Erosion of quality training and assessment practices at the front line occurs due to various reasons. Certain trends are developing. These have been observed over a period of time and have also been discussed with a number of colleagues operating in enterprise RTOs.
There is a deep-seated sense of entitlement from the candidates these days. The assumption, that when you enrol in a program and have paid your fees, competency completion is a given. This is even more so the case when the candidate elects an RPL assessment pathway.
Phrases such as "I have attended all workshops and classes and handed in all my workbooks, what more do you want?" is a strong indication, that the value of competency-based training has been lost somehow.
This sense of entitlement creates a certain amount of conflict when the assessor applies the Rules of Evidence and Principles of Assessment. This can be exacerbated in situations where the candidate is a senior or wears a uniform. Threats of discrimination are frequent at the frontline and can undermine assessment decisions if the assessor has failed to sufficiently and effectively document the learning progress and assessment performance, especially foundation/employability skills or interactive workshop performance and contribution. Foundation/Employability skills are an integral part of the learning and necessary for effective functioning in the workplace and must also be assessed in the context of the workplace, however are not always easy to capture.
This conflict or perceived conflict is something the modern facilitator and assessor would rather avoid, consequently and often choosing the "path of least resistance". Frequently, programs are sold, that are not required at the frontline, as a result, candidates may not have the necessary foundation or LLN skills to complete the program competently nor the willingness to apply themselves, adding further pressure on facilitators and assessors to "sign off" on candidates. Employers will only "buy into" more programs with relevant RTOs if the programs have successful competency completion rates.
This issue can be further exacerbated, when the RTO is receiving government funding. Government funding is largely based on competency completion rates. Those RTO’s can be very financially driven often engaging salespeople to sell courses and accredited training to employers and often passing this pressure on to their trainers and assessors. Competency completion rates mean increased revenue. Facilitators and assessors who are greater contributors to this revenue stream through high competency completion rates are rewarded with more work and often get preferential treatment with professional development activities and in-house mentoring etc.
There is an incentive to erode away on quality standards and get learners through. This increased workload also means less time to enforce quality assurance processes; consequently, further erosion occurs. A full-time table also means less time for remedial work with the learners, again another reason to choose the path of least resistance.
Healthy competency completion rates should be an indicator of healthy and firm assessment practices. Audits usually only examine the documentation and processes of RTOs. Very rarely do we put the facilitator’s or assessor’s practices under the microscope at the frontline.
Published 27 February 2020
Join the discussion of this and other Challenges at the VET PD Group – Community of Practice.
Sibby Ilzhöfer is Senior Consultant/Principal with Access Industry Solutions Pty Ltd.