Frequently Asked Questions for the Expression of Interest to operate as a Skills Service Organisation

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119. How will representatives on the AISC manage potential conflicts of interest?

Members of the AISC have signed a deed of confidentiality and are observing protocols for managing conflicts of interest.

118. If an organisation submits a response to the EoI and its governance structure is assessed as not meeting the independence criteria, will there be opportunity to amend the proposed arrangements?

No. Applicants will not be permitted to amend their responses after they have been submitted, except if the department seeks to clarify information in accordance with section 8.18 of the EOI.  No amendments of applications will be permitted after evaluations. Potential applicants should be mindful of this when considering whether or not to respond.

117. When will applicants be informed of the outcomes?

It is anticipated that stage 2 will be completed progressively and successful applicants notified during the period October to December.  Please also see FAQ 56.

116. If an applicant is successful and has to establish a single legal entity to be offered a funding agreement, will the costs involved in establishing that entity be considered part of the commencement costs.

Please refer to section 7 of the EOI and FAQs 13 and 43.

115. If you already satisfy the rest of the governance and independence criteria, is it compulsory to start a new legal entity to satisfy paragraph 8.3.1 of the EOI?

The department will only offer funding to recipients that are single, separate legal entities that satisfy the independence and governance criteria in the EOI.

An applicant that is currently a separate, single legal entity that satisfies the independence and governance criteria in the EOI does not need to establish a new legal entity in order to participate in the EOI or to receive funding.

An applicant that is not currently a separate, single legal entity that is able to satisfy the independence and governance criteria in the EOI will be required to establish a new separate, single legal entity that satisfies the independence and governance criteria in the EOI.  The new legal entity does not need to be established in order for an applicant to participate in this stage of the EOI, but will need to be established in order to receive an offer of a funding agreement.

An applicant that establishes a new legal entity to receive funding will be required to provide assurances, to the department's reasonable satisfaction, of the new legal entity's ability to perform its obligations under the funding agreement.

114. Will the membership of IRCs be individual employers or will they include employer organisations, professional bodies and trade unions?

As noted in the EOI, it is expected that in the current construct of industry groups operating under Industry Skills Councils will transition directly to the new arrangements. However, some will be re-formed or new committees established where the Australian Industry and Skills Committee is of the view the committee needs to be more representative of the industry sector.

Clause 5.2.1 of the EoI indicates that IRC membership may include:

  • industry representatives such as members of industry groups and associations;
  • employers from the industry or employer delegate;
  • representatives of employees in the sector;
  • stakeholders or representatives of the VET system; and
  • other stakeholder organisations which rely on the output from training packages to support their mission, such as regulatory practice.

113. Could you clarify what is meant by the statement (on p23 of the EoI) ‘All costs associated with developing an industry proposal will need to be absorbed by the proponent’?

As section 6 of the EOI states, an industry proposal is a proposal to scope the development or review of training packages submitted to the AISC.  The proposal identifies the need to develop or revise a training package and may be from industry, government or a regulator.  This is not intended to be an onerous process and is likely to be a short document which will be submitted via an online mechanism and will describe:

  • the need for the review or development of a new training package including how the proposed new or reviewed units are different from existing units of competency;
  • why it is a priority;
  • the potential impact;
  • an estimate of how many units of competency will need to be reviewed; and
  • an outline of industry stakeholder support for the change. In addition, industry proposals will need to explain how the proposed change meets government priorities and industry needs.

As section 7 of the EOI states, there will be no funding provided under this program to develop industry proposals.

112. How will the AISC manage the large volume of training packages being transitioned to the 2012 Standards for Training Packages between now and the end of December?

The intention is to process as many Cases for Endorsement as possible before the end of 2015, when the ISC contracts will cease.  However we acknowledge the likelihood that some of this work may extend into 2016. Please refer to paragraph 4.2 of the EOI regarding transition arrangements.

One of the immediate benefits of retaining the existing membership of the reference committees established by ISCs is that we can maintain some continuity in the system to mitigate risk.

