As the L&D Manager of your company, developing a productive and effective workforce is undoubtedly your primary goal. But if your company is also a Registered Training Organisation (Enterprise RTO) additional compliance and reporting obligations will also end up on your plate. And finding systems that support both objectives may be your greatest challenge.
This article explores some of the issues you may currently face. It looks at learning management solutions that deliver business success. As a leader in workforce planning and development you understand the importance of good systems. But systems need to be set up, configured and maintained to meet the dual objectives of capability management and compliance.
A good LMS will address most challenges, but systems need to be configured, integrated with other business systems and some customisation may be required. The most unique challenge for you, though is AVETMISS reporting, ASQA registration and meeting the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (SRTO).
Before getting into the core of this article: Just one positive update that you need to know about. It could potentially make a big difference to business performance in your Enterprise RTO. TCSI.
Relevance of Transforming the Collection of Student Information (TCSI).
If you keep up with RTO and Higher Education information you may have heard that VET Student Loan (VSL) data will be collected via the new TCSI framework from Jan 1st 2020. Yes, I know - you're an Enterprise RTO. Why would you be remotely interested in VET Student Loans.
But TCSI could be highly relevant to you, not because of its application to VET Student Loans, but because of the underlying web services technology that it is being developed on. AVETMISS data collection and submission is, as you know, a very test-filled, manually oriented process. You have to compile and upload text-based NAT files to NCVER. This is manually intensive, insecure, prone to human error and time-consuming.
The TCSI web service, on the other hand is a secure, automatic, continuous and transparent data collection process. Your LMS can continuously collate and submit student information as a background task. ASQA have suggested that the TCSI technology is currently being evaluated to do the same thing for AVETMISS data collection as it will for VSL.
What that potentially means for your organisation is "no more manual file processing and uploading of your AVETMISS NAT data. You'll be able to focus on Workforce Planning and Development without the burden of manually reporting and submitting AVETMISS NAT files. You are of course, still responsible for reporting, but the TCSI web service technology will remove the current and extra burdens associated with maintaining compliance as an RTO.
Finding an AVETMISS Compliant LMS
This may well be your greatest challenge. While there are amazing learning management systems out there, there are hardly any that can address both your AVETMISS reporting requirements AND meet your workforce planning and development challenges..
Most AVETMISS compliant student management systems are designed for fee-for-service, private RTOs. On the other hand, the Australian Enterprise RTO market is too small to be of interest to the big LMS vendors.
One option might be to integrate an AVETMISS compliant SMS with a Performance or Talent Management System. But unfortunately this could result in an expensive and ultimately ineffective compromise. Integration is best achieved when both systems can exchange data using APIs. Many AVETMISS-compliant Student Management Systems lack the necessary APIs and non Australian RTO systems don't capture the data fields required for AVETMISS reporting.
Role and Capability Planning:
Identify the roles and capabilities that position your organisation as a leader in your industry, to meet the expectations of your customers and to deliver the services that you promise. As a Learning and Development professional, one method you could use to develop an effective capability framework is scenario planning. These would be the most challenging and rewarding projects that your organisation could undertake.
Don't create scenarios involving example-projects that have already been won and successfully completed. There's no growth in that. Instead, look for the failures and the projects you didn't win. Ask yourself, 'do we have the capabilities and skills that those projects would have required?', 'What are they?', 'Do we have the resources and the capacity to fill the required roles?' The shortfall is a quick way to identify the organisation's skill gap.
Addressing the skill gap:
Skill gaps occur because your people don't have the vocational training, they haven't been properly assessed, their training has not translated to verifiable competencies in the workplace, they've not been exposed to the opportunities that would develop their skills, or they may not be maintaining currency in the role, i.e. keeping up with the professional development requirements of their job. We can't ignore the obvious. Despite all the training and experience, they may not be the right person for the job, i.e. recruiting errors. These are most likely outside your scope.
Addressing the skill gap is a multi-stage process, achieved by:
- Creating a strong capability framework (Training Matrix)
- Creating Role Development Plans,
- Scheduling training events
- Enrolling team members into courses
- Delivering, assessing and validating skills
- Managing certificates, accreditation, authorisation, permits and licenses
- Delivering re accreditation and refresher opportunities on expiry
- Maintaining currency through professional development and continuous improvement
- Providing opportunities for team members to exercise skills in the workplace.
