning:

Many RTOs neglect to ensure that their trainers and/or assessors are undertaking regular professional development to maintain their VET currency. If they have undertaken PD in the last year to upgrade their TAE credentials then generally their VET knowledge and skills are still current.  Your RTO should have a planned approach to professional development in vocational training and learning so as to ensure that all of your trainers and assessors are continuing to develop their knowledge and skill in the VET environment at least on an annual basis. Investing in having highly skilled and competent staff benefits your students and organisation and promotes quality education.

Are your occupational licences and/or industry accreditations current:

Often we see RTOs with expired records of trainers and/or assessors licences on file because they do not have a system of monitoring when these need to be renewed. No one prompts the trainer and/or assessor to provide a new record of their updated licence or industry accreditation. Before engaging a contract trainer and assessor you need to ensure you have their current records of licences and accreditations and you are able to verify they are on top of renewing these credentials else it may become a compliance issue for you. Having a system that identifies records needing to be updated before they lapse ensures you avoid non-compliance with the SRTOs 2015.

References: 

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment/clauses-1.13-to-1.16

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/faqs/training-and-assessment

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/fact-sheets/meeting-trainer-and-assessor-requirements

Feature Article: Cheat sheet for validating assessments prior to use

Feature Article: Cheat sheet for validating assessments prior to use

Validating your RTO’s assessment materials pre-use ensures the tools are fit for purpose and meet the requirements of the specific units of competencies and the evidence collected from students meets the principles of assessment and rules of evidence.

Validation before assessment: 

The process of validating your assessment tools before implementation should involve assessors and other parties such as members of your quality team or staff such as literacy and numeracy specialists working collaboratively to focus on the following aspects:

  • Interpreting the unit/s of competency
  • Determining what a competent person would ‘look like’ and the standard to be achieved 
  • Designing the assessment process including identifying what evidence needs to be collected, how it needs to be collected and how many times 
  • Developing the assessment tools using your RTO’s approved templates which includes all student assessment tasks and assessors’ documents including evidence guides
  • Consulting with industry and seeking feedback on the assessment process required

Assessment Mapping:

A mapping document should be developed with your assessment materials for each unit of competency that shows where unit of competency requirements have been addressed in the assessment tasks. A mapping evidences that you have checked the validity of the assessment tool when created and confirms its compliance. It is a useful document to refer to when validating assessment tools before implementation. 

Common non-compliances to look for when validating assessments:

  1. Assessment tools do not meet all the requirements of the relevant unit of competency resulting in the evidence to be collected not being adequate or sufficient.
  2. Practical assessment tasks do not contain sufficient benchmarks for each skill / behaviour to be demonstrated as required by the unit of competency’s performance evidence
  3. Practical assessment tasks have insufficient instructions for assessors and students in conducting role plays / scenarios to ensure consistency in assessment conditions
  4. Assessment tool instructions do not sufficiently detail performance benchmarks to be demonstrated or reflect required observable behaviours 
  5. Assessors have not been provided with clear instructions to ensure evidence collected of each student’s performance is sufficient
  6. Assessment tools do not make provision for the assessors recording of judgement of competency

References: 

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment/clauses-1.8-to-1.12

https://www.asqa.gov.au/faqs/what-difference-between-validation-and-moderation-clauses-19-111

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment/clauses-1.1-to-1.4-2.2

https://www.tac.wa.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/2018-13795.pdf

Feature Article: The do’s and don’ts’ of creating an internal audit programme for your RTO

Feature Article: The do’s and don’ts’ of creating an internal audit programme for your RTO

If you want to achieve quality rather than just ensuring that your RTO meets its regulatory and contractual requirements, then putting the effort into effective internal auditing is essential.

Do:

Develop a proper risk-based audit programme

You audit programme should reflect risks identified in your management systems. Your RTO should not be auditing everything at the same frequency else you will be reviewing some areas too much and others not enough. You should apply risk ratings to areas of concern that determines their priority in the schedule. Ultimately, it’s just a poor use of your resources if not done correctly and you are just auditing for the sake of it and ticking some boxes!