However, if the circumstance arises where the AISC needs additional information to make a decision to endorse material transitioned by an ISC, the IRC will be asked to provide that information. If the IRC needs to undertake further research its SSO would be tasked with that work.

111. Can you explain what seems to be a circular relationship between the IRCs and the SSOs? The SSOs will work to the IRCs, but they may also help set them up. Can you just clarify that?

Section 5 of the EOI describes the relationship between the SSOs and the IRCs. Paragraph 5.1 explains how SSOs ‘…will assist, at the direction of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, in establishing industry reference committees.’ Please also refer to FAQ 5.

110. How can an applicant anticipate what level of resources and facilities they need when they do not know the volume of work they will be allocated?

As stated in paragraph 7.1.2 and criterion 7, in stage 1, applicants are not required to provide estimates of costs, but to demonstrate an understanding of fixed and variable costs and business models. The funding framework for support materials and additional activities will be available as part of stage 2. Paragraph 7.1.3 of the EOI states ‘… it is expected that the Australian Industry and Skills Committee will allocate a minimum amount of work to each skills service organisations.‘

109. What criteria will the AISC use to prioritise work on training packages if the call for work is larger than the available funds?

The AISC are in the process of developing criteria to assist in the prioritisation and scheduling of training package review and development work. These criteria will be consistent with the COAG Industry Skills Council training package principles and the Government’s policy framework and priorities and will be based on demonstrated industry need for change.

108. Is the intention to retain the National Register (training.gov.au) under the new arrangements? If so, will training packages be available on the same basis-that is, freely available for public use?

Yes, the National Register will host training packages which will remain accessible to all stakeholders.

107. Will there be a role for state based industry advisory bodies in the new arrangements?

One of the key principles of the new arrangements is that, to the extent possible, we retain those parts of the system that are working well. Many of the state based advisory bodies including ITABS have over the years developed strong working relationships with the ISCs.  The industry intelligence that these state based organisations bring have informed the direction of nationally recognised training.  It is envisaged that this will continue to be a valued component of the system.

106. What are the expected completion dates for each of the stages going to be?

It is anticipated that the department will commence stage 2 consideration of applications in the latter half of September. Please also see FAQs 24 and 56.

105. Will the AISC commission training package development and review or other work from only the IRC with responsibility for that sector? Or, could another IRC, supported by its SSO, bid for work across sectors?

It is not intended that SSOs and IRCs be set up in competition to each other.  Work on a unit of competency would not be split across IRCs, however it is possible that training packages and other work might involve more than one IRC and therefore possibly more than one SSO.

104. Is a large organisation that has its own RTO able to be a member of an IRC?

It is possible.  Existing IRCs have been established by ISCs to assist them with reviewing and developing training packages.  Into the future, it will be a matter for the relevant industry to nominate members of IRCs at the time the AISC is seeking to refresh membership or establish a new IRC.

103. Would the SSO be able to continue providing support for training package development without an agreement with the Australian Government? For example, if the agreement was terminated with the Australian Government after say three years and an organisation had the support of other funders.

No. Training package development and review is funded by the Australian government.  Training packages are allocated to IRCs and if an agreement with an SSO is terminated the IRC and training packages and all material related to training package development would be re-allocated to another SSO.

102. Is there more information available about the funding model for development of units of competency and qualifications?

Information on funding for training package development and review is provided in Section 7 of the EoI documentation. Paragraph 7.1.3 explains that training package development funding will be paid on a price per unit of competency basis for work that has been commissioned and endorsed by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee. Units of competency may be classified as standard or complex.

Guides for the complexity of each unit of competency will be provided to applicants invited to stage 2 of the EoI process. At that point applicants will be asked to provide the Department with a funding model based on the training packages notionally allocated to them, to allow for a final value for money judgement to be made.

101. Criterion 7.1(c), which is to be addressed as part of stage 1, asks for the approach to determining unit complexity and the cost structures, however earlier in the EOI it says the complexity of units will be determined as part of stage 2. Which is it?

