The Ten Painful Truths About The Certificate IV TAE

Certificate IV

To be brutally frank, the Certificate IV TAE may well be Australia’s most resented qualification. For many people, it is something that they would rather have done than something that they want to do. For many people, it is something that they have to do to satisfy someone else’s requirements rather than something that they want to do to satisfy their own requirements.

Regardless of the reasons for doing it, there are some realities about the Certificate IV TAE that we believe prospective students should be aware of. Why? Because it is not in the interests of our students or ourselves to enrol in something that ends up being something that they did not expect. And, thinking bigger picture, it is not in the interests of our nation for people to walk around thinking that they are competent after completing a program that was not sufficiently robust to ensure that they were competent.

So, here they are…

The painful truths.  All 10 of them.

Painful Truth #1. It can be frustrating.

“I’ve done post-graduate university study & found the TAE more difficult.” – Trudy.

There are two groups of people who find it particularly difficult. The first group are people who have not experienced success in their prior education and for perhaps obvious reasons. The second group are people who have not only experienced success in education, they have succeeded at university. For them, the prospect of a Certificate IV is presumably not too daunting. The reality is quite different.

Whereas at University they had the opportunity to spread their cognitive wings and deal with things at a conceptual level (as expected at higher levels of the AQF), the Certificate IV limits thought to more concrete situations. The very nature of the VET system that the Certificate IV TAE is largely about is also somewhat concrete in nature, and so the free-thinking of higher education is replaced by a more constrained process of thinking within the Certificate IV TAE.

It is not necessarily harder, but for those who do not expect it, it can be different. And those differences can cause frustration and disappointment.

Painful Truth #2. The Cert IV TAE is repetitive.

The Cert IV TAE is made up of a number of Units of Competency. Each of these units has its own requirements. They overlap a bit, and that can lead to some efficiencies in delivery and assessment.

Add to that the need to do things first in learning, and then do them again in assessment, and you can expect that even the most efficiently developed program will involve repetition.

Painful Truth #3. Hearing is not learning. Neither is reading.

Simply being present in a class, or looking at a page of information is not the same thing as learning. Sure, both of these things can lead to learning occurring, but just turning up or opening a page is not enough. Learning requires concentrated attention, and when the subject matter is so foreign, filled with jargon and repetition, that can be hard. Learning the material sufficiently well requires engagement with the material, completing learning activities and reflecting on what you have done.

Painful Truth #4. The Cert IV TAE cannot be done in 10 days.

It just can’t.

Simple mathematics says that there won’t be enough time for everyone to learn and be assessed. Even a conservative approach to assessment would require close to three hours per person for the assessment of group delivery in TAEDEL401, alone.

Even with a class of a minimum of 8 people, there just is not enough hours available for everyone to do all of the assessment required by all of the Units of Competency – the time taken to develop learning strategies that address units of competency, creating session plans and then delivering to groups and individuals, supporting “real vocational learners” with LLN support needs, creating and then trialling three entire assessment tools, conducting assessments on a couple of occasions, and participating in three validations.

Even if there were multiple Assessors available, that would still take most of the 10 days.

When does the learning occur?

Painful Truth #5. Doing it once is not the same as being competent.

Competency is not about doing something once. It requires the ability to do things repeatedly, and in different situations. There are these things called the so-called Dimensions of Competency, and competency can only be confirmed when they are assessed.

Painful Truth #6. It won’t all be relevant to you.

It is what it is. Yes, the program can be contextualised to suit the needs of the learners, but that doesn’t mean that bits can be left out just because those bits are not needed by you. It doesn’t matter if you need to know about X or Y, or if you will ever have to do Z. If X, Y and Z are parts of the qualification, then you need to do them and you need to do them competently.

If you get your Cert IV TAE without doing it all, then your piece of paper is lying to you.

Painful Truth #7. It is (almost) impossible to do the TAELLN411 assessment in class.

There are some RTOs who say that you can do the LLN assessment in class, using a simulated situation.

That’s kind of true, but it comes with some conditions.

Yes, you can conduct assessments of your classmates and deliver training to them. But, when it comes to the LLN unit, you have to be working with a “real vocational learner with real LLN issues.” Sure, your classmates are real vocational learners simply by virtue of the fact that they are doing the course. But, if you are planning on using them for your LLN assessment, you better make sure that they have real LLN issues, and you are supporting them in something to do with the Cert IV TAE.