Clearly define audit objectives

Your RTO’s audit objectives define why the audit is being done and what it’s purpose is.  You need to carefully consider why your auditors are actually conducting their reviews; what is the value of them and what outcomes do you want from them? Some objectives to consider are:

  • To check if organisational controls are being adhered to and are in alignment and fit for purpose
  • To determine if staff have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities
  • To identify areas for improvement
  • To determine levels of consistency across processes and departments

Clearly define audit scope

Your RTO’s audit scope should define the extent and boundaries of the proposed audit. These considerations include:

  • The size of the audit?
  • What breadth does it cover?
  • What teams; processes; locations are included?

It is important to be specific with your scope and not make vague references such as “all processes”. A well written scope will clearly define the boundaries of the audit for both auditors and auditees.

Clearly define the audit criteria

Your audit criteria is what the audit is checking against; for RTO’s generally this is likely to be the SNR’s from the SRTO’s 2015 or clauses from funding agreements or other contracts. Similar to the scope the audit criteria helps keep the auditors on track and is used to determine whether evidence complies or does not comply against the audit criteria stated. Your auditors need to be familiar with the requirements of the audit criteria. Audit findings are only valid when referenced back to the criteria, not auditors opinions. 

Use auditors with the right vocational background

Even if your auditors have appropriate qualifications in auditing they still need to know what they are looking at and have knowledge of the VET sector.  Ideally your auditors should be dual qualified / experienced in auditing and training and assessment to ensure they have a broad understanding of what they are auditing.

Don’t:

Use inexperienced or unqualified auditors

Your auditors whether internal staff or external contractors need to be appropriately trained. Training ensures that the auditors do their job correctly; that they use a consistent approach, and that they are skilled in communicating well with auditees. Experienced auditors understand how to conduct effective opening and closing meetings and how to gather and review evidence. They also provide feedback and audit reports that are brief, concise and factual. They do the job right. 

Audit the same things repeatedly: 

It is pointless continuing to audit the same areas and raising more non-compliances when the underlaying causes are not being addressed. There is no value in reviewing areas you know you are going to find the same issues as you did in previous audits.  Your RTO needs to ensure you are following up on outstanding rectifications from previous audits to ensure actions have been taken. This could also mean systemic issues previously identified have been addressed to prevent recurrence.

References: 

https://www.iia.org.au/technical-resources

https://www.pwc.com.au/assurance/internal-audit-profession.html

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/videos/video-understanding-audits

https://desbt.qld.gov.au/training/providers/pqs/audits

Feature Article: Three planning resources every RTO manager should have in their toolkit

Planning: The act of formulating a course of action to achieve a desired goal.

“Proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance.”

Planning Software:

RTOs, whether large or small unquestionably manage multiple projects, plans, tasks and people at any given time. Having a solution that keeps everything organised while managing competing priorities in a way that is consistent and profitable is critical for RTO managers. Holding yourself and your team accountable and ensuring nothing slips through the cracks by utilising an online planning system that provides visibility and oversight will ensure you can plan effectively. One tool that is highly effective for RTO planning is Trello. The application is a web-based Kanban style list making collaboration tool that organizes your activities into boards. RTOs can use it to organise committees; staff meetings; action plans; schedules; student tracking and many more. The free account provides basic functionality that can get your planning started. RTOs can sign up here

Planning Templates:

The success of your RTO, no matter what size depends on the effectiveness of your planning and strategy. Planning templates are important tools that ensure you can better plan, manage, and report on strategic initiatives. To effectively plan and implement strategy RTO managers need various planning templates suited to your operational requirements. Using fit for purpose templates to define and communicate your goals and objectives will ensure it is easily understood by all of your stakeholders.  EDministrate has developed templates that can be used by RTOs to undertake key planning activities related to training and assessment; industry engagement and validation. They can be purchased here if you want customisable, off-the-shelf document templates.  

