ASQA, industry engagement and RTOs: what you should be doing

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantWhat is industry engagement, why should registered training organisations (RTOs) bother with this approach, and what does the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) have to say about it all? Allison Miller explains why this part of the Standards for RTOs 2015 is so important, and how to tick ASQA’s boxes without making life difficult for your industry contacts.

Industry engagement – why bother?

We all want our training, assessment and resources to be relevant to employer and student needs. It is therefore crucial that our trainers and assessors have the current skills and resources to deliver this training. But how do we ensure that our staff are well-trained and informed while being aware of the most recent developments in their specialist areas? Through industry engagement.

But what does this mean?

Clauses 1.5 and 1.6 of the Standards for RTOs 2015 prescribe how an RTO should undertake this practice. However, these clauses do not specify any particular method or approach. They do, however, specify that RTOs need to demonstrate how, on an ongoing basis, they:

  1. Utilise a range of strategies to consult with their industry stakeholders.
  2. Systematically use this information to determine the:
    • mode of the study, training and assessment strategies and resources, and
    • the currency of their trainers and assessors, as well as
  3. How these align with the current methods, technology, products and performance expectations in the workplace.

A generic template which can simply be signed off by an industry stakeholder won’t cut it to demonstrate compliance of these clauses. But businesses are busier than ever, so how can your RTO ensure that it engages with industry without making it burdensome on your industry contacts?

Here are some ways to make it easy:

1. Take a workforce development approach

We’ve acknowledge that people are busier than ever, so taking the time out of their busy work schedules without it being advantageous to them or their business can be hard to justify. So, approaching your industry contacts using a workforce development approach can provide an effective win-win situation. This approach is where you ask your industry contacts if they will meet with you to answer some questions about their business’s needs, in exchange for some workforce development advice through a training needs analysis.

This process may also lead to additional training opportunities for your RTO, but the workforce development advice shouldn’t only include information about accredited training, as this is only a small component of the training that a business needs in order to upskill its staff. Rather, it should include a range of workforce development strategies, such as work shadowing and coaching/mentoring, which will meet the business’s overall training requirements.

You could use your mobile phone audio app or an MP3 audio recorder to record these discussions as evidence of your industry engagement. To reduce travel time and costs, you could host these discussions in an online meeting room such as Google Hangout or any other online meeting room tool which also allows you to record the discussions.

2. Feedback through existing industry contacts

Every business is looking to work smarter and this is why they have their staff undertake training. This means that you can utilise the industry contacts that send their staff to your RTO for training, by asking them to contribute to a (hidden) course feedback discussion forum. This can be included within the online or blended course set-up in your learning management system (LMS) to help facilitate the training and assessment.

This approach also helps improve the business relationships between your trainers and the employers, as they communicate with one another through regular contact. This will give these employers more buy-in into the delivery of the training, by offering them the opportunity to have input into how their staff are being trained.

And, once all of the feedback is captured in the forum, your trainers can post the actions that will occur as a result of this industry engagement, and then post another response when the action has been completed. All of these posts will be date and time stamped in the forum as to when they were recorded. Trainers can even upload the audio recording of your workforce development discussions to this forum, so that all of the information is stored in one place.

Group discussionCredit: Volunteers by 1295178

3. Monitor trends online

Once you have established what your industry needs in the way of skills and knowledge for a particular qualification, skill set or cluster of units, you need to continue to monitor changes within this industry. A simple way to do this is by participating in industry online groups and forums through webinars, and by subscribing to industry e-newsletters and blogs.

Online professional spaces such as LinkedIn offer numerous industry-led online groups where people share and discuss latest industry news and changes. Industry and professional associations also host a range of online forums through webinars. In both of these spaces you can ‘lurk’ (aka look but not contribute), or you can ask questions or request feedback related to understanding whether your training, assessment, resources and trainers are all meeting your industry’s needs.

In addition to this, subscribing to industry and professional e-newsletters and blogs means that you will have current industry information delivered to your inbox on a regular basis. You then record how you will use this information to verify or improve your training and assessment practices by recording your ideas and actions in a note-taking tool such as Evernote or OneNote. You can even do this on your mobile phone and then upload these needs into the above discussion forum for continuity.

Pulling it all together

If you follow these strategies, you will have recorded you industry engagement through audio/webinar recordings, posts in online groups and forums, and recorded notes and actions. By saving all of these recordings into the one discussion forum within the online course where the training and assessment is taking place, you have now created a one-stop shop for tracking your industry engagement.

Here’s a table to summarise it all:

Engagement strategy Training & assessment Resources Trainers / Assessor currency How
Workforce Development X X X
  • Mobile phone/MP3 audio recorder
  • Online meeting room
Feedback X X
  • Discussion forum (LMS)
Monitoring trends X X
  • Online groups
  • Industry webinars
  • eNewsletters / Blogs
  • Note-taking tool

It’s not all about ticking the boxes

The Standards for RTOs 2015 outline the minimum that an RTO should do to engage with industry. This process should not just be about being able tick the boxes for an ASQA audit, however. Rather, we must ensure that our students are receiving the most current and relevant skills and knowledge required to be successful in the workplace and in business. Do you have other approaches to industry engagement that don’t make life difficult for your industry contacts? I would love to hear about them.