Qualifications Reform - Frequently Asked Questions

In October 2020, Skills Ministers agreed to trial new ways of designing Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications, to better meet the needs of employers and learners.

Qualifications reform trials seek to achieve the following:

  • Broader vocational outcomes to recognise skill commonality and promote labour mobility, where feasible.

  • A reduction in unnecessary training product duplication

  • A reduction in training product complexity, through reducing over-specification and improving training delivery and assessment advice

  • An enhanced relationship between training products, training needs and pathways to employment and further education

  • Greater training product flexibility and enhanced responsiveness to changing industry need through short courses (micro-credentials and skill sets)

  • Improved articulation and pathways between education sectors, building on the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) review recommendations

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (the department) has been consulting on the qualification design concepts and how they might be applied in a new national training system.

This document answers frequently asked questions raised through consultations. Please note, the answers reflect current thinking on how the qualification design concepts might be implemented, as outlined in the overview diagrams and explanatory notes. The proposed model is conceptual, and we are seeking stakeholder feedback through the consultation process. Lessons learnt from trials, and feedback from stakeholders, will inform further thinking about qualification design.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How would the proposed model manage the tension between broader Occupational Standards that are transferrable, with the industry need for specialist skills?

A key strength of the VET sector is its focus on delivering the skills and knowledge required by industry, and it will be important under any new arrangements to get the balance right to deliver the best outcomes for students. Initial development work, research and consultation has identified the potential for different types of Occupational Standards to support broader vocational outcomes while still providing the specificity needed to meet the needs of industry and learners.

The overview diagrams propose the development of:

  • 'Common' Occupational Standards which relate to technical tasks that are relevant across multiple industries or sectors.

  • 'Specialised' Occupational Standards which relate to functions unique to an industry sector, or have specialist knowledge or skills requirements.

Other types of Occupational Standards may support a new qualification design architecture, for example 'Core' Occupational Standards for foundation skills and employability skills.

Under the proposed model, Occupational Standards would be the building block of VET qualifications. Industry Clusters would access a library of all Occupational Standards, and package Common and Specialised Occupational Standards together into a Training and/or Certification Standard along with industry specific context and mandatory assessment conditions.

The Training and/or Certification Standard would deliver the right mix of skills and knowledge required for the workplace, and provide an opportunity to draw on educator experience when defining training requirements.

We are keen for your views on the proposed model, or if you have any other ideas about how the qualification design concepts could be implemented to achieve broader vocational outcomes, while ensuring the national training system is fit-for-purpose, flexible and responsive.

Q. What is the building block of a VET qualification in the proposed model? What would happen to Units of Competency?

Under the proposed model (overview diagram page 2), the building blocks of the VET system would be Occupational Standards rather than Units of Competency.

Occupational Standards would be developed by Industry Clusters and would be placed in a 'library' for other Industry Clusters to draw upon.

Occupational Standards would be combined by Industry Clusters into Training and/or Certification Standards to reflect qualifications and skill sets as they see fit to meet their particular needs.

Q. How would industry clusters ensure all stakeholders have a voice in the proposed model?

New industry clusters are being established to provide industry with a stronger, more strategic voice and a broader role in ensuring Australia's VET system continues to deliver on employer and learner needs.

You can learn more about new industry engagement arrangements on the engagement hub here.

Q. How would licencing or regulatory requirements for particular occupations and apprenticeships/traineeships be addressed in the proposed model?

Under the proposed model, Industry Clusters would determine which Occupational Standards to combine to deliver the right mix of skills for the workplace, and develop a training product to achieve that outcome.

It is proposed that the Training and/or Certification Standard would include any specific packaging rules, including any licensing or regulatory requirements related to the occupation. Training and/or Certification Standards could be developed for full qualifications, skills sets and micro-credentials (single Occupational Standards), as determined by Industry Clusters.

We envision that some occupations, like trades, may continue to have very specialised qualifications as well as specific training delivery arrangements, including apprenticeships and traineeships. They could still utilise the same containers and realise similar benefits.

Q. Would students need to repeat Occupational Standards that have been undertaken in one industry if they move to another industry?

It is anticipated that the proposed model would better support the recognition of prior learning, so learners would not need to repeat training in common Occupational Standards.

Raising Occupational Standards to the job function level would give employers clearer information about the skills of new workers, and what additional training would be required to provide the new industry context. This could include formal training with additional common or specialist Occupational Standards for that industry, or through induction programs and on-the-job training.

