Are you being proactive?

Is compliance management an integral part of your RTO business? Are you being proactive or reactive in your approach?

A good governance system enables management to achieve the vision and goals of the organisation and at the same time ensure that the needs of the many stakeholders are met…….The system should incorporate clear policies and processes, information about your organisational structure, and systems to manage students, customers, human resources, finances, and risk and compliance. You also need a structured continuous improvement system in place to stay on track with improvement of your operations (Excerpt from The Essential Guide to RTO Compliance by Heard and Sell 2014).

What does all this mean in an RTO? The governance approach must help the RTO to function as a successful business and achieve the vision and goals. A proactive approach to compliance and improvement is implicit to a successful business. A willingness to meet legislative requirements and maintain a healthy compliance status is important if the RTO is to meet the needs of all stakeholders. Unfortunately we too often see RTOs just going through the motions of compliance without recognising its significance in achieving their vision and goals.

We love providing RTOs with the help they need to achieve success. We also love telling people about how to use a proactive and ‘good for business’ approach to RTO management. We do that in a number of ways, through our blogposts, emails, our book and webinars and of course through our audit and compliance services. We recently attended an ASQA information session that was intended to report levels of compliance and non-compliance across the standards. The session also touched very briefly on ASQA’s risk based approach to auditing. So we thought it might be helpful to reflect on some of this information and focus your attention on the importance of a proactive approach to compliance.

A sector that is slow to learn

A few years ago we delivered a series of webinars that helped RTOs unpack the compliance figures published by ASQA at that time and suggest ways to improve performance.

At the end of 2013, ASQA were reporting that only 61% of RTOs were compliant with regards to quality training and assessment and only 52% of RTOs were compliant with regards to access and equity for clients at audit. The incidence of compliant management systems and governance was 56 and 62 % respectively. Overall, not a good picture to be painted about the sector, particularly if we think about what our purpose is i.e. to provide quality training and assessment to learners to equip them to work in their chosen industry.

Although the Standards have changed, the key functions of an RTO have not and the figures for 2015 (relating to the standards mandated from 1st April 2015) remain concerning. Whilst the compliance figures for governance systems have improved i.e.  89% of RTOs were compliant for governance at audit, there is only a slight improvement in the areas of access and equity.  However, it is very clear that the quality of basic product of our industry i.e. training and assessment remains an area of great concern with only 25 % of RTOS audited in 2015 being compliant for Standard 1 (Training and Assessment) and only 26% being compliant at audit for quality assurance.

Why is this happening? There are many reasons or excuses for such poor performance, ranging from poor governance oversight and lack of systems to manage the quality of training and assessment, ignorance of what is required, laziness with respect to fulfilling assessment requirements and most commonly a reactive approach to compliance management. We find that many RTOs operate with the expectation that they will only be audited every few years and that the only time they need to take a serious look at the quality of their training and assessment is in the lead up to those audits. Once the audit is over and approval for the next cycle is granted they breathe a sigh of relief and go back to their old ways.

Change is in the air……

ASQA are moving from a ‘transactional’ regulatory approach to one which identifies risk in the system and develops treatments to mitigate those risks. So the more or less predictable 5 year cycle of audit, is changing. The cycle of audit for some RTOs has shifted to 7 years and ASQA has reduced the hoops to jump through for some applications e.g. addition to scope.

How will ASQA identify risks? By constantly scanning the environment and by developing a wider range of regulatory tools. But what does this really mean for you? Let’s take a closer look at the new regulatory approach and think about the impact on you.

According to ASQA:

  • ASQA’s risk-based approach to regulation means that a provider with a history of good performance, that does not exhibit concerning or unusual behaviour, is less likely to experience regulatory intervention by ASQA than a provider with a poor performance history particularly where ongoing concerns are detected or reported. The type of intervention by ASQA will be proportionate to the extent of a provider’s previous performance and seriousness of the current behaviour.
  • However, ASQA may also undertake regulatory action in relation to providers whose history would not normally warrant regulatory intervention as part of its systemic monitoring. For example, ASQA may sample providers to test mechanisms used to detect poor performance or during systemic risk projects where ASQA seeks to understand provider behaviour or broader issues in the sector.
  • In such circumstances, ASQA will aim to minimise the regulatory burden that such action may entail.

However, drawing on our own experiences working with RTOs over the years, we can see some challenges ahead for the sector as well as some positives. There are definitely some benefits associated with the consideration of the system as well as the individual provider.  But the move away from application based auditing may leave some RTOs, who take the reactive approach to quality improvement and compliance management, without a predictable focus or cycle and they may end up being vulnerable to unexpected events such as complaints, changes in legislation etc.

Why move to a ‘good for business’ and proactive approach to compliance management?

 Do you recognise your RTO from the description above? Are concerned about the change in regulatory approach? Take a look below at 5 reasons to move to a ‘good for business’ approach to RTO management….

  1. Management of compliance is an obligation of all organisations and a basic skill for managers so that they can achieve good business outcomes.
  2. Implementation of a proactive compliance management system provides an opportunity to not only improve an organisation’s performance, but also to manage risk and reduce the cost of failing to meet legal and other obligations.
  3. To be successful with compliance management there must be a whole organisation commitment to achieving compliant operations, effective communication channels, training and support, and a continuous improvement approach to monitoring and managing the system.
  4. By planning ahead and setting regular goals for compliance monitoring and maintenance you will be creating a stronger, more sustainable business that meets the needs of clients and stakeholders.
  5. A proactive approach to governance, management and compliance results in better informed and engaged staff and managers, proactive monitoring of performance, effective functioning and integration across the business and quality data & information across whole business. All this means that you will be equipped for the new regulatory approach and better able to achieve your vision and goals.

Would you like more information about developing an improvement agenda and developing and implementing strategy for your RTO? We can provide a range of tools to help you with this.

Contact us at

Thanks for joining us,

Gillian Heard Polaroid2


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