The NSW government has launched “a new generation” of vocational high schools to help students find jobs in a post-corona-virus economy.
A good Quality Management System provides a centralised mechanism for managing an organisations policies and procedures. These quality documents are a collection of processes that outline how you do business and meet your customers’ expectations. A core function of a QMS is to manage its document control functions.
Quality Management System Framework:
The most commonly known framework used is ISO 9001 but unless your RTO is ISO accredited there is no need to create a QMS that reflects the requirements of these standards. At a minimum your QMS should meet what is required of the VET Quality Framework and any other legislative requirements or regulatory obligations you must adhere to. The main components of your system should incorporate your quality manual or policies and procedures; your organisational structure; your document control processes and your internal audit / continuous improvement processes.
In addition to policies and procedures your quality documents can consist of but are not limited to work instructions; guidelines; templates; plans and forms. Quality documents such as policies and procedures are usually approved by document owners who are typically in RTO management positions. Other staff can contribute to the development of the documents and provide feedback on the content as it is important to ensure buy in by staff who are going to have to adhere to processes or use the tools.
Document Control Procedure:
Your RTO should have a procedure that sets out the processes for managing your quality documents or your policy and procedure library. This includes how you categorize the documents; the naming conventions used and numbering systems assigned to documents. It should also provide instruction on version control and also detail how often the documents are reviewed and updated to ensure they are fit for purpose. Controlled documents are needed for regulatory compliance purposes and are critical in ensuring your RTOs meets all legislative requirements or regulatory obligations.
Setting up your QMS:
EDministrate can help your organisation design, create and implement a QMS and create an efficient and effective documentation system or help you update your existing QMS to ensure it is fit for purpose therefore ensuring your RTO delivers quality products /services to your customers. Our Compliance Plan and Compliance Plan Matrix Template provides a reference to critical quality documents in your business that you can use to map how your policies and procedures ensure you meet all RTO compliance obligations.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian will urge her state counterparts to treat vocational training as an equal to university education at tomorrow’s Council of Australian Governments’ meeting.
Ms Berejiklian said she welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s inclusion of vocational education and training (VET) on the agenda for the meeting in Cairns.
But the Premier said it was an outdated view to treat VET and university education as two systems.
“To meet the skills requirements of the future we must look at policies impacting universities and VET holistically,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I am concerned the usual COAG approach that simply divides up responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the states will detract from us getting better tertiary education outcomes.”
Ms Berejiklian said learning need to be “flexible and transferable”.
“Why shouldn’t it be possible for people to complete their qualifications across a number of different institutions – university and TAFE, on-the-job business experience,” she said.
“Not only do we need to redefine VET, but we need to change the way we think about it.
“We want universities and VET to be thought of in the same sentence for workers looking to prepare themselves for the high value jobs of the future.”
Ms Berejiklian said European countries such as Germany had a strong emphasis on the importance of vocational training, which she intends to investigate on a trade mission to Europe next week.
She will be the first NSW premier to visit the UK for more than 14 years and the first to go to Germany for more than two decades.
“This is how vocational education is thought about in Germany – a key learning I want to bring back with me from my trade mission next week,” Ms Berejiklian said.
The Premier said there need to be a renewed discussion about how the VET system would accommodate jobs that are “not yet created or even conceived”.
The Vice-Chancellor of Western Sydney University Barney Glover said the higher education and vocational training systems in Australia were highly respected around the world.
“It is very important that we don’t degrade one system as another system becomes more robust,” Professor Glover said.
He said Ms Berejiklian’s comments were “timely” as the country faced a skills shortage.
“There is no doubt that TAFE and universities can work collaboratively, whether that is putting the VET into higher education or the higher education into VET,” Professor Glover said.
The chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, said vocational training was vital to Australia’s future.
“We need to halt its decline so Australians have the best possible chance of training for work and existing workers can retrain and upskill quickly,” Ms Westacott said.
“We have to address the cultural and financial bias that treats VET like a second class citizen.”
Ms Westacott said Australia also needed to address the effectiveness of the apprenticeship system.
“Given work is under way to build Australia’s largest 24-7 airport, there is an enormous opportunity to rethink how we undertake skills and training in this country,” she said.
During the state election campaign, the government committed to an extra 100,000 free TAFE and VET courses over the next four years and a new $80 million TAFE campus for western Sydney.
The government has said it will continue with its reforms within the Technical, Vocational, Education and Training sector (TVET) with the aim of enrolling at least 5 million youths in the institutions by 2022.These reforms will be considered as part of the government’s procedures to address the level of unemployment in the country and bridge the skills gaps identified by potential employers.Speaking at the first ever China and Africa TVET Cooperation conference, the Deputy Director of TVET in the Ministry of Education Bernard Shikoli affirmed that the collaboration is guaranteed to strengthen and revitalise the TVET sector.“I applaud this initiative and give assurance of the ministry’s commitment and support for cooperation in Technical and vocational education with the Chinese technical and vocational institutions,” said Shikoli.
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He added that this collaboration is supposed to help in achieving the Big Four Agenda as well as the Vision 2030.The National polytechnics and Technical Vocational colleges have recorded an increase from 2017 where they registered 98,000 youths compared to the 181,000 youths registered in 2019.Shikoli similarly noted that the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) allocation and capacitation needed to be increased with aim of matching the uptake of trainees in the TVET institutions.“We are also going to deploy about 2000 trainers across the TVET programmes in technical colleges to enhance the deliverance of much needed information,” said Shikoli.He declared that the steps taken will enable the youth to be equipped enough to be absorbed in the manufacturing sector as competent employees.
The Head of Kinyanjui Technical Institute Sam Waititu attested to the deliverance of advanced equipment in technical institutes.“The equipment is both manual and computerised, which I believe has built confidence in students in terms of enrolling in TVET institutes,” said Waititu.