Planning Processes: 

Your planning processes should be concerned with defining the RTO’s goals and determining the resources necessary to achieve those objectives. Planning always has a purpose. The purpose may involve the achievement of certain KPI’s or targets. This is enabled through consistent strategies that are supported by staff at all levels. A standing plan is a business plan that is intended to be used many times. The most common examples of standing use plans are policies and procedures. These plans should be published and accessible to all staff in a central repository for easy reference. RTO managers must be careful to create and implement the appropriate policies and procedures for the situations they face. We have customisable policies and procedures for RTOs that can be purchased  here if you should you need to update your organisations plans.

References: 

https://blog.trello.com/kanban-101

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_04.htm

Feature Article: Common compliance mistakes every RTO makes

Training and assessment strategies do not reflect information contained in marketing material:

The information contained in your TAS’s needs to be consistent with the information you are marketing on your website and other marketing material. Details around course durations; course descriptions; attendance / participation requirements; entry requirements or selection criteria should be accurate in both sources. ASQA often finds non-compliances at audit and with applications for additions to scope in evidence submitted as RTOs can fail to pay attention to details with this critical data. Remember your websites are publicly available and can be accessed by ASQA at any time.

Failure to ensure trainers are maintaining their profiles:

Some RTOs make assumptions that their trainers are current because they are working in industry or appear to be undertaking professional development regularly however, they fall down because they don’t sufficiently document these activities systematically and on a consistent basis. In an audit ASQA wants to see a documented analysis e.g. mapping of how your trainers / assessors meet industry currency requirements for each unit of competency they are delivering. If you don’t have a process in place to document these requirements at the unit of competency level you will not satisfy the requirements of the relevant clauses in the SRTOs 2015. Remember mapping should be at least at the element level for each unit to demonstrate that the maintenance of currency has addressed all the requirements.

Assessment tools do not meet the requirements of the unit of competency:

Not having a process in place to validate / quality check assessment tools pre-use puts your RTO at potential risk of non-compliances as you have not determined if your assessment tools are fit for purpose and meet the requirements of the specific unit of competency.  If you implement these resources without conducting this due diligence you could be impacting on student and industry outcomes and be deemed critically non-compliant in an audit.

Assessment tasks have insufficient instructions for students and assessors:

Assessors cannot collect sufficient evidence from students if assessment task instructions are vague and unclear. This in turn can impact on marking; recordkeeping and overall reliability of the assessors judgement. Instructions in assessment tasks need to be specific as possible. Benchmark answers and  marking guides should be explicit and not be open to interpretation by assessors. 

No benchmark answers or marking guides for assessment tasks:

If you do not have benchmark answers or marking guides for your assessors to refer to when making their judgements you cannot ensure your assessor is meeting the rules of evidence. Your assessors practices will not be consistent without these critical documents to refer to.

References: 

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/faqs/compliance

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards

Feature Article: Four key pieces of advice for RTO managers

Being a leader in a rapidly changing industry such as the VET sector is not easy. Here are some hints to help you manage successfully…

Leadership: 

Effective leadership requires a lot of self-discipline, boundaries and empathy. Favour personal relationships over processes. One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make is failing to network with other managers within their organisation or wider industry. Your peers represent a valuable knowledge resource and support system. The RTO world is relatively small and who you develop work relationships with will benefit your career in the VET sector in the long run. 

Managing your team:

It’s critical as a manager to set clear goals for your team members whether you are managing trainers/assessors or administration staff or a combination of both. In doing so give your workers flexibility, autonomy and control over how they perform their work. As a manager, it’s important to show trust in your employees. Evaluate staff on their performance and outputs, not the number of hours they spend in the office. 

Managing your resources:

RTO managers need to be skilled at managing resources effectively and efficiently particularly when it comes to staff. Planning is critical when it comes to being efficient. Effective resource management is achieved by having appropriate plans in place such as timetables and schedules. Part of your planning process should be identifying and implementing efficiencies particularly where you can use technology or automate tasks. 