Criterion 7.1(c) asks for applicants’ approach to determining unit complexity, not a price for complex unit.  Please refer to section 7 of the EOI.

100. What activities are the SSOs able to carry out? For example, can they carry out commercial activities like the ISCs can?

Paragraph 5.3 of the EOI sets out the activities of the SSOs.  SSOs may have commercial activities that are separate from those that are funded under the new arrangements.

99. Are SSOs allowed or intended to be members of the IRCs?

Section 5 of the EOI describes the relationship between the SSOs and the IRCs. The IRC is the decision making body under the new arrangements. Paragraph 8.3 of the EOI sets out the eligibility requirements.

98. At the termination of agreements with SSOs, what will happen to the IP contained within the training packages developed during the funding period?

Section B.2 of Attachment B states: ‘at the conclusion of the funding agreement, all material created by a skills service organisation, and funded partially or fully during the term of the funding agreement by the Australian Government through the Department of Education and Training, must be returned to the department.’

97. Could you confirm the duration of the contractual arrangements with SSOs?

Paragraph 5.3 of the EoI makes clear the arrangements for SSOs will be for an initial period of three years, with potential to extend those arrangements for a further two years.

96. I understand that in stage two of the EoI process, the Department may ask an applicant to cover more industry sectors than originally intended. What level of support from those additional sectors would need to be evidenced?

At stage 2, applicants will need to demonstrate a level of support for their capability to undertake SSO activities - this does not necessarily mean letters of support from every single sector or sub-sector offered in stage 2.

95. In terms of assessing suitability as an SSO, will an international presence be considered favourably? And will there be flexibility for SSOs to market material internationally?

There is an opportunity in the EoI response for organisations to talk about their additional attributes and how those attributes might add to their ability to deliver under this program. Refer to paragraph 8.9.3 of the EoI.

Attachment B to the EoI documentation sets out the principles for intellectual property ownership. Please refer to paragraph 5.3 of the EoI for information on commercialising activities.

94. How is a change to a training package or a qualification initiated? What’s the catalyst and what’s the role of the AISC?

An industry proposal will be the first step, or stage, to initiate review of an existing training package or indicate where new work is needed. Industry proposals may come to the AISC either through an IRC, an SSO, or directly from any stakeholder within the system. If the AISC considers the proposal has merit, it will be referred to an IRC, either as a single project, or together with others as a suite of proposals. The IRC will then direct it’s SSO to develop a business case for consideration by the AISC.

If the AISC considers the case for change articulated in the business case meets one or more of their priorities, it will schedule and commission a body of work, which could include some or all of the work proposed in the business case or additional work. The AISC will allocate funding to an SSO to support the IRC to develop the business case and all elements of the work it commissions.

93. Can a member of an IRC be also on the board of an SSO?

The EOI sets out the requirements for independence however it does not seek to dictate how governance is structured in each organisation. Instead, it provides a minimum requirement for independence and requires applicants to describe how this minimum standard will be met.  The governance arrangements for an SSO require that its board members are independent of the policy discussions and decision making processes of the IRC. Please also refer to FAQ 22.

92. How much of the current allocation of $42m per year to support twelve ISCs will be available for the SSOs and training package development?

The overall funding for this initiative is still subject to Government consideration.

91. Will the Minister hold a consultation process once the sector allocation had been decided, to obtain industry feedback?

No. The process for allocating industry sectors is described in paragraphs 8.10.3 to 8.11.2 of the EOI. The Assistant Minister will receive recommendations regarding industry sector allocation after the processes described in paragraphs 8.10.3 to 8.11.2 of the EOI have been completed. However, it is not planned that the Assistant Minister will hold further consultations before making the final decisions on industry sector allocations.

90. Who is on the Industry Working Group (IWG)?

Please refer to the definition of 'Industry Working Group' in section 10 of the EOI.

89. With respect to a ‘value for money’ assessment, will the level of demand for skills in a particular industry sector be taken into account?

