Warning – this is a commercially ridiculous post to make…
I am probably taking a risk here of stirring the Powers-That-Be, but enough is enough.
ASQA – the national regulatory body for Registered Training Organisations – is turning our business into a government department. We are weighed down in red tape, stuff-in-triplicate, checking and double checking and worrying if we have every single record perfectly in place. And if we don’t, registration is pulled.
I realise the argument for years has been that regulation keeps ‘shonky’ RTO’s out of the industry. We have been audited by four separate auditors in the past four months, all saying we are anything but ‘shonky’ and run a great RTO, so this is NOT me attempting to defend bad practices.
Innovations and outside-of-the-box thinking is now not possible, and here’s why…
- ASQA doesn’t guide you or tell you how you’re not compliant. They refuse to assist, recommend or advise in ANY way about what has let you down when it comes to compliance. You have to figure it out for yourself – these are the exact words our AQA auditor used. Think about what this means… No one knows where the line is in terms of being compliant, so everyone goes way overboard in compliance, to ensure they get over the line. Because of this we have excessive compliance processes in place.
- ASQA audits don’t in any way take into account the individual learning experience. And I MEAN it when I say they don’t take this into account, in ANY way. It’s not about the student, it’s about proving we followed a system, a process or a compliance checklist. This means the quality assurance a student thinks they’re getting when they seek out an RTO is no longer true – all it’s ensuring is that the student will be burdened with excesses compliance protocols.
- ASQA is not in the business of consulting with RTO’s in any way. It actually says they don’t consult or answer questions from RTO’s on their web site. I’m not making this up. There is no guidance, FAQ’s or advice you can get that you can count on as being accurate at the moment. The reason for this is that ASQA is so new, and has done less than 1,000 or the 4,000 audits they need to do. Everyone is trying to figure out what compliance is, and how to achieve it, so there’s no one to ask who actually knows.
- ASQA does not provide a Help Desk for RTO’s. They are NOT here to represent RTO’s in any way. Something they make very clear. So where do we get great, accurate and timely advice from? I have no idea. Who represents us? No one.
- External auditors are making a killing right now. They charge a fortune to come and advise RTO’s on how to be compliant. Thank goodness we can afford it. Pity the regional RTO run by a husband and wife team who can’t afford a single day of this advice!
- If, in the first audit, you’re not compliant – and 100% of RTO’s are not compliant in that first audit – yes you read it right – then you are not told how you didn’t meet the standards. It’s as if we have to have a crystal ball to try to anticipate what it is they don’t like. Weirdest stuff I’ve ever seen. If we treated our students this way, we would – yes, you guessed it – be noncompliant.
- With ASQA being unable to audit all the RTO’s, they are moving to drive many out of the industry. Again, it’s not just ‘shonky providers’ – that is grossly unfair – it’s business owners who are so tired of the limits that being an RTO places on great business. For example, we have removed our new school, the Executive Coaching Academy, from our scope of registration because of the limits it would place on our delivery style. That is a huge decision to make but a necessary one.
- There is an attitude of ‘them and us’ right now between ASQA and private RTO’s. I’m not alone saying this. Nearly every RTO provider I come across is feeling the same way, and is getting out. I guess ASQA would be pleased to read this.
- There is a culture of fear in private RTO’s because of ASQA’s incredibly unyielding attitude towards us. Again, don’t dismiss this as ‘you just don’t want to comply’ – we have been an outstanding RTO provider for nearly ten years. Surely if I’m asking these questions after so many years there must be something to my concerns? Should they be dismissed so readily?
- ASQA’s requirements for us to be compliant change. This is probably the biggest one, and means we are spending over $250,000 on compliance each year and attempting to keep up with compliance changes. On top of that, each change has the potential to affect our students and their experience. We are tired of going to our students with yet another change, amendment, requirement or adjustment to their experience.
- This one is more personal. Our ASQA auditors actually questioned my personal integrity. They implied, with nothing in writing, that there is something suspicious about my hiring a CEO at about the same time we were notified of being audited. The CEO has since left because of heart issues. I guess this is suspicious too? We have actually made the decision to provide written proof that the recruitment of our CEO began before we were notified of the audit. That is how ridiculous this has become. How do you deal with such an aspersion? How would you deal with this accusation being levelled at you (three times)?
We spend inordinate amounts of time on compliance. It would be easy to dismiss this and say, ‘That’s what a good RTO does’. I used to believe this, too. But it’s gone beyond that, now. Being an RTO means HUGE business for us. It makes NO sense me posting this blog. It’s commercially nuts to do so, as I know many people choose a school based on them being an RTO. But I can’t stay silent on something that is choking an entire industry of innovation, of creativity and of the ability to just get on and run a great business.
I have no idea what will happen because of this post. Maybe nothing. Maybe it’s an early morning rant that, along with thousands of others, will hit cyberspace and lay dormant. But perhaps it will generate at least a discussion about the direction our private sector RTO’s are heading.
Sharon Pearson 2013Google+