The Effectiveness of Upgrading Certificate IV in Training & Assessment. Insights from a Survey of Candidates.

The following Abstract is based on research conducted by Fortress Learning’s Nik Bogduk and Bryan West.  It has been accepted for presentation at the Australian Deans of Education Vocational Education Group (ACDEVEG), 2019, Conference, to be held at Charles Sturt University in December.  The Conference website is here. 

Access to “quality and capable VET teachers” is a global concern (Rasmusssen, 2016) Recent changes in Vocational Education and Training have required Trainers to upgrade their Certificate IV.  While the intention was an effort to improve standards (Australian Skills Quality Authority, 2015), relying on upgrading the Certificate IV is dissonant with the recommendations of earlier (Simons & Smith, 2008; Smith & Grace, 2011; Smith & Yasukawa, 2017) and subsequent researchers (Rasmussen, 2016; Smith & Yasukawa, 2017).

In order to determine if they had benefitted from their upgrade, a survey was conducted of 600 candidates who had upgraded their Certificate IV in Training & Assessment.  The opportunistic sample was obtained via open invitation through professional Linkedin networks to which the authors belong.  Survey responses were anonymous, which precludes identification of the RTOs with whom each participant undertook their upgrade.  The survey asked if candidates had learned anything from their upgrade; if they had changed their practices, or could see opportunities for change, as a result of their upgrade; and how long they had taken to obtain their original Certificate IV. Responses were tallied. Associations between responses were tested by entering the tallied data into contingency tables. Significant associations were identified if the 95% confidence intervals of their proportions did not overlap.

The results revealed several issues of concern that might be explored by prospective research studies. Only 62% of candidates felt that they had learned anything from the upgrade; 38% asserted that they had learned nothing. Only 50% changed their practices or saw the opportunity for change; the others reported not changing. The association between learning something and subsequently changing was weak. In contrast, both learning and changing were each strongly associated with duration of previous training for Certificate IV. The longer the previous duration the more likely were candidates to learn and change after the upgrade. Some 36% of candidates reported completing their Certificate IV in under 50 hours. They constituted 55% of the candidates who reported not learning anything from the upgrade, and 70% of the candidates who did not change.

The facts that nearly 40% of candidates felt that they did not benefit from upgrade, and 50% would not change their practice, brings into question how successful the requirement for upgrade might be in raising standards of practice. Of particular concern is the large proportion of candidates who reported completing their original Certificate IV in less than 50 hours, which is over 10 times less than the duration prescribed by AQF [ASQA 2017]. The majority of candidates with this background reported neither learning anything nor changing as a result of the upgrade. Given the importance of VET teachers’ own views of their profession (Harris, 2017; Smith, Hodge & Yasukawa, 2015), and the intention of the system’s architects to impart a higher level of VET teacher capability (Rasmussen, 2016), the present results suggest that the standard of past education may be an unrecognised obstacle to reform in VET.


Australian Skills Quality Authority (2015). User’s Guide to Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015. https://www/

Australian Skills Quality Authority, 2017. A review of issues relating to unduly short training.

Harris, R. (2017). What do we learn from 40 years of history? Issues in VET teacher education from Kangan to today. International Journal of Training Research 15:1,4-22.

Rasmussen, C. (2016). Improving the quality, capability and status of the VET teacher workforce. International Specialised Skills Institute, Clayton, Victoria.

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Simons, M., Smith, E. (2008). The understandings about learners and learning that are  imparted in Certificate IV level courses for VET teachers and trainers. International Journal of Training Research, 6:1, 23-43.

Smith, E., Grace, L. (2011). Vocational educators’ qualifications: a pedagogical poor relation? International Journal of Training Research, 9:3, 204-217.

Smith E., Yasukawa, K. (2017). What makes a good VET teacher? Views of Australian VET teachers and students. International Journal of Training Research, 15:1, 23-40.

Smiths E., Hodge, S., Yasukawa, K. (2015). VET teacher education in Australian universities: who are the students and what are their views about their courses? Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 20:4, 419-433.