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TAFEs back childcare training crackdown

TAFEs have welcomed a federal government crackdown on poor childcare training, following a report that revealed many courses were too short to enable adequate skills development or assessment.

The report, compiled by the Australian Skills Quality Authority, was released last week by the assistant minister for education and training, Senator Simon Birmingham. It includes a recommendation for setting minimum amounts of training for units of competency and each qualification “across the whole VET system”. The ASQA report also suggested that the body itself conduct strategic audits of the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care as well as the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care.

Among the report’s 10 final recommendations was a call for RTOs to “strengthen engagement with industry employers to ensure that structured workplace learning and assessment is embedded in course delivery”.

This was necessary, the report stated, because most RTOs reviewed for the report did not have  structured work placement embedded into their learning and assessment strategies and also showed a high level of non-compliance with assessment standards.

“Learning and assessment in a structured workplace environment is not being done well by many registered training organisations delivering early childhood education and care,” the report concluded. “The future projections for the early childhood education and care sector indicate that there will be a continuing national shortage of childcare workers, especially those with a diploma-level qualification.

“The role that RTOs play in meeting this demand is critical and the findings of this strategic review indicate that the VET sector may not be adequately equipped to ensure that there are suitably skilled workers in the sector.”

In response, Birmingham promised “strong action … including that ASQA increase its audits of childcare training organisations to ensure that families and childcare providers can be confident graduates have met the standard of the qualifications they have been issued”.

“Quality training is a critical component of growing the economy and helping more Australians into jobs, which is why our government is firmly focused on reforms to improve the relevancy and quality of training,” he said. “Childcare providers have told me they have [banned] graduates of specific training organisations, which leaves graduates with less chance of getting a job, because they do not have confidence in the competency of [the RTO’s] graduates, particularly where those courses are ‘miraculously’ short.”

Birmingham said he would work with childcare providers to establish industry validation of training organisations through a ‘preferred-provider’ scheme, saying it was important for students to know in advance “which training organisations are well-regarded by childcare employers to be able to make an informed choice that gives them the best chance of future employment”.

In addition, he said, he would direct ASQA to demonstrate it was using the full extent of its authority, including infringement notice powers along with standards for RTOs relating to short courses.

With current standards regarding volume of learning indicators stating that the timeframe for a diploma is one to two years, Birmingham said, providers must be able to justify to ASQA “any significant variations from the time periods described in the Australian Qualifications Framework”.

“[Those providers] must be able to demonstrate how students can robustly meet all of the competency requirements in a shorter timeframe,” he said. “If short cuts are being taken, then I expect penalties to be applied.”

TAFE Directors Australia acting chief executive Malcolm White backed the crackdown, saying quality childcare training had “profound community-wide impacts” and was “too important to be compromised by poor quality training providers”.

“Students who undertake some of these courses are being deceived into believing they have appropriate qualifications that will allow them to secure a job in the childcare sector,” White said. “We applaud the minister’s initiative and determination to ensure that training is of a standard that leads to approved qualifications, job opportunities and community confidence in the sector.”

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