Communicate effectively:

Different staff have different ways of working, preferences for communication, environmental needs, feedback styles and unique attitudes towards their jobs. Therefore, not one person or role will need the same type of managing. Often times, the people you manage have more to teach you than you have to teach them.  Now more than ever authenticity and accountability in the workplace is valued over appearances and hollow promises. Staff expect genuine, trustworthy interactions with their managers not those based on pretence or attempts to hide imperfections.

References: 

https://hbr.org/2015/05/why-compassion-is-a-better-managerial-tactic-than-toughness

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nelldebevoise/2020/05/19/to-build-back-better-ceos-must-put-people-first/?ss=leadership-strategy#e9ff9627c903

Feature Article: Four ways to ensure your RTOs assessment practices are compliant

Implementing robust quality assurance measures focused on compliant assessment practices will result in increasing the quality of assessment and ultimately student and industry outcomes for your RTO.

Validation of assessor judgements:

All RTO’s must undertake validation of assessment practices and judgements to comply with Clause 1.9 – 1.11 of the SRTOs 2015. ASQA’s defines validation as the quality review of the assessment process. Therefore, it is conducted after assessment has been completed. Validation involves checking that the assessment tool/s produce/s valid, reliable, sufficient, current and authentic evidence to enable reasonable judgements to be made as to whether the requirements of the training package or VET accredited courses are met. It includes reviewing a statistically valid sample of the assessments and making recommendations for future improvements to the assessment tool, process and/or outcomes and acting upon such recommendations. According to ASQA validation helps ensure that your RTO’s training and assessment practices are relevant to the needs of industry.

In validating a qualification on scope, RTO’s are required to validate the assessment practices and judgements from a sample of the units of competency within that qualification. At least two units of competency should be sampled when validating a qualification as suggested by ASQA. You may expand the number of units to validate at any time during the validation process, particularly when validation outcomes indicate that assessment judgments are not valid.

Moderation

Moderation is a quality control process aimed at bringing assessment judgements into alignment as defined by ASQA. Moderation is generally conducted before the finalisation of student results as it ensures the same decisions are applied to all assessment results within the same unit of competency. Your may consider implementing a process within your RTO of moderating all assessments conducted for high risk delivery areas such as programs delivered by third parties for example.

Student file audits:

Another way to ensure assessors are being consistent in their assessment practices is to implement routine student file audits to compliment validation activities and target courses of on-going concern or high risk. The focus of these audits should be on common issues or known areas of concern such as:

  • Ensuring assessors use correct and approved versions of assessment tools 
  • Verifying that all assessment tasks have been completed by learners
  • Confirming that assessors are keeping accurate and complete student records
  • Checking that your assessors are marking in line with benchmark answers and marking guides and issuing correct results

Systematic and planned checks of completed student assessments is an effective method in monitoring your RTO’s continuing compliance with the SRTOs 2015

Targeted training and development for assessors: 

The outcomes of your validation, moderation and student file audits should provide reliable data and a good indication of systemic issues relating to your assessors practices. From those findings you can determine what professional development needs those assessors may have and develop a targeted approach to providing suitable training and development to build their capacity. For example, your RPL assessors may need some additional coaching or mentoring in RPL processes, collection of sufficient RPL evidence and recording their judgements appropriately.

References: 

https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2019C00503

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/fact-sheets/conducting-validation

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment

Feature Article: Five steps to creating a compliant training and assessment strategy (TAS)

Five steps to creating a compliant training and assessment strategy (TAS)

The compliance of your training and assessment strategies will be tested by ASQA either when you submit them with an application to add a training product to scope or during a regulatory audit. Therefore, it is critical your RTO has effective processes in place to ensure that these mandatory compliance documents are developed to meet the requirements of the relevant clauses in the  SRTOs 2015.

