‘Compliance’ is not a dirty word. The purpose of a set of regulatory standards and associated legislation is to ensure registered training organisations operate a sustainable business. In this sense, it is a smart idea for RTOs to operate within these frameworks, as they set a high standard, not only for the internal matters of running a training organisation, but for ensuring high quality, measurable and repeatable training outcomes.

The areas of regulation and legislation that RTOs need to operate within includes:

As most RTOs are either proprietary limited or listed companies, they are also required to meet the various obligations regulated by ASIC and the ASX where applicable. 

Fortunately, not all standards apply to all roles within an RTO. Instead, the responsibility and accountability sits with the CEO and/or Directors*, and the individuals within the RTO are only expected to comply with the elements of the standards and legislation that directly apply to their roles. 

Trainers and assessors in the VET sector should pay particular attention to the RTO standards, specifically the following elements:

Standard 1. Stipulates that the training organisation is responsive to industry and learner needs and delivers training by appropriately qualified trainers and assessors.

Trainers should ensure that they have the resources and equipment to meet the learners’ needs (in attaining the specific units or modules) regardless of delivery mode. Assessors must be aware of and strive to exceed the minimum standards of the principles of assessment and rules of evidence. Assessors should endeavour to participate in scheduled validations of the resources they use on a regular basis. While this isn’t mandatory, it covers the intent of sections 1.9 to 1.11 of Standard 1. 

Sections 1.13 to 1.24 specifically describe the requirements of the trainers and assessors delivering and assessing recognised units of competency or accredited modules for an RTO. Basically, as a trainer, you must demonstrate the relevant industry knowledge and skills (industry currency) and hold an appropriate qualification within that industry to deliver the accredited unit or module. In addition, there is the requirement for an appropriate training qualification, which at the time of writing is the TAE40116 Certificate IV in training and assessment. There are a few caveats for those who hold older qualifications or skill sets or are delivering TAE training package qualifications. It is best to refer to the current version of the standards to ensure you are appropriately qualified. 

RTOs may, if they wish, hold their staff to higher standards than the minimum prescribed in the RTO standards. For this reason, it’s important to refer to your RTOs specific policies on the matter. For example, an RTO might require that you hold higher qualifications than those being delivered or assessed. Or that you work under supervision when conducting certain training or assessment. 

Example of unsustainable practices:

A large RTO operating in the past, ran Diploma-level business qualifications using low-paid** full-time trainers. Industry currency was attained by having the trainers and assessors participate in basic business operations within the RTO itself. The issue this raised was in the applicability of the trainer’s knowledge and skills to the industries for which their students were training. Whilst it cannot be expected that trainers gain experience across countless industries, the limited amount of exposure to financial decision-making, operational planning, project management and the like, made the role of the trainer disputable. This led to complaints and questions being raised with the RTO and the regulator. While the RTO ultimately met it’s end due to a number of factors, this example certainly contributed to the result.

Ethical behaviour

Anti-discrimination legislation and WHS legislation enforce some key ethical and safety-based standards upon businesses and individuals in Australia. Trainers and assessors should be fully compliant with these standards and any codes of conduct or values determined by their employer or contracting RTO. 

Typical standards that can be demonstrated within a training or assessment context include (but aren’t limited to):

1. Treating every student in a fair manner. This starts with an acute awareness of your own cognitive biases, stereotyping, and personal values. Are they in line with the RTO’s policies and employment requirements? Fairness can be demonstrated by actively and mindfully approaching every interaction with a student (whether face to face, or via other communication modes) on an objective and factual foundation. When biases are recognised, trainers and assessors must actively work to overcome these to maintain equity and fairness in their dealings. 

2. Physical safety. It is the trainers’ and assessors’ duty of care to ensure that training and assessment occurs in a risk-minimised environment. And that students are not placed in an unreasonable position that may cause them harm. The following units of competency related to trainer qualifications, require that trainers identify, report and in some cases control hazards in the learning environment:

  • TAEDEL401 – Plan, organise and deliver group-based learning, 
  • TAEDEL402 -Plan, organise and facilitate learning in the workplace
  • TAEDEL301 – Provide work skill instruction

The TAEASS402 – assess competence, requires the same standards for assessors. 

3. Psychological safety. In addition to physical harm, students are susceptible to psychological harm. As trainers and assessors are responsible for the safety of their students, this legal duty applies. According to SafeWork Australia, “Psychosocial hazards or factors are anything in the design or management of work that increases the risk of work-related stress. A stress response is the physical, mental and emotional reactions that occur when a worker perceives the demands of their work exceed their ability or resources to cope. Work-related stress if prolonged and/or severe can cause both psychological and physical injury. Stress itself does not constitute a physical or psychological injury.” 

Ways in which a trainer and/or assessor can minimise the risk of prolonged stress are to:

  • Monitor and respond to excessive study, training or assessment demands as they are perceived by the student
  • Ensure there is no bullying, aggression or harassment within the learning or assessment environment
  • Effectively manage conflict
  • Remain fair in all training and assessment-related decision-making
  • Always provide clear instructions
  • Be mindful of each learner’s verbal and non-verbal cues and respond effectively.


The heightened threat and instances of digital theft has exposed Australia and its citizens to the real problems surrounding personal security. RTOs are required to comply with the Australian Privacy Principles enforced by the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). For trainers and assessors, these principles relate to what can and cannot be done with personal information of their students. In summary, trainers and assessors must:

  1. Abide by the RTOs privacy policy
  2. Do not discuss or disclose personal information, including assessment results, with anyone who is not required by the RTO to know that information
  3. Sell, bargain or in any way disseminate any student’s personal data. 

The Australian Skills Quality Authority has additional privacy measures when it comes to handling student data. Trainers and assessors must therefore ensure all data of student results and associated information is accurate and meets requirements of the reporting standards. 

Conclusion and recommendations 

Being a competent trainer and assessor goes beyond classroom charisma, attention to detail and student-focused behaviours. Compliance is the ‘secret sauce’ that ensures a long and fruitful career in the vocational education sector. It’s recommended that full time and contract trainers and assessors seek to undertake the BSBAUD412 – Work within compliance frameworks unit of competency from the Business Services Training Package to identify, interpret, manage and practice fully compliant workplace behaviours. This unit is available as a short course at SpecTraining (RTO ID 31971) in 2021-22, and can be completed within a four week timeframe, at a cost of just $297. Reach out to Sharon on 1300 029 121 or email info@spectraining.edu.au for further information and enrolment options. 

*Depending on the structure of the organisation, responsibility may expand to include company officers. According to a 2020 High court ruling, a company officer is anyone, providing they have the capacity to affect significantly the financial standing of the company, regardless of whether they hold a formal position in the said company.

**low in comparison to contract rates for trainers delivering the same level of qualifications.