List of Recommendations
Recommendation 23. Recommendation 23
PETE should undertake a comprehensive analysis of all its information and
management systems which provide or receive apprenticeship and traineeship data, especially the DELTA system, with a view to
(a) ensuring information systems support and encouraging efficient business processes;
(b) eliminating duplication in data collection and reporting by users;
(c) guaranteeing to all users timely, valid and reliable data on apprenticeships and traineeships, with particular attention to completion data;
(d) moving from a paper-based to a business-oriented largely electronic data system from the start of 2002; and
(e) ensuring information systems for apprenticeships and traineeships are effectively integrated with PETE’s corporate strategy and standards for information systems.
1.1 Continuity and change
As with almost every other facet of economic and social life, the apprenticeship and traineeship system, born and raised in the old economy, is struggling to come to terms with its form and place in the new global economy. There are two essential tasks in this multi-faceted transformation.
The first is to identify those durable features from the traditional system which must be protected and taken forward into the future and those features which should be left behind.
The second is to actively pursue innovations and good practice so that the system can better achieve its long-term objectives.
Most Victorian stakeholders appreciate the challenges involved. While there are small stakeholder niches in which the longing for a return to the good old days is still
strong, most who responded to this Review acknowledge that the old days were never as good as we sometimes remember. The world is moving on fast and most
stakeholders want the apprenticeship and traineeship system to move on also.
But there are two pre-conditions for moving on. Deep-seated and widespread
anxieties about poor quality training must be dealt with and a shared understanding of where the system is heading needs to be developed.
This report is a considered contribution to the debate on both these matters.
1.2 The challenges to quality
There are many reasons for the current focus on quality of training within the apprenticeship and traineeship system specifically and the wider VET system more generally. The reasons usually offered include:
Ÿ the significant growth of traineeships over the past five years;
Ÿ the entry into the apprenticeship and traineeship system of old industries with little previous history of training or new industries which are still assessing the cost-benefits of training;
Ÿ the introduction of competition through User Choice and other mechanisms;
Ÿ the roll-out of Training Packages as specifications of national industry standards, associated with the withering of traditional curriculum-based models of training;
Ÿ negative consequences arising from the application and marketing of some Commonwealth government incentives under its New Apprenticeship Program;
Ÿ evidence of abuse of the apprenticeship and traineeship system by unethical and, in a small number of cases, fraudulent organisations.
All of these factors have played a part in focusing attention on quality and are considered in the subsequent chapters of this report. Appendix 6 provides a detailed analysis of the trends in Victoria’s apprenticeship and traineeship system 1995–1999 and identifies significant changes in the size and composition of the system.
However, looking through a wider lens, there are two additional factors that need to be taken into account when reviewing the quality of training by apprentices and trainees.
The first is the flexibility factor. The second is the diversity factor.
Apprenticeships and traineeships form part of what we have traditionally called employment-based structured training.
For at least the past forty years in the case of apprenticeships and for fifteen years in the case of traineeships, training has been delivered in a single mode: on-the-job training in the workplace plus off-the-job training usually in a TAFE Institute (for apprenticeships) and in various education or training institutions (in the case of traineeships). A place for everything and everything in its place.
This traditional and lock-step approach has come under substantial pressure as globalisation, technological change, the rise of the new economy and public and private sector reforms have driven major changes in VET policy in Australia.
Following the introduction of competency-based training and, later, User Choice, employment-based structured training could be conducted in many different ways as employers and, to a lesser extent apprentices and trainees, exercised choice of training program, training provider and mode of delivery.
Over recent years, both providers and employers have been struggling for ways to manage flexibly delivered employment-based structured training and have been experimenting with different approaches. They have had to resolve thorny questions along the way about workplace training and assessment and who would be
responsible for what aspect of the learning.
Providers and government have both been struggling with how to fund it. From their point of view (although not from the point of view of an individual or a company), the most efficient form of delivery is the maximum number of people in a room listening to a single instructor talk. While not particularly effective as a training methodology, this system does have economies of scale.
We have now opened up the apprenticeship system to the possibility of mass
customisation. Theoretically, individualised instruction for all is possible if that is the choice of the users.