Q. What would the format be for Occupational Standards - would there be consistency across industries?

There would need to be a level of consistency to the format of Occupational Standards to enable the transferability and recognition of skills and ensure the system is streamlined and easy to navigate.

However, there may need to be some flexibility in some of the conditions related to training or certification, which would enable industry to describe the particular skills and knowledge requirements for their sector.

Q. How would the Australian Skills Classification (ASC) 'specialist tasks' be used to develop Occupational Standards?

There are approximately 16,000 Units of Competency in the current system, and 1,925 ASC Specialist Tasks.

It is proposed that the ASC Specialist Tasks could provide a useful basis for the design of new qualifications, providing a common taxonomy to support Industry Clusters in developing Occupational Standards. Mapping of existing training products to a new qualification architecture would give Industry Clusters a starting point to assist them in the development of Occupational Standards.

Q. How would assessment be dealt with in the proposed model?

The current system has assessment requirements attached to units of competency. Through our consultations we have heard that while these requirements can offer important information for industry and for training organisations, the cumulative assessment requirements can be administratively burdensome when applied at the qualification level.

The information included in assessment requirements is important to industry as it provides important information about what someone needs to do to work effectively and safely in the workplace.

However, feedback from stakeholders has identified that over time the assessment conditions have become more prescriptive, and are being used as a tool for improving the quality of training provision.

Current thinking based on consultation and research is that there is an opportunity to lift assessment requirements to the highest possible level, providing the key assessment requirements that are necessary for a training outcome, such as a qualification or skill set level.

The details of assessment are still being considered under the proposed model.

Q. How would Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) be managed under the proposed model?

RPL is a feature that is possible in the current system but stakeholders have advised it is a complex process with a significant amount of evidence and assessment requirements which make it administratively prohibitive for many training providers.

By lifting the level of detail in Occupational Standards and taking a stronger focus on the outcomes of training in the description of critical assessment requirements, there would be an opportunity under the proposed model to make RPL more straight forward.

Q. Would the proposed model reduce the current duplication between units of competency? For example, Workplace Health and Safety and communication skills are included in many units of competency across training packages.

The proposed model seeks to reduce duplication and drive a renewed focus on common and transferrable skills.

Lifting training products from task to function level would see training and assessment at the holistic level, changing the nature of training and assessment.

Training standards may be based on a single occupational standard but could also be based on a combination of Occupational Standards that lead to a full qualification, thereby removing duplication by bringing training and assessment up to the highest possible level.

Q. How does the proposed model take into account the Australian Qualifications Framework?

Under the proposed model, qualifications would still be aligned to the AQF.

Industry Clusters would consider the skills and knowledge required to perform the job, and the complexity of the role, in developing training standards in collaboration with educators. The training standards would describe what needs to be achieved to gain a nationally recognised training outcome aligned to the AQF.

Q. How does the proposed model take into account micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials could operate in the proposed model by using Occupational Standards as building blocks.

The system could have a micro-credential or a training standard for a single occupational standard or a group of Occupational Standards.

Micro-credentials could be stand-alone, or could be used as building blocks in full qualifications, or build on full qualifications, providing clearer pathways for learners.

Q. How would Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) experts be involved in the proposed model?

One of the key features of the proposed model is a more formal role between industry and educators in developing training standards.

Current units of competency include foundation skills, but it can be difficult to identify from a student's qualification, what level of foundation and employability skills they hold in addition to the technical training they have achieved.

Under the proposed model, there is potential for LLN experts to contribute to how core competencies are identified and articulated within training products.

Q. How would the quality of training be ensured in the proposed model?

Skills Ministers have committed to raising the quality of training delivered within the VET sector through:

You can learn more about quality reforms on the engagement hub here.

Q. When would these changes be implemented and will there be adequate time for transition?

The model is proposed as a concept, presented for feedback through the consultation process. Further consultation will occur in the future based on feedback gained through this process.

There is still more work to be done on what the products would look like, how they would be put together, as well as the principles and rules around them, including the changes to standards and policies that might be needed.

There would also need to be a comprehensive implementation and transition plan to support any new arrangements, including the impact on students, the VET workforce, and other changes in the VET sector.

Q. How well positioned is the system to accommodate changes from the proposed model?

There is strong capability in Australia's VET sector. Reforms seek to better enable stakeholders to play to their strengths, however we are seeking your views on what tools, resources and guidance could support transition.

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