There has been a flurry of activity within the VET sector with the Government announcing reforms to the Australian Skills Quality Authority and the departure of ASQA’s Chief Commissioner, Mark Paterson in October.
Hon Michaelia Cash, said the reforms respond to key recommendations of the Braithwaite and Joyce Reviews, including supporting ASQA to expand its scope to adopt a more educative approach to lift quality in the delivery of vocational education and training (VET).
“Improving the quality of VET is a priority of the Australian Government, and this includes ensuring the sector’s regulatory environment is reasonable, transparent and effective,” Minister Cash said.
“As part of these changes Mark Paterson AO, the Chief Commissioner of ASQA, has decided the proposed shift in direction for ASQA provides an appropriate time for him to step down and pass responsibility for managing the next phase of ASQA’s evolution to others,” Minister Cash said.
ASQA Deputy Commissioner Saxon Rice stepped into the role of Chief Commissioner in early October and has recently stated: “We welcome the opportunity to extend our oversight of the sector to include new ways of connecting with providers and providing advice that moves beyond the achievement of minimum standards.”
Troy Williams of ITECA views this as a positive new direction for ASQA “that will provide greater support for the Vocational Education and Training sector” and Claire Field of Claire Field & Associates has noted that this change in leadership presents “an opportunity for ASQA to take on the more educative role & stronger focus on delivering better outcomes as per recent Skills Ministers’ Communique.”
“The response to the expert review of the Vocational Education and Training sector, commonly referred to as the Joyce Review, is shaping up to be something major,” continued Troy Williams.
One of the key finding of the Joyce Review was that there is a concern held by RTOs as to whether ASQA will treat them fairly and reasonably during the audit process…The Joyce Review noted concerns there was limited proactive engagement and guidance by ASQA and this left RTOs confused and worried about meeting requirements.
A key recommendation arising from the Joyce Review was that ASQA should provide more information and guidance to RTOs as to how it conducts its regulatory activities in order to improve ongoing understanding of, and compliance with regulatory compliance. Naturally, ITECA backs this step that will reduce the cost and compliance burden placed on RTOs.”
The pace is now picking up anew with a ‘rapid’ review of ASQA’s governance, policies and culture currently being undertaken by the government and announced by the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Michaelia Cash. The review will inform a 12-to-18 month program of improvements to ensure ASQA is increasingly “transparent and effective” in its duties.
“For some time, we’ve been telling the Australian government that we need an approach to regulation of the VET sector that assists quality providers to deliver quality outcomes without burdening them with red-tape,” commented Troy Williams of ITECA.
Director of Employment, Education and Training at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jenny Lambert, also recently argued ASQA had become too focused on compliance and the VET sector’s approach to assessment needed an overhaul.
“Quality is not just about compliance. It’s about how you ensure the system continues to improve. Quality is about the standards of teachers and professionalism,” she told the Australian Financial Review.