Mass customisation of training programs and services, as distinct from program and service standardisation, is a financially risky strategy.
Providers unable or unwilling to deliver on call in infinitely flexible ways are bypassed for those who will. Providers, competing for custom, are reluctant or unable to negotiate
traineeship training can no longer remain in their institutions — their very survival now depends on being out in workplaces liaising with employers, delivering customised training, assessing competence, monitoring Training Plans and the like.
Employers, mainly those newcomers with little or no experience of the apprenticeship and traineeship system, little background in training, and no Human Resources
department behind them, have also struggled with how much and what sort of flexibility best suits their needs and with the new and more active role they are required to play in on-the-job training, coaching and mentoring, and assessing competence. They have shopped around to find providers who could deliver training in ways that suited the needs of the business and developed clearer ideas about what to look for when choosing a provider.
Apprentices and trainees have been struggling with self-paced learning rather than instructor-paced learning. They have been required to engage in self-managed learning rather than facilitated training, often regardless of their language, literacy or numeracy levels or preferred learning styles. They have also become far more
demanding of their trainers and supervisors.
The ultimate development in the concept of flexible delivery is when employment- based structured training is transformed into incidental, informal, unplanned learning on the job. While research suggests that in some contexts this informal and
opportunistic learning may be more significant than formal training,1 it all depends on the individual context and the apprenticeship and traineeship system is funded by government to facilitate formal, planned and recognised learning.
As employers, apprentices, trainees and providers search around for the level of flexibility they need in order to achieve the training outcomes they expect, issues of the quality of some of the flexible training provided to apprentices and trainees have emerged. Fears have arisen about the dilution of training standards and the value of the public credential in a national and increasingly international skills formation system.
Having let the flexibility genie out of the bottle, customers and the better providers have acquired a taste for it and it is unlikely to fade away. There is no going back to the old inflexible ways of delivering apprenticeship and traineeship training.
However, the complexity and consequences of mass customisation of apprenticeship and traineeship training has never been fully appreciated or acknowledged within the VET system. What is now needed is a re-evaluation of how employment-based structured training can be made more flexible without sacrificing quality training outcomes along the way.
One of the drivers of the reforms to the apprenticeship and traineeship system in recent years has been the need to achieve greater diversity and responsiveness amongst its providers. Indeed, one of the goals of opening the market to competition was to encourage new and different players into the market and to encourage existing players to diversify and improve. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that
1 Waterhouse, P., Wilson, B. & Ewer, P. (1999), The changing nature and patterns of work and implications for VET, Review of Research, NCVER, Adelaide
this is happening in many instances. While some of this diversification has meant the entry into the market of some poor performing training organisations, the
overwhelming majority appear to be delivering good quality training to apprentices and trainees in Victoria.
This diverse group of public and private providers is held together by the common thread of registration against national quality standards and all are expected to manage and facilitate training and conduct assessment to national industry standards. The major quality issue for this Review is whether they are currently doing that.
In the employment-based apprenticeship and traineeship system, unlike the institution-based training system, there is a second key element impacting on the quality of the training and learning and that is the context of the workplace as both a site of learning and an environment for learning.2
The quality of the learning outcomes from any apprenticeship or traineeship training depends on the capability of the registered training organisation and its compliance with the various weak standards of training delivery and assessment. The suitability of the workplace as a site for learning for off-the-job training and the learning
environment offered by the workplace for planned on-the-job learning become key ingredients in the quality of training story.
While discussions about audit and review have focused on the quality of training providers, the quality of workplaces as sites for learning and as learning environments is rarely considered part of the quality debate. But the differences between workplaces in their capacity to support and/or deliver quality training are significant.
Some workplaces are exemplary, aspire to be learning organisations and represent best practice in both training and development and in workplace learning. For many organisations, investment in apprenticeship and/or traineeship training is integral to the overall business strategy of the company.
However, as the Tavistock Institute has noted in its report to the Institute of Personnel and Development on workplace learning, and as Apprenticeship Field Officers and providers can attest, many workplaces in many industry sectors are ‘unprepossessing’
with limited potential as a site for educational development.3 Examples given to the Review, some of which are cited in this report, illustrate just how poor some
workplaces can be. Yet these poor workplaces are expected to develop competence to national industry standards in the same way as those which have a true commitment to quality training.