Template:

Your training and assessment strategies are the source documents for your RTO’s academic planning related to the training and assessment for all training products on scope. It is important that your TAS template is fit for purpose and designed to capture all of the critical information required.  At a minimum your RTO should use a TAS template that captures information for the following aspects:

  • The training product is identified including the code and full title as per the National Register;
  • Core and elective components for delivery of full qualifications are identified as per the packaging rules and for partial delivery of qualifications or stand-alone units the specific units of competency being offered are listed;
  • Entry requirements are explained including mandatory requirements of the training product and any additional requirements as per your RTO policies;
  • Pre-requisite and co-requisite units are identified;
  • Sequencing of the delivery and assessment is explained;
  • The student cohort/s and their characteristics are identified including any existing knowledge, skills and work experience.
  • Mode of delivery is identified e.g. face-to-face, online, workplace training or mixed mode
  • Duration and scheduling of your program is provided detailing your amount of training hours that are appropriate for the student cohort/s
  • Assessment resources, methods and timing are identified including mandatory work placement arrangements
  • Learning resources are identified
  • Appropriately qualified trainers and assessors are identified for each unit of competency being offered
  • Essential physical resources are identified for each unit of competency being offered including facilities such as workshops and labs, equipment and training aids

ASQA suggests that a TAS may comprise of multiple documents but there must be consistency between these documents so that the overall strategy is clearly described. You may decide to have separate documents as addendums to your main document for lists such as your staffing matrix, physical resource list or learning and assessment resource list and this is ok.  If you do this you need to ensure that the addendums and their locations are clearly referenced in your main document.

EDministrate has developed a fit for purpose Training and Assessment Strategy Template that has been designed to meet all the compliance requirements should your RTO need to replace what you are currently using.

Checklist:

Using a well-designed, practical checklist as a reference when developing your TAS’s ensures the most critical and important steps are not missed in the process. Checklists ensure self-accountability for the staff responsible for creating the documents and overall consistency in the process across your organisation. We have a good TAS validation checklist available for free download should your staff want to implement this in your RTO.

Information Sources:

There are numerous places from which you will need to draw the information required for your TAS such as the National Register; training package implementation guides; accredited course syllabuses and other RTO planning documents. The information you input will impact on the compliance of your document and will only be as good as the reliability of the source. Your RTO should have clearly defined processes preferably documented in a procedure that explains how you will ensure the quality of the content in your TAS.

Quality Check:

RTOs must comply with Clause 2.2 in the SRTOs 2015 which requires systematic monitoring of its training and assessment strategies and practices. This includes having processes in place to evaluate RTO products and services and using feedback to improve its strategies and practices. Therefore, RTO’s must have effective systems in place to ensure quality checks of compliance documents are embedded in its quality assurance.  This should include reviews of TAS’s at regular intervals that determines their effectiveness and implementation in the organisation.  Having a documented schedule of quality checks undertaken on TAS’s provides valuable evidence and ensures your RTO is sufficiently prepared in the event of an ASQA audit.

Approval:

Management is accountable for ensuring the quality of training and assessment of a RTO’s course offerings. Therefore, it is important that your RTO has an approval process in place before each TAS is implemented in your organisation. Having this management oversight will ensure the documents are consistent with your RTO’s actual training and assessment strategies and practices.

References: 

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment/clauses-1.1-to-1.4-2.2

Feature Article: Planning essentials for RTOs

Planning essentials for RTOs

Planning is critical to your businesses success. Your RTO needs a road map that clearly defines its business goals, future direction and, most importantly, sets out a clear pathway of the tactics and strategies that will get you there.

“Plans are worthless but planning is everything” Dwight Eisenhower

Planning Framework:

There are three major types of planning generally used in business which includes strategic, operational, and tactical planning. A fourth type of planning, known as contingency planning, is an alternative course of action, often developed to explore and prepare for any eventuality. Contingency planning should be developed in conjunction with an organisation’s business continuity plan.

