Cutting through the red tape- Why ACS can keep ahead of the times.

When ACS Distance Education principal John Mason made the decision several years ago to separate his school from the compliance mentality of the majority of training and learning institutions throughout Australia (and their reliance on the Australian Government system), he received a lot of raised eyebrows within the education sector.

But now more than ever, other education providers can see a purpose for Mr Mason's apprehension all those years ago.

Even the industry bodies involved in developing the compliance standards are beginning to have doubts, evident in an event last October in Sydney that will see a discussion held on ''Streamlining Training Packages: Will it be enough?”, debating the value of changes to Training Packages – seen by many to be the cornerstone of the VET system.

So it was with great interest that ACS conducted a little office experiment on just how 'streamlined' and 'improved' some of the new compliance procedures are, using as an example, the new Animal Care and Management Training Package for 15 courses ranging from a Certificate 1 in Animal Care to a Diploma in Veterinary Nursing.

The overhaul of this particular training package, developed by AgriFoods Skills Council, began 10 years ago to target industry sectors of animal control and regulation, animal technology, captive animals, companion animal services and veterinary nursing.

So ACS pressed 'print' for the new compliance documents release in May this year and, after four reams of paper through the printer, the result was a stack of no less than a startling 2000 sheets of paper.

“And that's just the compliance documents – not even any course content,” said Mr Mason with a chuckle after the experiment was completed.

“Then you have expert staff go through the documents, develop the individual courses, ensure the courses all align with that compliance document, then you have to become a registered RTO through a complex system all of its own, before you can even enrol a student.

“Surely this is a prime example of the enormous amount of resources and time that institutions are being forced to throw away on compliance, just so they can be government accredited.”

“Our students from across Australia and the world studying our more than 400 quality-assured courses have enrolled with us with the satisfaction of knowing that we dedicate our resources and time back into the course and the student, not thousands of pages of paperwork just to say we comply with government standards.

“You can put all the government layers in place that you like but it's still the end users - the student and ultimately the employer - that have to be happy with the end result, being the skills and knowledge that the industry needs.”

Mr Mason says the fact that ACS Distance Education had been going strong in Australia for 31 years, and now for a decade from its UK office, showed that courses from ACS and its affiliates were meeting market demand very well.

“What our students and the industry like is our courses keeping up with the times, changing with the industry as it changes, thanks to enormous flexibility – unlike so many other courses being bogged down with the constraints of government compliance,” says Mr Mason.

It's little wonder even the people and bodies involved in developing these ridiculous compliance standards are beginning to question their worth and effectiveness,” he said, in relation to an upcoming Policy in the Pub event in Sydney planned for October 12.

The event, run by TVET Australia, will discuss 'Streamlining Training Packages: Will it be enough?”

“Major reforms are currently underway to significantly streamline and improve their usability. But will these changes be enough to ensure Training Packages can be responsive to changing industry, business and individual needs and workplace practices?', quotes the forum invitation.

The forum will feature three speakers who will each address the topic from a different perspective - including Megan Lilly (Chair, Framework Implementation Action Group of the NQC), Arthur Blewitt (CEO, AgriFood Skills Australia), and Paul Byrne (Paul G Byrne Consulting).

“I find it intriguing that after 10 years and 2000 pages just for one subject area alone, they are still wondering if they are on the right track for the future of education in this country,” says Mr Mason.

“They need to stop focusing on compliant education, and shift their priority to quality education.”

Background information: The new Animal Care and Management compliance documents list a Training Package as being 'integrated set of nationally endorsed competency standards, assessment guidelines and Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) qualifications for a specific industry, industry sector or enterprise.

About ACS Distance Education

Established in 1979, ACS Distance Education is a leading Australian Distance Education provider which offers over 400 courses via Correspondence, online or on CDs. The Institution has offices in Australia, United Kingdom and is operated through Affiliates worldwide. Its head office is located on the Gold Coast. ACS has educated thousands of full and part-time students, many of whom have gone onto successful employment, both in industry or in their own businesses. Others have used their courses to develop a hobby, or simply broaden their general education. We currently have over 3000 students enrolled from Australia and around the world. The school employs staff in 3 states of Australia, plus the U.K., and New Zealand. As such our courses and services have a truly global focus. Courses have been developed with strong industry input from around the world and are continually updated on the basis of surveys undertaken by both current students and graduates every month of the year.

The school holds high the ideals of practical education, emphasising in all courses those things which are relevant to "real life". Courses offered cater for hobby interest through to formal training in industry and the professions.

EDUCATION PHILOSOPHY: We believe that by providing a different education to main stream vocational colleges and universities, we are able to differentiate our graduates and give them real life advantages over graduates from more traditional institutions.

AFFILIATES: Courses developed by ACS are now licensed to, and used by a network of affiliated colleges around the world. ACS programs in fact form an international education system which is known and respected by leading educators in a number of countries.


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