Vocational education and training (VET) has always been skills-led, but does a qualification at this level mean a graduate is job-ready? The content of all VET courses has been developed by industry practitioners, which means it is relevant to skills needed on the job, however a new paper questions the consistency of the assessment process.
When you front up to a potential employer with your qualification, you want to know that it symbolises the skills and knowledge you acquired in the learning process. It is cause for concern if there is disconnection between your abilities and the perceived value of the qualification, which is what ‘Assessment issues in VET: minimising the level of risk’, a paper issued by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, investigates.
Authors Sian Halliday-Wynes and Josie Misko examine the perception that VET graduates “do not always have the skills, knowledge and work-readiness that their qualifications claim they have”, with particular focus on training and assessment, childcare and aged care; training and assessment because it is the baseline qualification for VET trainers and assessors, “critical to the preparation of trainers and assessors in workplace or institutional settings”, and the other services because of the high regulation a role in those sectors entails.
While accredited VET courses all adhere to an industry-led curriculum that provides relevant skills and knowledge, assessment standards vary from one registered training organisation (RTO) to another. It is this inconsistency among providers “in the volume, nature and duration of training associated with certain qualifications and the comparability and rigour of assessments” that Halliday-Wynes and Misko deal with in their paper.
Given that your qualification is only as good as the assessment process, how do you know whether your RTO measures you against a high standard? While there are no definitive ways to tell at the moment—Halliday-Wynes and Misko recommend standardised assessment—there are clues you can look for in an RTO.
RTOs achieve a good reputation for a reason and it’s usually because its graduates are high quality. Graduates are high quality when the assessment process is rigorous and relevant and they enter the workforce with the appropriate skills for the role they are in.
One way to find out if an RTO has achieved this is to look at its past students. Whether it’s through testimonials or just a quick search using a platform like LinkedIn you can see where a qualification through a particular provider may take you.
2. Who is assessing you?
In any competency based assessment, it’s important to know that the assessor is well versed in the skills and knowledge required in the industry. Don’t be afraid to check the assessor’s credentials: has s/he ever worked in the industry? What training and assessment experience has s/he had?
As the saying goes: ‘It takes one to know one’, so recognition that you’re competent means so much more when the assessor is also recognised as competent.
3. Industry recognition
Industry associations are a good way to gauge if an RTO is considered reputable in its field. Of course, many RTOs offer a broad spectrum of courses and cannot possibly belong to every association in the sectors where it provides courses, but knowing that the RTO is endorsed or certified by an industry association is a solid link. The connection between industry and RTO is further strengthened if there are robust industry standards, or if the RTO earns an award for its courses.
Vocational study alone is not enough to give value to a qualification. Graduates must also ensure the assessment process has been rigorous enough to prepare them for the skills they need in the world of employment; only then will employers be confident in taking a qualification at face value.
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