We asked Skills for Australia (the people who wrote the qualification) what they thought; here are our questions and their answers:

1. Can the “real vocational learner” be another student who is enrolled in the same TAE40116 program, and who pretends to have LLN issues?

A real vocational learner is a learner undertaking training required for their employment or future employment and directly related to the skills needed for that employment. This means that you could use other learners enrolled in the TAE40116, but those learners could not be pretending to be some other real vocational learner with LLN issues.

2. Can the RTO provide, for the purposes of assessment, someone who assumes the role of a “real vocational learner” and who pretends to have LLN issues?

A real vocational learner needs to be used, not someone assuming that role. Please note that a ‘real vocational learner’ is different to an ‘enrolled vocational learner’, as a real vocational learner does not necessarily have to be enrolled in nationally recognised training. This broadens the scope somewhat of who a real vocational learner may be.

In general, our expectation is that in the event of an audit of assessment practices by a regulator, ‘simulated learners’ (whether that’s case studies of real learners, or people pretending to be real vocational learners) would not meet the assessment conditions of TAELLN411.

Painful Truth #8. Just because you get it, doesn’t always mean you get to keep it.

Qualifications can be recalled by the regulator, ASQA. It is happening more frequently, and with the increased scrutiny on TAE qualifications, in particular, it would not be a surprise if the TAE qualifications of some RTOs were recalled once they had been found to be taking short-cuts.

Some RTOs have had to recall the qualifications of their graduates, and others have had to re-assess hundreds.

Complaints against RTOs are on the rise, and many of these are from students who object to being sold something that is not legitimate. Sure, there are students who prefer RTOs who give them short-cuts. But, it only takes a few who are not so happy to capture the interest of the regulator, ASQA, and for that to trigger a formal investigation.

Even if your certificate is not recalled, any sort of regulatory decision will be made public (HERE) and it is the sort of stuff that your future employer will be keeping an eye on; your certificate will carry the stain of that RTO.

Painful Truth #9. Blacklists are not a myth. Not all Cert IV TAE certificates are equal.

Yes, they might all have the little NRT logo on them, but when it comes to getting a job – and respect – not all Cert IV TAE certificates are equal.  Right or wrong, there are many RTOs whose certificates are rejected by some employers.

How do we know?   We have many senior RTO staff among our students and alumni; they tell us:

Look, we don’t employ anyone who shows up with a certificate from X, Y or Z.
They don’t know enough. But they think they do. I’m not sure what is more dangerous: them not knowing, or them not knowing that they don’t know. – Micheal, RTO Manager

Even a couple of years ago it would not have been a problem, but now we just cannot risk having people who aren’t properly competent. It’s just not worth the risk. Sandra, RTO Manager

I always ask how long someone took to do their course. If they say they did an ‘Intensive’ course, they are out. If they take less than 3 months and cannot justify that through a heap of hours, then they are out. Otherwise, they just don’t know enough.  – Peta, RTO Manager

Melbourne-based Sean Kelly did a ring around of about 15 RTOs and asked straight out if it mattered which RTO’s name was on the qualification.  His findings are quite sobering, and you can read about them here:

Painful Truth #10. Whatever you decide, it will be noticed.

If you do your Certificate IV TAE properly, then your skills and knowledge will be noticed.  Your confidence and your competence will shine through.  Your contribution to your employing RTO will shine in stark contrast to the other person who did not do their Certificate IV TAE properly.

While they are struggling to write a learning outcome that makes sense, you are applying theories of learning to develop robust learning programs that reflect the needs of your students and the Training Package.

While they are reading from yet another PowerPoint presentation, you are engaging your students in a range of learning activities that reflect the dimensions of competence.

While they are struggling to apply what they learned while assessing someone make a cup of coffee or paper box, you are assessing candidates in a way that reflects the Rules of Evidence.   While they sit in self-conscious ignorance during a validation meeting, you are interrogating the integrity of the assessment process to ensure it meets the Principles of Assessment.

While they are struggling to answer the questions posed by the visiting auditor applying ASQA’s new audit model,  you are explaining clearly how your own actions contribute to your RTO upholding the Standards for RTOs (2015).

Whatever you decide, it will be noticed.

You’ve read about The 10 Painful Truths, but what makes the Cert IV TAE a great qualification? Read about what our Cert IV TAE Trainer, Emma Siebuhr, had to say in What The Cert IV TAE is and isn’t.

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