Valuing Trainers and Assessors
Many Vocational Education and Training providers have noticed increased regulatory audit focus on quality trainer and assessors. It is no secret that increased attention is being applied to Clause 1.13 regarding trainer and assessor competence and industry currency. We, as a nation, are fortunate to have a robust vocational education system insisting on highly industry skilled and knowledgeable trainers and assessors. That means the Australia VET sector can produce people who are ready to implement skills and knowledge in industries they have trained for. And that is good for individuals and for the Australian economy.
During discussions within my network of VET practitioners I have noticed common themes in talks about trainer and assessor quality. What is a ‘quality’ trainer and assessor and, more importantly, how can you get quality? We know from a compliance standpoint, quality trainers are experienced, qualified, continuously undertake professional development, and have industry currency. From a VET provider perspective, it is expected that trainers and assessors continue meet those compliance requirements so they may remain engaged in work.
Downward pressure on VET program pricing has been an issue for training providers. Education should be instituted as a valued service rather than a commodity for consumers. Let’s be honest for a moment, most training providers are doing a good job of making vocational education affordable and accessible to more people. To reduce course costs to make education accessible and for providers to reduce costs to gain market share, we see trainers and assessors confronted by financial constraint. One activity undertaken by a number of providers is to reduce costs associated with ‘human resources’ as that is often one of the largest costs to any organisation. In other words, there is downward pressure on the pay for trainers and assessors. Remember the expectation of having ‘quality’ trainers and assessors who are experienced and qualified and current in their industries? You can probably see where this is going.
There are lots of quality VET trainers and assessors and many of them are finding ways to reduce their financial burden of remaining current and gaining new and upgrading existing qualifications. All that while still training and assessing. Unfortunately, there comes a point where shortcuts need to be taken to achieve all of that. Time is a factor and financial means is a factor. Shortcuts that impinge on quality necessary to provide appropriate vocational education services. I have heard several trainer and assessors say, “if only we were paid as a professional, I would be able to put more effort into my professional development” and some providers express disappointment that, “trainers and assessors don’t take their professional development obligations seriously”.
Let us, for a moment, look to k-12 school teachers where we find being a teacher is a professional role. Not so long ago, I made a comment to a fellow trainer and assessor, “why do we drop the ball about being professional educators when it comes to adult education?” Teachers are required to constantly develop professionally and, to maintain registration as a teacher, must prove it. That leads to organisational (school) implementing management systems to ensure that happens. In VET, trainers and assessors also need to attend to constant professional development but not all organisations include management systems that support it. Sure, there are policies and obligations requiring trainers and assessors to do it but often not much besides. There are VET providers out there that are outstanding in their support of trainer and assessor professional development. You have not gone unnoticed – bravo. For most, however, professional development is a burden taken alone. Time and cost are restraining in the face of downward pressure on remuneration. When development activities are undertaken, are they for filling out a document or do they really result in improved practice? I think most of us, providers and trainers and assessors alike, would prefer improved practice. Improved practice relates to improved student outcomes, improved provider standing, improved regard for VET, improved performance of workplaces, improved social standards and many other benefits.
There are two things that need to happen to ensure Australia’s VET system continues to have genuine training and assessment professionals. By genuine I mean those who regularly undertake professional development and industry currency activities that do improve their educational practice. First, trainers and assessors need to be provided with remuneration proportionate to their role as professionals and not undercut their value by commoditisation. Secondly, an improved model of government funding that also institutes the professionalisation of vocational educators.