If VET is to meet the needs of our workforce – present and future – then what needs to be trained must be communicated clearly to the people doing the training and assessment.
A workplace supervisor or colleague cannot be expected to hold TAE and is therefore not trained to read and interpret units of competency. This is the reason I have always been taught – and continue to teach my students – that Third-Party Verification forms should not be a direct copy and paste of the Performance Criteria of a Unit of Competency. Instead, we must use wording that has meaning for the third party.
Being able to read, understand and correctly interpret the meaning of a unit of competency is an integral and very important skill required of VET trainers and assessors, which is why it needs to be part of the training we provide for our TAE students. In my experience over the years, training hundreds of students, I’ve found it’s a skill that takes time to develop properly. Interestingly, those with higher degrees often struggle more than those with trade qualifications. My theory (just a theory) is that university teaches you to browse and scan, looking for what you need, rather than reading every word, and is in general more conceptual in its demands (as we can see from the AQF level descriptions): https://www.aqf.edu.au/aqf-levels.
These points are important because I am seeing a new trend in the way Training Packages are being developed. The first step is to consult industry representatives, who are not expected to be TAE qualified. This is, of course, essential and was always the case. After all, our purpose is to provide what industry wants and needs.
The next step is for the Service Skills Organisation (SSO) to develop the wording of the Training Package components to meet the needs of industry under the guidance and direction of the Industry Reference Committee (IRC) – who are industry representatives. The SSO personnel, one would hope, are qualified to translate the industry requirements into qualifications and units of competency.
However, I am concerned about the wording in the recently released Draft Cases for endorsement for the following Training Packages. (The cases for endorsement can be found on PwC’s website at this link: https://www.skillsforaustralia.com/industries)
- BSB Business Services
- RII Resources and Infrastructure Industry
- FNS Financial Services
While the terminology used for Foundation Skills in the proposed new units does comply with the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF), the terminology does not comply with that used in the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework (CSfW).
(The ACSF and CSfW can be downloaded from the website of the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE): https://docs.employment.gov.au/search/site)
The ACSF lists 5 core skills and 5 levels of performance, with definitions and examples for each level.
- Oral Communication
Similarly, the CSfW provides definitions and examples of 5 levels of performance for 3 clusters of core skills, as follows:
Cluster 1 – Navigate the world of work
- Manage career and work life
- Work with roles, rights and protocols
Cluster 2 – Interact with others
- Communicate for work
- Connect and work with others
- Recognise and utilise diverse perspectives
Cluster 3 – Get the work done
- Plan and organise
- Make decisions
- Identify and solve problems
- Create and innovate
- Work in a digital world
When interpreting a unit of competency in order to write an assessment tool, the designer must make a detailed analysis of each of the Performance Criteria and determine the Foundation Skills which are explicit in the wording of the PCs. According to the Standards for Training Packages 2012 (also on the DESE website given above), the unit does not need to list these in the Foundation Skills table. The following is quoted from the Standards (Bold and underlining added by me):
This section describes those language, literacy, numeracy and employment skills that are essential to performance.
Foundation skills essential to performance in this unit, but not explicit in the performance criteria are listed here, along with a brief context statement.
Where all foundation skills essential to performance in this unit are explicit in the performance criteria insert: Foundation skills essential to performance are explicit in the performance criteria of this unit of competency.
Therefore, we look at the Foundation Skills table to see whether there are additional Foundation Skills that we need to take into account. The ACSF and the CSfW give us detailed descriptions so that we can identify the appropriate level for each of the skills. This allows the developer to map the performance requirements accurately when designing the assessment tool.
Looking through the proposed units on PwC’s website for BSB, RII and FNS Training Packages, the following headings have been used in the Foundation Skills tables:
- Planning and organising
- Problem solving
- Enterprise and initiative
This is obsolete terminology derived from the Employability Skills Framework which is no longer available on the DESE website. It was superseded on 21 April 2015 by the CSfW. The justification for the change can be found in the Employability Skills Framework stage 1: final report (2012).
I contacted PwC and queried the reason for not using the terminology from the CSfW. I received the following reply:
There has been no change to definitions. Through our consultations, industries have consistently expressed a preference for the employability skill titles in the Employability Skills Framework. As our role is to support industry in deciding on the skills that they need for their current and future workforce, and given that the government Training Package policy in place supports SSOs in applying industries’ preferences, we have adopted this approach.
We understand that trainers and assessors may need guidance on this and are happy to talk to our IRCs and the Department to establish how best this might be achieved.
I see this trend as a real challenge to the stability and quality of our VET system. Training Packages are the foundation upon which everything depends. If the wording of units of competency is now to be dictated by lay-persons, there will be no consistency or clarity.
Of course, Training Packages must reflect industry needs, but they must be written by qualified experts.
(21 February 2020)
What do you think?
Join the discussion of this and other Challenges at the VET PD Group – Community of Practice.
About the Author:
Sandy Welton is Instructional Designer and Principal of Welton Resources.
About this series
There are many challenges facing VET. One of them is the need for the industry’s own voice to be shared in a way that adds more light than heat.
This article is one in a series that will seek to explore some of those challenges. The full series is available from HERE.
Invitation to Contribute
Contributions from others that explore issues and ideas in a polite and non-inflammatory manner are welcome, and may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full attribution and relevant links will be provided for contributors.