Last weekend Lynne and I went to see the movie "The Big Short". If you haven't seen it I won't tell you the plot. Basically, it takes place in New York prior to the 2008 Financial Crisis and focuses on the events leading up to it. A few wise realists saw the writing on the wall and predicted that the high risk unregulated housing market in the US was headed for disaster.
After the movie we remembered how Australia came out of it better than almost every other country, thanks to sound fiscal policies and a regulated environment instituted by the Government at the time.
The movie got us thinking about the regulatory environment for the VET sector. We often hear complaints about the strict reporting regime imposed on training organisations in Australia, but could it be that Australia may once again be on the brink of escaping the the ravages of an international crisis? this time in the training and education sector?
Imagine a world where fraudulent qualifications and certificates are the norm. An unregulated environment that could lead to medical crisis, bad science, poor engineering and construction projects that kill people and no skills for coping with deadly pandemics brought on by climate change or infected mosquitoes. Extreme? maybe, but isn't that what everyone thought about the housing market in 2007? Safe as houses?
Love it or hate it, compliance and regulation are just two of the many aspects of the Australian VET Sector that give us an edge when greed and self-interest become common-place. But compliance and the many other areas of change`that can affect the training and education sector in 2016 need to be streamlined and managed.
Other areas of change include technology, the environment and globalisation. A software solutions provider can't make your business succeed or fail, but they play an important role in protecting you, the client, from the detrimental impacts of change.
Typically, it takes 3 months to research, design, test and deploy updates of SMS solutions to the training provider market. That means, when it comes to the software systems that you rely on daily to manage your business and student records, you need a partner who is ahead of the game. The student and business management software that you rely on every day for compliance, efficiency and accuracy must be trustworthy and well supported.
Our aim in this newsletter is to keep you, as an active industry participant up to date with industry news, areas that we at Bluegem see as potential risks and how we implement strategies and solutions to address them. We take our responsibilities seriously and do whatever we can to consistently deliver the features, services and level of support that you expect.
In ASQA's Users' Guide to the SRTO, several clauses of the standard have been tightened up in 2016 and others that were planned for introduction in 2016 are now in force. In this bulletin NCVER announced changes to the data element definitions, and the validation process for AVETMISS reporting has undergone minor changes. Skills Victoria have updated VVSSCG 2016 to accommodate changes for RTOs reporting via SVTS.
Meanwhile, the USI Office have announced and implemented Version 2 of the USI web service with changes. Emails were sent out to all affected parties. As always training package changes have occurred and will continue to do so throughout the year. The ESOS framework was updated in Dec 2015 in "Recent Changes to ESOS". This affects all CRICOS providers. Several VET-FEE Help changes are scheduled by the government for implementation in 2016. These are highlighted in the VET FEE HELP Information booklet.
Of special note and highly relevant to this topic, last year saw the naming and shaming of many RTOs, particularly CRICOS and VET-FEE providers. Without trying in anyway to condone fraudulent or negligent behaviour, it is sometimes a convenient over-simplification to point the finger of suspicion and tar all affected providers with the same brush.
In our experience, many of the problems were due to lack of understanding about the rules and procedures that govern the industry, coupled with inadequate business and student management systems. Yes, of course you can argue that those providers have a responsibility to educate themselves and perform due diligence when purchasing solutions that their businesses rely on everyday. But my point is that many providers were de-registered for reasons that were neither intentional nor malicious. Lessons learned.
Towards the end of 2015 NCVER released the SMS Vendor Support service on their website to support, inform and get feedback form SMS vendors. This has been an excellent initiative and is already proving to be a valuable resource for Bluegem.
For industries and business sectors across the world, the push towards cloud-based solutions, configurable functionality, improved security, mobility, ease-of-use and optimal performance continue to drive business innovation and design. The need for better student management software in the Australian VET Sector is entirely consistent with those aims. However, the need to retain sovereignty over Australian data, knowledge of the VET standards, and close supportive relationships between VET Providers and SMS Vendors tends to preclude the use of off-shore vendors, international platforms and services.
For example, as an SMS Vendor Bluegem would love to leverage the power of Microsoft Office 365 to deliver comprehensive and affordable business and student management services to our clients. However, MS Office 365 data is hosted off-shore and subject to US federal law. The Inland Revenue Service in the US could walk into any US company providing hosting services and seize data belonging to an Australian RTO hosted on that company's servers. The data contained in an SMS would almost certainly contain personal information collected on Australian students. Clearly this situation conflicts with the Australian Privacy Act.
Mobility is another technology consideration. The increase in the use of mobile devices affects your business directly and indirectly. Your students might use smartphones and tablets to book into your courses, get their results, and engage in your online courses and assessments. Having access to an SMS that supports mobility gives your business more flexibility and options.
In this context, globalisation relates to the import and export of education and training products between countries. The options for students to accept places for training and education in a country of their choice are greater than ever. Importantly, the VET sector has opportunities for training and educating overseas students in growing numbers.
Recent clean-up operations leading to many de-registrations of non-compliant CRICOS providers in theory makes for a more regulated and compliant environment which should benefit the industry and overseas students in general. As with all clean-up operations many potentially good providers in need of a little direction and guidance were swept up with the tide. But along with stricter regulations comes the need for increased reporting and accountability. CRICOS Providers need solutions that can streamline and help organisations meet their monitoring and reporting obligations.
Where does Bluegem fit in 2016
For all of these reasons, Bluegem is as relevant and important to the sector this year as ever before. We have addressed these and many more points in our latest 2016 Q1 release which goes out on 15th Feb (next week). We'll continue to research, design, test and deliver the solutions you need as a contributor and provider to the education and training sector.
Below are some of the key features in our 2016 Q1 Release....
Bruno Cozzi is the Managing Director of innovative training and learning management systems development company, Bluegem Software. He is one of Australia's leading specialists in Training management Systems and Author of the eBook How to Choose the RIGHT Training Management System.
- USI Web service V2 - fully supported
- AVETMISS Validation and new data elements - fully supported
- VVSSCG 2016 Changes - fully implemented
- ESOS Changes - updated where applicable
- VET-FEE Help - up-to date - changes confirmed by the government will appear on our roadmap as they become available.
Ease of use
Significant improvements have been made in this release and many more are scheduled throughout the year.
- Program and stage planning are now automated
- Full use of the TGA web service to manage training package changes
- Bulk editing features to simplify making changes to multiple records
- Option for mobile and PC certificate and report designers
- More and better online context help
- Updated user manuals and support tools
- Improved product training -
- Watch this space with each new release...
Editions and Add-Ons
We've added two new SMS editions and upgraded 3 existing editions this year to address specific RTO needs and budgets.
- Bluegem CRICOS Version 2 - Available Mid March 2016
- Bluegem Community & Recreational Edition - Ideal for new or small organisations with budget constraints. Available April 4th -
Upgraded (Available in 2016 Q1 Release)
- Bluegem Private (Fee for Service Providers)
- Bluegem Public (Public funded / Trainee & Apprentice Colleges)
- Bluegem Enterprise (Internal Staff or Member Training)