The Certificate II in Air Conditioning Split Installation course is set to be abolished following a national strategic review undertaken by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).
The review of “issues relating to unduly short training” is highly critical of current Vocational Education and Training (VET) packages identifying Certificate II courses “as an area of particular concern.”
There is no way the course will remain in its current form in the wake of this report.
The review found more than a quarter of VET training package qualifications are being advertised with course durations below the minimum period recommended by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).
“Australia has found that concerns about unduly short training and poor quality learning outcomes were pervasive and give rise to significant public safety risks,” the report said. “Unduly short training can create an unsustainable race to the bottom and over time this can drive Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to compromise their standards to remain viable. This is because quality programs face unfair competition.
"The increasing number of workers who are not competent in the qualifications they hold perpetuates real skills shortages and impacts on productivity. It poses a strategic risk to the human capital of Australia," the report said.
Certificate II was singled out because it had the highest proportion of advertisements showing course duration of less than eight weeks. This equates to 50 per cent of the AQF volume of learning minimum for a Cert II course.
With so many RTOs not even meeting minimum requirements, the providers that do offer good quality training are under pressure to either reduce quality or leave the market to compete with those providing inadequate training programs.
“The impact of unduly short training is far reaching. The long term sustainability of the VET system is at risk unless the issue of unduly short training is definitely addressed,” the report said.
It described current regulations relating to course duration as “complex and confusing” and not delivering sufficient training which allows learners to gain the required competencies.
“The regulatory framework for duration enshrines the concept of competency-based training but in a manner that is complex and confusing for the RTOs to interpret and difficult for regulators to effectively determine compliance,” ASQA said. ASQA has made a number of key recommendations to improve VET outcomes in the report which is currently before the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews.
The first is the introduction of a consistent definition of 'amount of training' across all nationally recognised qualifications. Also, allow industry to set specific training and assessment delivery requirements including course duration in training packages where it is relevant.
Recommendation 1: The Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015 be amended to include a definition of the amount of training that focuses on supervised learning and assessment activities. This definition be agreed through a consultative process with key stakeholders. Once finalised the term 'amount of training' be adopted in the Standards for VET Accredited Courses 2012 and associated VET accredited course requirements and documentation.
Recommendation 2: That training package developers be able to respond to industry-specific risks by setting mandatory requirements, including an amount of training. The report recognises there is no one size fits all solution.
Recommendation 3: RTOs be required to publish Product Disclosure Statements to address the lack of transparency and consistency in the way training products are advertised.
As of June 30, 2016 ASQA was responsible for the regulation of 4082 of the 4632 RTOs nationally. In 2015, there were 879,596 students enrolled in Certificate III training package qualifications at ASQA registered RTOs.
This is equivalent to 34.8 per cent of the total enrolments. Certificate IV had the third greatest number of enrolments of all VET courses in 2015, with 472,015 enrolments which is equivalent to 18.7 per cent of total enrolments.
Student enrolments for Certificate II courses in 2015 totalled 463,911. This is equivalent to 18.4 per cent of total enrolments.(The learning range for Certificate II is supposed to be half a year to one year (17 to 34 weeks).
However, ASQA's review found that of the 1091 Cert II qualifications advertised there were 353 courses, or more than 32 per cent, with a course duration below the minimum 17 weeks.
A further 133 of these courses or more than 12 per cent had a course duration below half of the minimum of eight weeks.
The report said that Cert II is typically considered a foundation program, in which the entrant is required to undertake preparation before embarking on the demands of a higher level qualification such as Cert III in a specific vocational area.
“Cert II graduates would have little autonomy in the workplace and would typically work in a team environment. They would use a limited range of equipment to complete tasks in a defined area of work,” ASQA said.
The report found that the impact of short courses was far-reaching as the qualifications are not deemed credible by employers. “It poses an immediate risk to the enterprise plus employers have to retrain employees on the job incurring extra costs.”