A new bill has been introduced into federal parliament to address integrity and quality issues in the vocational education and training (VET) sector by strengthening and clarifying the powers of ASQA, the VET regulator.
The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Strengthening Quality and Integrity in Vocational Education and Training No. 1) Bill 2024 includes a raft of measures responding to issues highlighted in the Nixon review and the Braithwaite review. Notably, it would see a five-fold increase in maximum penalties for breaches.
“The bill empowers ASQA to take decisive action against the minority of non-genuine or unscrupulous registered training organisations,” said Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor during the reading of the bill in parliament.
“It targets those organisations that use their business operations as a veil of legitimacy for fraudulent activity, or to circumvent the regulatory requirements for the delivery and assessment of vocational education and training. The bill will enable ASQA to take swift action to deter and remove non-genuine or unscrupulous RTOs, and to apply greater scrutiny to new RTOs seeking to enter the VET sector.
“The bill also provides for increases to penalties that ASQA is able to seek against RTOs for serious breaches of the act. The penalty units in the act have not been increased since the act commenced in 2011, and these changes are in the view of the government long overdue. This is designed to ensure that penalties in relation to unscrupulous or non-genuine conduct outweigh any financial gain to be had from that conduct.”
ARC CEO Glenn Evans has welcomed the planned legislation.
“The permit scheme is competency based and reliant on qualifications, so training quality is critical,” he says.
“ARC and ASQA have long been allies in the battle to shut down these courses, which are a blight on our industry, and we hope this legislation is passed, as it would strengthen our hand considerably.
“If this becomes law, it will support ARC’s work to eliminate dodgy RTOs that issue spurious qualifications typically based on inadequate courses and inappropriate reliance on tick-and-flick recognition of prior learning (RPL) processes.
“This bill, if passed, will support the majority of providers who are doing the right thing, while further strengthening our arm in keeping the dodgy courses shut down.”
O’Connor also notes that work is under way to revise the standards for RTOs. According to O’Connor, the reforms will emphasise quality rather than baseline compliance, and will make it more difficult for non-genuine or poor-quality providers to comply with the new standards.
ASQA is the Australian Skills Quality Authority.