In defense of TAEASS502 – the single unit that might help the VET industry regain its confidence.

regOn the surface, it would seem that the majority opinion is that TAEASS502 does not belong in the TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training & Assessment.  We do not need to look far to find some very assertive – and often very aggressive – comments that lambast the decision to include it as a Core in the new Cert IV TAE.

We disagree.  And it is not because of the effect on people doing the whole TAE40116 qualification, who are starting from scratch.  Rather, it is because it of the effect on people who have done the old one.  It is quite possible that this effect will help the VET sector as a whole regain some confidence.


Generally speaking, Trainers/Assessors are not as good at assessment as they think they are.

Yes, a person may have the old TAE40110, and yes, they may have been “doing this for [insert number] years”, but the sad reality is that there are a great many Trainers/Assessors whose knowledge of fundamental things related to assessment are just lacking.  These are not mysterious things; they are things that are defined quite clearly within the TAE’s units of competency.  The ability to apply that knowledge is therefore non-existent, meaning that their assessment practice is not based on a sufficiently robust foundation of knowledge.

It is not that that foundation of knowledge was absent from the ASS units in the old TAE40110, and the TAA40104 before it.  It is more that the proliferation of short-courses, intensive courses, fast-track courses and other things that drove the rigour of the TAE40110 into its death spiral led to people just not being taught and/or assessed in this knowledge and the ability to apply it.

Almost a generation of Trainers/Assessors have been influenced by that practice, and many people in senior RTO roles are none the wiser.  From the top down, assessment practices are commonly well-intentioned, but not valid.

How do we know this?

These self-same people are looking to upgrade to the new TAE40116.  As part of that, they need to do TAEASS502.  And as part of doing TAEASS502, they are being shown a mirror that they have not been shown before.

For many, it is not a comfortable view at all.  For those who are professionally minded, it is a sobering call to reflect honestly on their own assumptions and beliefs, and their own practices.  For these people, having to now do TAEASS502 has become a safety net.

[As an aside, this is not limited just to people seeking to upgrade their Cert IV TAE.  We conducted some quantitative research on RPL applications among TAE Diploma students who assessed themselves as being competent.  By way of summary, the results revealed that for TAEASS502:  the average was 76% of performance evidence benchmarks being demonstrated satisfactorily, with a range of 54-100%.  78% of students demonstrated the required Knowledge Evidence benchmarks in this unit.  You can read more about that project here.  The full findings were presented by Fortress Learning at the AVETRA national conference in December, 2018, with a refereed journal article under development.]

The TAE upgrade has become a bit of a juggernaut among the 100 RTOs who hold the new TAE40116 on their Scope.  Not surprisingly, many Trainers/Assessors and their employers are keen on getting up to speed in time for the April 1 change to the Standards.

At Fortress Learning, we have noted a distinct separation among two groups of people who are seeking to upgrade their Cert IV TAE.  Among people who are inquiring about upgrading, there are:

Group 1: Those who seek the opportunity to have their current knowledge and skills upgraded to match what the industry standard is.  These people are interested in the opportunity to reflect on how they have been doing things up until now, and learn new things and ways to ensure that they are equipped to operate effectively within the new regulatory landscape.

Group 2: Those who seek the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to get the piece of paper that is required by the Standards.  These people are not interested in the opportunity to learn anything new at this time, nor reflect on how they have been doing things until now.  (We generally recommend these people to consider a different RTO for their Upgrade program).

Then, among those who do enrol, we find a further two groups:

Group A: The first group are those people who completed their initial Cert IV TAE with Fortress Learning, and perhaps a small handful of other RTOs.  These people find it quite smooth, and what they get is what they expect.  The level of detail and rigour involved is not a shock to them, and the knowledge and skill are quite familiar.  This is to be expected given that they ought to have learned it in their previous TAE40110 Cert IV.

Group B: For graduates of many RTOs (many who no longer exist, and many who do not have the new TAE40116 on their Scope), the requirements of TAEASS502 are incredibly confronting.  For many people who have been around for long enough to have done the BSZ Cert IV in Workplace Training & Assessment, this latest unit represents the first time that their knowledge and skills have actually been assessed. For many, moving from BSZ to TAA to TAE has been a sequence of RPL judgements that were based more on presumption than on the Rules of Evidence.

For those people, this is not just a professional confrontation, for many it is quite personal.  The demands of the TAEASS502 unit are viewed through comparison with their earlier TAE40110 experiences.  It is not unusual to receive the following comments:

It is taking me longer to do this one unit than it took to do the whole [insert expletive] Cert IV originally.

This is ridiculous.  Why do I need to know this stuff anyway? Can’t I just get RPL?

This very question is disturbing, not just because it speaks to a lack of knowledge of what it means to be assessed, but because it speaks to a broader suggestion that assessment – and perhaps competence – is somehow negotiable.

While it is uncomfortable for both student and their assessor, it is, however, an opportunity for our industry to be redirected toward both quality and consistency.  Trainer by Trainer, if it is assessed with integrity, TAEASS502 may well be the thing that arrests the perpetuation of ignorance and incompetence.  Those who are sufficiently professionally minded to engage in this process find themselves well-positioned to not just navigate the current regulatory landscape, but to lead others through it.