Choosing an RTO: Beware of dodgy operators

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Choosing an RTO24 October 2014 Update:

The Federal Government announced new rules for RTOs in September 2014 that will begin to be rolled out in January 2015.

These include more clearly defining the standard that RTOs must abide by and tighter qualification requirements for assessors by 2017.

Original Article:

The knowledge and ability of apprentices is decreasing as private RTOs are increasingly delivering training, according to NSW Teachers Federation TAFE organiser, Kathy Nicholson.

Although the Chief Commissioner of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) Chris Robinson said there are many private RTOs who are very good and that not all TAFEs are fully compliant.

State governments are increasingly moving vocational education and training (VET) funding to a more contestable funding model which means TAFES are not guaranteed funding and must compete with private RTOs.

“The private model opens itself to corruption… we are jeopardising the apprentices. It will be worse than any pink batts we have seen and then we are jeopardising the community,” Nicholson said.

She added that there was a narrowing of training and courses offered along with a reduction of facilities and infrastructure such as libraries and complex machinery necessary in many trades.

However, Suzy McKenna, training specialist and author of RPL Done Well told TTT that private colleges’ commercial agility meant they were often more able to adapt to market needs by collaborating with industry and sourcing better equipment and technology.

The more contestable funding model began in Victoria around 2008 and arrives in NSW under the banner “Smart and Skilled” in January 2015, with TAFEs likely to experience amalgamations and funding reductions. Apprenticeship fees are also increasing nationally while subsidies have been reduced on some courses, particularly second and third qualifications.

The Australian reported in April 2014 that since the 2008 changes, “Victorian TAFE sector’s share of the subsidy market has dropped from 47 per cent to 32 per cent, while the market share of privates has soared from 14 per cent to 48 per cent.”.

The ABC’s 7:30 Report found in August 2012 that some private training providers were scamming employers and apprentices, with little or no training occurring.

The 2008-established ASQA is responsible for the regulation of training quality by RTOs, trade and otherwise.

ASQA Chief Commissioner, Chris Robinson said that there is a concerning trend in the number of RTOs – nearly 7 per cent – whose provision of training is so poor their registration is revoked or not renewed.

Robinson said that once accredited, RTOs are usually audited in the first year, and usually at least once during their five-year registration period.

He added that where audits find issues of non-compliance such as poor quality training, incorrect assessment and unknowledgeable staff, RTOs are given 20 days to address the issues or their license is revoked.

“To get their registration revoked by us they have to be doing a fairly poor job,” Robinson said.

However he stressed that that there are plenty of good operators.

“There’s a lot of good private RTOs out there…. and not all TAFEs are fully compliant with everything.”

“The question is whether they have adequate resources to be able deliver the training the way it is supposed to be delivered.”

“People should do some due diligence,” Robinson said, saying employers and apprentices should treat training like entering into any other business arrangement; inspecting facilities and websites and talking to past customers.

“It’s like how do people choose whether a school is good or not. They talk to the people running it and the people who have used that service.”

While the ASQA website outlines RTOs who have had their scope of training restricted, they do not list the providers who have had warnings.

“We provide no information really that would enable people to choose the best provider…. Our job is to make sure they are meeting the standards required.”

How to choose an RTO

  • Inspect their facilities, training and assessment design materials.
  • Evaluate the RTO’s history in the course.
  • Talk to teachers about the course and assessment process.
  • Speak with past students.
  • Check out their website – good RTOs will share a lot of information about their training and assessment approaches.
  • Contact the industry skills council that developed the qualification ask them about choosing an RTO for the qualification
  • Evaluate the supervision, training and assessment support that is offered.
  • Look online for negative comment
  • Is there Recognition of Prior Learning?

More from Education Victoria on choosing an RTO.

Image | Bigstock

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Tom is the founder and publisher of Tools Trades Toys. He has been working as an editor and producing content for the trades for around five years. He loves to tell a good story.

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