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  • Writer's pictureJeff Irvine

Implementing industry input in VET

First, lets look at what the Standards for RTO's 2015 say about Industry Input... Standard One 

The RTO’s training and assessment strategies and practices are responsive to industry and learner needs and meet the requirements of training packages and VET accredited courses. Clause 1.5 - The RTO’s training and assessment practices are relevant to the needs of industry and informed by industry engagement. Clause 1.6 - The RTO implements a range of strategies for industry engagement and systematically uses the outcome of that industry engagement to ensure the industry relevance of: 

  • its training and assessment strategies, practices and resources; and

  • the current industry skills of its trainers and assessors.

What does this mean? 

To provide training relevant to employers and to maximise learners’ opportunities for employment, advancement or further education, RTOs have a requirement to engage with relevant industry stakeholders to establish appropriate contexts, methods, resources and trainers and assessors to deliver training and to conduct assessment. Engaging with industry stakeholders (such as employers) is critical to ensuring training and assessment is aligned to current methods, technology, products and performance expectations for the workplace tasks specified in the training package or accredited course. The information gathered through the engagement process should be used to: 

  • Design strategies for training and assessment; and

  • Select suitable resources, trainers and assessors.

After a qualification has been released, RTOs are required to continue to engage with industry and seek feedback about how the training and assessment is provided, including feedback on the resources used for both training and assessment. The monitoring process should also confirm industry’s ongoing expectations for current industry skills and knowledge of trainers and assessors.​ So what does this actually mean?

Industry consultation is best practice and should be used to ensure our qualifications are relevant and will assist our students to gain employment following their studies. Sounds good right? So why is it always in the too hard basket? Generally I see Industry Engagement/Consultation implemented as a structured functional approach that is conducted annually with the review of the Qualification. Structure is good, however not everything in life is black and white and should be structured, engagement being one of these things in my opinion. I have been reflecting a lot on consultation, the structured approach that most RTO’s adopt and I keep coming back to the ‘why’ – why does it have to be structured, why is it time consuming, why can it just not be? We have the ability to develop systems and processes and structure courses to ensure that our graduates are skilled in the areas that employers and industry want, so why don’t we embrace and just do? I am a firm believer in the KISS approach, Keep It Simple Sweetheart (I would never call anyone stupid) Does consultation need to be structured, Does it need to be detailed or can it just simply be? After reflecting on this for some time, I am proposing the 3 L’s – Listen, Learn and Log! Listen

I am a talker, my mother says that I could talk with a mouth full of marbles under wet cement. But consultation is not talking, it’s listening. This morning when I was ordering a coffee, Rita (the owner of the coffee shop) was explaining to me how she could not retain staff and was sick of working on the weekend. I nodded, agreed and walked away thinking about how tough that must be… And then my VET mind kicked in, consultation Diploma of Hospitality - what if the program included topics such as retention, motivation or even emotional intelligence, potentially providing managers like Rita with the tools to assist with staff retention.  Or in the Certificate III program, is there an opportunity for a placement program that works across various organisations so that students gain exposure to not just the one – allowing them to see where their passion and skill sets best fit. Perhaps an opportunity exists for a short accredited program, utilising skill sets that could be beneficial for cafes to assist with this problem. 

From a quick 30 second conversation had while ordering a coffee and trying to wake up, came some gold nuggets which could be used to help select electives, create a new placement program or launch a new product. Listening and being present when talking to industry, from the coffee shop to the national associations will help understand what they want, how they want it and why we should do it. Consultation does not need to be formal, its constant, you just have to listen for it. Learn

There is no point in listening if you are not going to learn. By listening to what is being said you will quickly start hearing and what you do next is key. By allowing your mind to be open you are allowing yourself to learn. This is just not key in the VET sense, but should be applied in all facets of life. Every moment is an opportunity, however you determine if you are going to let it pass you by or if you are going to grow and learn from it – no matter big or small. In the example I used earlier, I could have agreed, smiled and walked away happy with my coffee in hand. however By listening, look how much I could learn. Further consultation would be required, however that one statement potential opened many doors. But what next, I’m busy and frankly don’t have the time to review, update, edit resources or structures based on one comment, and what about the next comment and the one after that? This is why you need to Log. Log

One of the reasons that I have been in the VET Sector for so long is Continuous Improvement! I am a firm believer in working smarter not harder, and this is the core purpose of continuous improvement. In the sector we should all have a continuous improvement log and this is where all these conversations should be recorded. On review, if the same comments are appearing from various sources, then this is a common issue and should be addressed in our training. But in reality you’re not going to carry your laptop around with a shortcut to the CI register on your desktop, just in case Rita mentions something to you while ordering a coffee, so how do you log?This process is not going to work for all staff in your organisation as not everyone lives and breathes VET, but complimented with a structured approach that will capture the sales conversations or marketing chats will help ensure that you are hitting the mark.

Listening, learning and logging is not new and we all would be doing on some level, however by putting this out there I’m hoping to break down some of the barriers put up when it comes to industry consultation and help simplify what is often seen as a complex task. Remember, every conversation is potential consultation! 

By allowing yourself to listen and learn, you are going to remember. The comment is no longer a comment but a lesson, an opportunity, potential development and ultimately revenue (better course, more enrollments and happy executives!). Each night before I go to bed I like to reflect on life, reflect on the day and plan for tomorrow. It is at this point that I think about Rita and her problems and jump on my smart phone and shoot our compliance officer an email with a couple of lines on it and on Monday they will add to the register – that simple.

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