The shared goal of all stakeholders is to bring about significant improvements in the quality of apprenticeship and traineeship training in Victoria. This is essential to Victoria’s skills base, and essential if Victorian industries and workers are to be globally competitive.
2 See Tavistock Institute (1998), Workplace Learning, Learning Culture and Performance
Improvement, report prepared for the Institute of Personnel and Development, London, p.9. A site
To achieve this we will need to incorporate in the discussion about the quality of apprenticeship and traineeship training questions about the differing capacities of diverse workplaces to contribute to the achievement of quality training outcomes.
This Review is about quality, a word with many meanings and in danger of becoming little more than a policy cliché.
It is necessary then to be explicit about how quality will be interpreted in this Review for the purpose of forming judgments about the quality of the apprenticeship and traineeship system in Victoria.
The Discussion Paper proposed, and stakeholders have confirmed, the need to adopt a wider rather than a narrower reading of quality in the system. Therefore, the Review has proceeded on the basis of the following definition from the Australian National Audit Office:
. . . In its broadest sense (quality) incorporates assessment of outputs, processes and outcomes and takes into consideration the relevant objectives and resources.
Assessment of quality involves the use of information gathered from key interests . . . to identify differences between expectations and experience of users.4
The development of a flexible and devolved environment for delivering VET services has been accompanied by the development and application of quality assurance systems. In the first stage of this transition, VET quality assurance models have emphasised the quality of management and business processes (system or structural performance). The Review considers that assuring the quality of management in the system is a necessary but not sufficient condition for assuring quality in the
apprenticeship and traineeship system and, indeed, in the wider VET system.
The way training is delivered (process performance) now needs to be embraced within the VET quality assurance framework in the same way that both actual health care delivery and the quality of care are now being factored into considerations of the overall performance of health care services. The processes by which training inputs (human, physical, financial and intellectual resources) are converted to learning outputs (occupational competence) affect the overall outcomes of the VET system and, most specifically, the apprenticeship and traineeship system.
This is essentially a re-balancing task, not a U-turn.
As the previous sections of this report have highlighted, the task has been made more urgent by the increasing flexibility of training delivery and growing diversity of contexts within which competence is to be developed. If the quality of training processes and learning experiences is not factored into the VET quality equation in a more systematic way, behaviours in the system will be further skewed in unintended and undesired directions. The need to place greater emphasis on the quality of training and learning was a strong and recurring theme in the Review consultations and
4 Australian National Audit Office, (nd), Better Practice Principles for Performance Information, p.33.
The Review has therefore developed a template for making its judgements about quality in the apprenticeship and traineeship system (see Exhibit 1.1). This template does not purport to be a set of quantifiable indicators, measures or benchmarks of quality, nor does it claim to be a comprehensive analysis of all dimensions of quality in the apprenticeship and traineeship system. Rather it is used simply as a practical device for making transparent to readers the way the Review has approached the question of quality.
Consistent with the Discussion Paper, the template nominates five aspects of quality:
Ÿ Effectiveness Ÿ Fitness for purpose Ÿ Efficiency
Ÿ Ethical practice and fair dealing
The template then makes a distinction between systemic quality on the one hand which is primarily concerned with questions of the management of training and, on the other, the quality of training and learning which is primarily concerned with the training and learning experiences and outcomes. It assumes that judgments about quality require consideration of both these dimensions.
The Review starts from the proposition that it is not possible to have systemic quality if the training and learning is deficient and, similarly, it is not possible to have quality training and learning if the system which underpins it is deficient. They are
interdependent dimensions of quality.
Exhibit 1.1: Template for Reviewing Quality in the Victorian Apprenticeship and Traineeship System
The apprenticeship and traineeship system is achieving its objectives.
Systemic Quality Training and Learning Quality Ÿ Are objectives of the system made
Ÿ Do stakeholders have a common understanding of objectives of the apprenticeship/traineeship system?
Ÿ Is the system contributing to the economic and social development of Victoria?
Ÿ Is it deepening and widening Victoria’s skills pool?
