In June 2021, ASQA flagged a shift towards RTO self-assurance.
Self-assurance processes have been in operation for over 80 years. Sometimes referred to as “quality management systems”, they can include International Standards Organisation (ISO) standards such as those in the ISO 9001 group.
In 2005, the VET sector focused on quality improvement with the release of the then AQTF standard. This initiative required RTOs to gather and analyse data and maintain details of continuous improvement activities. Clause 2.2 of the current RTO Standards requires a systematic approach to continuously improve.
This article is based upon “A systems approach to RTO self-assurance”, published in August 2021 by Joe Newbery of Newbery Consulting.
A systematic approach to quality
Self-assurance is having confidence. It means an RTO has documented systems to meet set goals, including all regulatory requirements. The focus is on all aspects of the organisation. As Joe Newbery* succinctly says;
“Being self-assured means that we can have confidence in the whole business with quality service delivery as the primary objective and compliance achieved as a consequence of systems working together”.
An RTO self-assurance model
With an understanding of the RTO system, we can now move to build a self-assurance model to compliment the system. Joe Newbery identifies the three important mechanisms of an RTO self-assurance model as;
- assurance coordination,
- a calendar of assurance activities
- local assurance actions.
Maximising staff engagement is the starting point for coordination of self-assurance action. Regular staff meetings must have self-assurance as a standing agenda item and everyone should be encouraged to provide ideas for improvement.
An information system is needed to input data and improvement actions and to monitor implementation. A key step is to keep staff informed of the results so they can become the champions of self-assurance.
Calendar of Assurance Activities
Using a calendar of assurance activities provides visibility that specific action is being implemented at a specific time. This list of activities should include mandatory regulatory obligations and internal reviews that need to be scheduled. A list of assurance activities is listed in the Newbery article.
Local Assurance Actions
These actions are specific self-assurance tasks performed by individual team members as part of their usual activities. This reinforces the systems based approach required to maximise the success of a self-assurance program.
These actions are the responsibility of individual staff, whereas the Calendar Assurance Activities is focused on organisation wide or group activities. A list of examples is in the Joe Newbery article.
A starting point for the introduction of a self-assurance program is to determine the current position of the RTO’s operations and quality assurance. This is best achieved by conducting an internal audit to benchmark the organisation against the Standards for RTOs 2015.
An action plan can then be developed and prioritised based on the findings of the audit. This action plan should then be examined with staff and used as the basis for the self-assurance program.
Building confidence is not easy and it takes time. It requires commitment and energy by management to engage all staff to improve the quality of service delivery.
By working together on self-assurance, RTOs can improve the student results, enhance staff job satisfaction and meet regulatory requirements at a lower cost.