Your RTOs planning framework should provide a system for aligning priorities, making decisions, allocating resources, and measuring its impact. Outcomes of this approach should result in absolute clarity about your RTO’s mission, purpose, and direction; significant revenue and customer increases; value-based performance reviews; and increased engagement and satisfaction among staff.

Planning systems principles

A framework suited to businesses such as training organisations or educational institutions is one aligned to Hoshin Kanri planning principles. Hoshin planning consists of a seven-step cycle, beginning with high-level strategic objectives and ending with local-level improvement targets:

  1. Establish organizational vision
  2. Develop 3-5-year strategic plan
  3. Develop annual objectives
  4. Deploy to departments to develop plans including targets and means
  5. Implementation
  6. Regular progress reviews monthly and quarterly
  7. Annual review

The principles of the PDCA continuous improvement cycle are heavily embedded into the Hoshin planning process.

Planning Documents:

There are different types of plans and planning tools commonly used in business that differentiate between an organisations long term, short term and operational objectives:

Strategic Plan

A strategic plan provides the framework to communicate your RTOs organisational goals, the actions needed to achieve those goals and includes a vision statement; a mission statement; and details on when the plan will be reviewed and updated. It is the CEO’s responsibility to make sure that changing conditions (both external and internal) are reflected in the RTOs long-term or strategic plan. The larger and more complex the RTO, the larger and more complex the strategic plan will be to include all of the individual departments and functions.

Operational Plans

An operational plan sets out the tasks that your RTO  needs to perform in order to reach a certain outcome. It is a blueprint of sorts, aligned with the objectives outlined in your RTOs strategic plan. Different managerial levels have responsibility for implementing different types of short-term or operational plans. Essential short-term plans for RTOs include validation plans, industry engagement plans or resource development plans as they define specific objectives critical to your business operations.

Team Plans

A team plan  identifies the contribution the team will achieve to your RTOs operational plan. By aligning the team plan to the operational plan, you can ensure their performance can be directed to ensuring they achieve the goals in the operational plan.

Individual Plans

An Individual plan links your RTOs objectives to those of the individual.

Project Management Planning: 

Many RTOs neglect implementing formal project management processes within their business. Project based management is a generic skill required of all managers. Projects are a temporary organisation where resources are assembled to do work and to deliver a result or asset. Documenting your goals, identified risks, roles, timeframes and deliverables in project plans allows project managers clear oversight of resources allocated. Failure to deliver the desired product or service occurs when businesses have inadequate systems in place for planning and executing of projects.

References: 

https://ssir.org/articles/entry/five_essentials_of_strategic_planning

https://www.myogsm.com/6-popular-strategic-planning-frameworks/

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newSTR_77.htm

https://www.business.govt.nz/risks-and-operations/planning-for-the-unexpected-bcp/continuity-and-contingency-planning/

https://blog.trello.com/5-common-project-management-mistakes-and-fixes

Feature Article: RTO financial viability in a crisis

RTO financial viability in a crisis

Managing cashflow:

Use some of the following strategies to manage the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your RTOs cashflow:

  • Be laser focused on your RTO’s statement of cash flow and income statement so you can keep an eye on how money is moving through your organisation. Review it more frequently than usual e.g. daily or weekly.
  • Access government financial assistance available such as the Cashflow Boost, Payroll Tax Relief and JobKeeper Payment to supplement income.
  • Focus on retaining existing students by implementing adjustments to training and assessment strategies that keeps them in enrolled and prevents attrition within your current courses. This will ensure you continue to receive fees and funding as forecasted. Some ways to do this include:
    • Bringing forward your theory classes and commencing units of competency sooner by resequencing your order of delivery in courses
    • Identifying units of competency that you can continue to deliver practical training for either in a simulated environment or in the workplace by adhering to physical distancing principles.
    • Identifying units of competency that you can continue to conduct assessment for by alternative methods like videoconferencing or by having students submit video evidence that either your assessor can observe directly or a third party can verify.
  • Identify revenue sources such as government funded programs that you can continue to deliver without disruption as most funding bodies have increased the frequency of payments to RTO’s or assured prompt payment to claimants.
  • Consider alternative revenue streams. For example, if one of your primary markets was international students you may now want to consider focusing on reaching them with online courses or you may consider turning your attention to the domestic student market with government funded subsidised courses.
  • Don’t stop marketing for new enrolments or business, you need to ensure your sales pipeline continues whilst taking care of your existing students. Your sales strategy should be focused on where you have pivoted your RTO’s business. Many industries will be focused on upskilling or retraining workers moving into the recovery phase of the crisis therefore, your RTO should be planning now for these future opportunities.
  • Look at your RTO’s insurance policies to see if they cover a significant business disruption such as COVID-19. You may be able to claim for losses arising from an event such as the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Convert fixed to variable costs by selling the RTO’s assets to raise emergency cash and leasing them back.
  • Sell your RTO’s non critical assets that get little or no use. Particularly if they are duplicate assets or surplus to requirements.
  • Top up working capital by utilising available cash or a redraw facility