Ÿ Is it helping to overcome industry skills shortages?
Ÿ Is its distribution geographically, across industries and across sub-populations,
Ÿ Do employers, apprentices and trainees have a common understanding of the purpose of apprenticeships and traineeships?
Ÿ Do apprenticeships/traineeships provide a valued career pathway for people making transitions from school to work and from work to further learning?
Ÿ Are learners’ goals and aspirations factored into training processes?
Ÿ Are learners developing new and valued skills and are these transferable between workplaces?
2. Fitness for purpose
Apprenticeship and traineeship management and training conform to specifications laid down in contracts, performance agreements, training agreements, state and
national agreements, legislation and regulation
Systemic Quality Training & Learning Quality Ÿ Does training meet the needs and
expectations of industry and government?
Ÿ Are specifications clear, realistic, coordinated and communicated to stakeholders?
Ÿ What is the incidence of non-compliance with specifications?
Ÿ Does training meet the need and
expectations of apprentices/trainees and employers?
Ÿ What is the incidence of service failure?
Ÿ Do the competencies which are being acquired conform with agreed national industry standards?
Ÿ Are instances of non-compliance dealt with in a timely and appropriate way?
Public funds allocated to the apprenticeship system are used in the best possible way to achieve optimal performance.
Systemic Quality Training & Learning Quality Ÿ Do the resources used, the business
processes and the outputs from the apprenticeship/traineeship system deliver value for money to the taxpayer?
Ÿ Is valid and reliable performance information used to achieve system improvements?
Ÿ Are instances of market failure identified early and remedied quickly?
Ÿ Is public investment in the system used to leverage additional private investment?
Ÿ Do the resources used, the training processes and the outputs from the apprenticeship/traineeship system deliver value for money to the
(a) apprentice/trainee (b) employer?
Ÿ Is valid and reliable performance
information from apprentices/trainees and employers used to achieve planned training and learning improvements?
All stakeholders receiving public funds are answerable for their plans, actions and roles in achieving the objectives of the apprenticeship and traineeship system.
Systemic Quality Training & Learning Quality Ÿ Are the roles of all stakeholders clearly
Ÿ Are roles complementary and coordinated?
Ÿ Is the level of cooperation between stakeholders adequate?
Ÿ Are sound systems in place for
monitoring, auditing and reviewing the system?
Ÿ Are instances of non-compliance by any player dealt with in a timely, transparent and appropriate way?
Ÿ Are the roles and responsibilities of employers and apprentices/trainees clearly specified?
Ÿ Are sound systems in place for monitoring, auditing and reviewing training processes and learning outcomes?
Ÿ Are grievances and complaints by individual employers and
apprentices/trainees dealt with in a timely, transparent and appropriate way?
5. Ethical practice and fair dealing
Stakeholders conform to or exceed legal and community standards of ethical practice and fair dealing, within a competitive training environment
Systemic Quality Training & Learning Quality Ÿ Does the system build a climate of ethical
practice and fair dealing?
Ÿ Do all stakeholders exercise duty of care in situations of conflicts of interest and ensure such conflicts are made transparent in all relevant dealings?
Ÿ Are all stakeholders honourable and scrupulous in all financial transactions?
Ÿ Is there any evidence of anti-competitive behaviour within the training market?
Ÿ Do workplace supervisors, trainers and assessors protect the integrity of the nationally recognised VET qualification?
Ÿ Do employers and apprentices/trainees exercise a free choice of providers and training programs as required under User Choice principles?
Ÿ Do VET practitioners conform to community expectations of professional practice?
Not all the questions raised within the template can yet be answered comprehensively.
In many cases the data is simply not available, reliable or valid. However, the Review has sought to use a very wide range of information in making its overall assessment of quality.
1.6 The structure of this report
The body of this Main Report is organised into three chapters. Chapter 2 examines the systemic quality of the apprenticeship and traineeship system in Victoria. Chapter 3 examines the quality of training and learning in the system. Based on the analysis in these two chapters, Chapter 4 puts forward practical proposals for quality
Threaded throughout the report is the urgent need for a better balance between flexibility, diversity and quality in Victoria’s apprenticeship and traineeship system.