Analysis of current qualifications and feedback from stakeholders has informed some initial thinking about how the training product design concepts might work in practice. There is an opportunity for you to provide input too.

A short paper on a proposed approach to qualification design has just been produced and contains a set of overview diagrams and some explanatory notes. We summarise it here.

What’s being proposed

Regular VDC News readers will recall that we have been following the recent skills reform process for some time now. A paper released in May this year outlined trials in three key occupational areas: Mining, Health Services and Digital Skills and summarised the findings from a survey about qualification design conducted from December 2020 to February 2021. Its results suggested that “qualifications based on appropriately grouped occupation and skills clusters needed to be developed; that training products needed to be simplified to remove complexity and occupational and training standards needed to be separated to reduce the level of prescription in current qualifications, and make better use of industry and educationalist expertise. Finally, stand-alone and/or stackable short form training products, with improved pathways advice, were needed to support upskilling or reskilling, open up stronger articulation pathways and better support lifelong learning.

DESE has just launched a new survey on proposed qualifications reform which has a short accompanying paper containing a set of diagrams and explanatory notes. It outlines some conceptual thinking that’s been done so far to provide a basis for your survey responses. (You can access the survey here, and the survey is open until 10am Eastern Standard Time on Monday 20 September 2021.)

The paper talks of the need to reduce duplication and a cluttering of training products which make them hard to navigate, and both hard and costly to maintain. They suggested that there are over 1,200 qualifications and close to 16,000 units of competency. Also, “over 2,000 units of competency have more than 90% overlap with at least one other unit, and over 5,500 units have more than 70% overlap.” And a very significant number of qualifications have few or no enrolments.

The paper suggests some ‘new’ approaches to qualification design.  These will be to identify how to streamline qualifications that have broader vocational outcomes and also use short training products to build new and specialised skills. The aim is to produce occupation standards, which:

“would be developed at the job-function level – describing what a person needs to be able to know and do to perform a job function in the workplace. They would be used to support holistic delivery and assessment that looks much like what people actually do in the workplace.”

This would help overcome the atomized approach we currently have using task-based Units of Competency.

Training standards would then be developed to:

“provide advice for training providers on how to design nationally consistent, high quality training and assessment – to prepare learners to perform job functions. They would be co-designed by educators (e.g. training course developers) and industry, enabling flexible and innovative training that meets employer and learner needs.”

The paper is not clear about where assessment might best sit: in the occupational or training standards, or separately.  Finally, it’s suggested that there be certification standards. These “would reflect the combination of job functions (occupational standards) and provide a nationally recognised training outcome aligned to the AQF. They would have a range of other functions too.

PS: We’ve looked hard at Training Packages and qualifications a few times now

Those of you who have been in the system for some time will recall the first review of training packages published in 2004, entitled Moving on. It saw the need for fewer (and more meaningful) rules, some streamlining and simplifying, placing more faith in the professionalism of VET practitioners, being more open to disorderly but effective processes and not making so much use of regulatory and compliance mechanisms to ensure implementation.

A second one, VET training products for the 21st Century, was completed in mid-2009. It recommended, amongst other things, restructuring and streamlining their content, simplifying the endorsed components and reducing the level of specified detail, consolidating repetitive material and dividing packages into more fit-for-purpose components focused on the needs of industry and employers on the one hand and providers on the other. And there has been at least one more review since then. So, are we looking at ‘new’ practice or déjà vu? Let’s see what happens this time.