Reducing costs:

Labour expenses

While businesses are focusing on protecting their staff and trying to save jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic the reality is a significant cost for RTO’s are wages as they are a large expense directly attributed to your course offerings. Some difficult decisions are being made or currently being considered by RTO managers relating to cut backs. Consider the following cost saving measures to gain efficiencies in your programs:

  • Increase online F2F class sizes and reduce the number of classes offered to save on labour costs but be careful not to overload your trainers with unrealistic caseloads of students. 
  • Consider adjusting your practical classes if it meets performance evidence and assessment conditions to collect video evidence of skills demonstrations or third party reports from workplace supervisors to save cost and time of assessors.
  • Look at reassigning classes to permanent trainers in place of casuals or contractors.
  • Examine your payroll. Consider implementing a hiring freeze. Layoffs are the last thing you want to have to do in this crisis as your RTO’s workforce is critical once you move into the recovery stage. However, in some instances you may need to terminate temporary and casual staff. Be cautious not to damage the confidence and commitment of your remaining workforce in taking these actions. 
  • Consider payroll reduction alternatives by reducing staff hours across the board. This will keep staff employed and make pay cuts more manageable for all concerned. Restrict overtime.
  • Can you place staff on leave without pay until the situation improves?
  • Have you made the best use of available government support to support wages e.g. Job Keeper
  • Identify any non-performing staff on commission e.g. sales staff that may need to be stood down

Other cost saving measures

  • Reduce variable costs such as travel expenses and non-essential items such as entertainment.  
  • Look at your printing costs – can moving to online or remote delivery methods make significant savings in this area?
  • Look at your accounts payable and receivable as a priority.  Talk to your suppliers and ask if you can negotiate time to pay what you owe them? Review outstanding invoices from your debtors. Contact them to see if you can arrange payment of what is due.
  • Consider limiting payment methods to credit cards or cash in advance for your RTO products and services. You may need to cease providing credit to customers e.g. payment plans due to the risk of delayed or non-payment.
  • The payment terms you give your customers should match the ones you accept from your suppliers so you have balance between cash coming in and cash going out.
  • Look at your energy consumption e.g. heat, air conditioning, computers and printers etc. although this may have happened organically if you have moved your workforce to working from home arrangements
  • Consider new suppliers to reduce fixed and variable costs. Many businesses in the RTO supply chain are selling goods and services at a discounted rate currently and in some instances offering free products.
  • Use technology to gain efficiencies (automation) or review technology not being used

Professional Advice: 

Our recommendations should not replace advice from the professionals such as your accountant, your bookkeeper or both on how to manage your business out of the crisis and then take proactive steps to prevent a recurrence. There are some free webinars currently available to RTOs such as COVID-19 Economic Support for Businesses by vetr that you may find informative.

References: 

https://www.cciq.com.au/coronavirus-information/

https://business.gov.au/Risk-management/Emergency-management/Coronavirus-information-and-support-for-business

https://www.business.qld.gov.au/