4 Jul 2018

Formal training is acronym heavy – Why ‘on-the-job’ training is so popular


Formal training is acronym heavy – Why ‘on-the-job’ training is so popular

By Julius Grafton.

Training for the technical production industry remains predominantly ‘on the job’, twenty years after a push to get formal vocational education training (VET) into the industry. It started with the CUE98 training package, which arrived fashionably late in 1999. A sort of gold rush saw hardy optimists (like me) set up accredited colleges.

These Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) were effectively mini TAFEs, operating to the same standards. Unlike higher education diploma and degree courses at Universities, VET courses are ‘competency based’, a reassuring notion that requires any graduate holding a Certificate Two, Three or Four qualification be ‘competent’ at all elements and units in the course.


In the opening years of last decade, some progress was made – some venues became RTOs and some private operators emerged. But then the Australian Government overreached and opened up vocational training as part of the senior high school curriculum. They allowed the COE03 Certificate Three to be trained in schools and the ensuing wave of partially or poorly trained school graduates smashed industry confidence in training.

It also decimated course sales at RTOs, so yes – I do have a bias here!

There are a handful of credible high school trainers but most are well intentioned, overworked music teachers who have been seconded to running a Certificate Three course over years 11 and 12. Somehow most students were assessed as competent (by their trainer-teacher) and graduated with the qualification. They then presented themselves for employment and usually proved deficient in the eyes of older industry folk who often have a mistrust of formal training.

Meanwhile the smarter college operators, like the School of Audio Engineering (SAE) and JMC Academy quickly realised that delivering higher education qualifications was considerably easier than meeting the compliance nightmare of VET. The higher education degrees were also longer and more lucrative. They were eligible for Government student loans, so the student often didn’t think about cost.

A quick look at the six core units of the current applicable Certificate Three (CUA30415 – Certificate III in Live Production and Services) illustrates the challenges of VET training:

• BSBWOR301: Organise personal work priorities and development
• CPCCOHS1001A: Work safely in the construction industry
• CUAIND301: Work effectively in the creative arts industry
• CUAWHS302: Apply work health and safety practices
• CUAPPR304: Participate in collaborative creative projects
• SITXCCS303: Provide service to customers

These are the six core units of the fifteen total units in the qualification. The other units include all kinds of things with at least one ‘basic’ audio or lighting unit showing up, depending how the RTO structures the course. The problem is the sheer volume of unhelpful material that a trainee must wade through. See the breakout box for an example of this:

Can you prove this? How long is a piece of string?

From the assessment requirements component called ‘Knowledge Evidence’ for the core unit CUAIND301, ‘Work effectively in the creative arts industry’:

‘To complete the unit requirements the individual must demonstrate well-developed knowledge of:
• relationships between different sectors of the creative arts industry
• terminology associated with own industry sector
• issues of appropriate behaviour and ethics as they apply to key work areas
• key roles and responsibilities in own industry sector
• sources of industry information and ways of maintaining current industry knowledge
• describe key features of awards and conditions of employment for own work area’.

Then: ‘describe key aspects of the following:
• consequences of infringing copyright
• how copyright is enforced
• organisations that deal with copyright
• copyright ownership and protection.’

But wait, you also need to get a handle on these:
• ‘legal issues that affect negotiations and contracts
• nature, role and functions of unions and employer associations
• rights and responsibilities of employers and employees
• work health and safety (WHS) requirements relevant to own work context
• current and emerging technologies used in own industry sector.’

In higher education, a University or an accredited college can build a course with less dross and allow a student (note; a trainee is a VET customer, a student is a higher education customer) a pass if they score greater than 50%. They can be graded, and the top performers get a distinction.

Over at a VET college the trainee must have been assessed for EVERYTHING and found ‘competent’. There is no grading – and trainees quickly come to resent being lumped together in a ‘one size fits all’ regime.

Then in 2008 the Australian Government introduced VET Fee Help, opening up student loans for students at TAFEs and RTOs. The result was that course fees started to rise since students were less concerned about cost. The next result was that the RTOs discovered two things: amazingly there seemed to be little control over numbers and costs, and the scheme put a down payment into the RTO bank account for every new signup.

Suddenly trainee enrolments at a lot of RTOs went through the roof, some of those signed did not know what they were signing for and did not attend any training classes. Corruption took off like wildfire and within a few years the scheme was out of control.

Court cases since have exposed the scale of the disaster which has cost the taxpayer some billions of dollars in fraudulent payments to dishonest RTO proprietors. (I predicted the scheme would produce less motivated students and didn’t participate – part of the reason I closed my RTO college in 2010).

VET FEE HELP diminished confidence in RTOs, and by association TAFEs. Which leads us full circle, back to ‘on the job’ training. It should be noted there are a few employer-based RTOs out there, most notably Staging Connections where they have fused together a credible traineeship program based in part around the Certificate Three.

On the job training works well when mentor staff share knowledge with new staff. With improving workplace cultures and generally better educated school leavers, on-the-job is more effective than ever, albeit with skills gaps and lack of assessment.

The old ‘train the trainer’ qualification, TAE40110 – Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is a great tool for anyone providing on the job training because it is (in part) intended for this purpose. But again, like everything in the confusing acronym soup of VET training, you need to enrol in a SUITABLE course.

The best TAE40110 course is one that is NOT correspondence – you need to be in a group – and one that is neither the shortest or the longest on offer. No two courses are the same. Which makes the whole notion of a nation of ‘competent’ qualified and consistently trained people into some kind of utopian fantasy, doesn’t it?

This article first appeared in the print edition of CX Magazine July 2018 pp.27-28. CX Magazine is Australia and New Zealand’s only publication dedicated to entertainment technology news and issues. Read all editions for free or search our archive
© CX Media  Image courtesy Backstage

Further reading: Our Education roundup from CX July 2018, and Employment in CX May 2018.



Published monthly since 1991, our famous AV industry magazine is free for download or pay for print. Subscribers also receive CX News, our free weekly email with the latest industry news and jobs.