- Reporting and sharing team development progress
Accessing Courses and Related Information
Courses should be highly searchable with delivery and assessment options, appropriate to the needs of the business. Online, virtual classroom, instructor-led and blended options should be available to team members for enrolment through an online course catalogue. Courses, workshops, assessments and activities should address their vocational and professional development requirements. A good LMS sits at the heart your L&D platform.
Your administrators, course authors, trainers, assessors, coordinators, managers and team members must have appropriate portals through which to access content, schedules, resources, forms and any other data appropriate to their needs.
Getting people into training
Sounds simple, but in many organisations this is one of the greatest challenges. Too busy means line managers and supervisors can't spare people to go on training courses, Not busy enough means line managers can't justify training for work that doesn't exist. Of course, both may be short sighted. As the L&D Manager you might need the help of the top brass to change the culture of the organisation, develop or update operating procedures that make training a mandatory component of everyone's job.
But a better route for changing the organisation's culture is to facilitate better communication with your clients, i.e. your potential students and their supervisors. Initiate planning meetings that help you to better identify your client's learning requirements and operating environments. For example, shift operators may have very clear delineation between periods where they are / are not available for training. These meetings clarify skill needs, encourage collaboration, improve scheduling and promote buy-in with managers and supervisors.
Once the rules and availability for training have been established team members can be auto enrolled based on the courses, training requirements and time frames identified in their Role Development Plans. Automated enrolment processes are great, but in most cases you'll need the flexibility to allow supervisors to authorise training and participants to accept places offered on training courses. These variations should be available to you in the LMS.
Managing Accreditation, Licenses, Permits and Authorisations
Controls need to be in place to ensure that only qualified team members are able to perform difficult or dangerous tasks in restricted or hazardous areas. Those controls rely on authorised access to backend data systems that need to be accurate and up to date at all times. Resource Managers and Work Schedulers must have access to data that enables them to quickly establish that a team member has the necessary certificates, permits or licenses that the deployment requires. HR Systems need access to the same data to produce wallet cards or site access cards, pre-loaded with capabilities can easily authorise and control Access.
When deploying resources to fight a major fire or respond to an emergency, the Incident Controller must be able to immediately identify qualified personnel. Without this sort of database and registration process in place the entire organisation is at risk of compliance breaches that may contravene insurance policies.
Managing Resources and Allocating Tasks
In order to effectively deliver training, assessment and verification of competence (VoC) you need to allocate resources. Those resources have standard costs and they need to be kept informed and up to date regarding their tasks and assignments. You need inventory, catering, course ware, equipment, vehicles, and many more other resources that go beyond trainer and a class room.
Your LMS platform must include the ability to provide or integrate with a Resource Management System (RMS). These systems can also manage expense reporting and other critical aspects of SRTO compliance:
- Trainer / Assessor Capabilities
- Continuous Improvement Register
- Feedback, complaints and appeals
Privacy and Cyber Security
As the custodian of student data RTOs have a responsibility to ensure systems obey the Privacy Act and protect against security threats that could result in users's privacy being compromised. Your Learning Management System vendor is responsible for providing a system that enables you to meet your privacy and data security obligations. Security technologies and processes are spit between the software (Application Security) and the hosting infrastructure (Platform Security). Get written assurances and guarantees from your LMS vendor to ensure compliance and that these essential details are handled.
Integrating Business Systems
Much of the data your LMS captures or delivers is either sourced by, or is required by existing business systems. Today, integration is almost always done using Application Program Interfaces (APIs). Your development team will work with API documents to define one-way or two-way data exchange between your systems. If an API or Software Development Kit (SDK) was provided with your Business Software the vendors of both systems should include: API Documents, sample code, developer support, and test systems to enable your team to develop and test integrations. Vendors will usually offer services to help your technical team successfully integrate.
The challenges listed here may apply to a greater or lesser extent in your company. But product selection, together with related services: adoption, training, support and maintenance are essential components of an effective LMS solution for your Enterprise RTO.
About the Author
Bruno Cozzi and his team have spent the last 20 years designing and developing effective workplace learning management solutions. The diverse mix of skills developed during his career can't be acquired in any academic program.
He has a thorough understanding and in-depth knowledge of the vocational education sector and all the related compliance reporting standards.
Cozzi and his team are experts in the delivery of learning and development cloud-based technologies, web applications and web services.
That requires extensive knowledge of eLearning, virtual classroom and blended learning technologies and standards.
His corporate systems background adds the all-important dimension of business system integration, in a world that demands privacy, data protection, high performance, zero downtime, and user friendly interfaces that work across all devices.
But perhaps his most important quality is his outstanding ability to distill complex concepts and technologies into highly accessible and simple working solutions.