The 'value for money' assessment will consider all relevant factors in accordance with the Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines, an in particular, those factors that affect 'value with relevant money' as outlined in Section 11 of the Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines.

This includes considering those proposals that best represent value in the context of the objectives and outcomes of the funding process, including those outlined in paragraph 8.1 of the EOI.

The level of demand for skills in particular industry sectors will be one factor that is considered in the assessment process and is particularly relevant to criterion 2.2. It is anticipated that the level of demand for skills in particular industry sectors will also have significance in determining the level of funding to be allocated and the characterisation of units of competency in stage 2 of the EOI process.

88. Section 7 Funding for Training Product Development and Review of the EOI outlines three forms of costs and funding, commencement costs, overhead costs (both fixed and variable) and training package review and development funding. Paragraph 5.3.3 Costs to be covered states that the costs of operating IRCs will be funded to a cap. Does this represent a fourth area of funding?

No. This funding is only to cover travel costs for the IRC members and is not considered to be a fourth area of funding for the SSO.

87. Are the overhead costs referred to in section 7 of the EOI designed to cover the whole list of activities listed in paragraph 5.3.1? If not, which of these activities are anticipated to be covered by the training package review and development funding, and which by the overhead funding.

As stated in section 7.1.2 and criterion 7, in stage 1, applicants are not required to provide estimates of costs, but to demonstrate an understanding of fixed and variable costs and business models.

All of the activities listed in paragraph 5.3.1 are activities to be provided by SSOs to IRCs to support them to develop, review and implement training packages and other products for the national training system.

As part of stage 2 of the evaluation, once applicants are aware of the proposed sector allocation, they will be asked to provide advice on the minimum level of activity they would need in order to be sustainable.

86. Can anyone on the Australian Industry and Skills Council be on an SSO?

The Expression of Interest sets out the requirements that applicants must meet to demonstrate independence. Please also refer to FAQ 22.

85. What will the internal structure of the Industry Reference Committee (IRC) look like? For example, will there be a single point of contact identified within each IRC?

In the first instance, IRCs will transition to the new arrangements in their current form. However, there will need to be a minimum standard for the structure, operation, representation and performance of IRCs which will be set by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee. However we also envisage a degree of flexibility so that IRCs can be allowed to operate in the most effective and efficient way, based on the needs of their stakeholders.

84. Whose responsibility will it be to support the Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) to manage their internal operations? Currently Industry Skills Councils do all their secretariat work and facilitate them to have the discussions that they need to have.

The Skills Service Organisations (SSOs) will provide a full range of services to support the activities of IRCs. SSO services will include project management and secretarial support to facilitate decision making processes. Paragraph 5.3.1 of the EOI documentation goes into more detail on this.

83. If an industry sector is unhappy with their representation through an Industry Reference Committee (IRC), what feedback mechanisms will there be to communicate this to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee?

The priorities for the remainder of this year are to ensure we have national industry coverage by Skills Service Organisations and to transition the current IRCs to the new model. Once those structures have been bedded down, there will be opportunities for stakeholders to input their views on refreshing IRC membership.        

82. If an Industry Reference Committee (IRC) is unsatisfied with their Skills Service Organisation (SSO) is there a process for changing SSO?

If an IRC is unsatisfied with the service they are receiving from their SSO, they would put a case to the AISC. Paragraph 5.3.6 outlines the process.

81. How will an Industry Reference Committee (IRC) ‘select’ a Skills Service Organisation (SSO) – and when?

As part of the Expression of Interest process SSOs will be allocated industry sectors and the relevant IRC will be supported by that SSO. There is an expectation that the initial allocation will be stable for 12 to 24 months to allow SSOs and IRCs to develop a working relationship. Paragraph 5.3.6 outlines the process for IRCs to change SSOs.

80. How will the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) manage the transition to a more strategic model, as some of the current Industry Skills Councils’ reference committees are more operational than strategic in their focus?

Once the details of reference committee members have been provided to the Department it is anticipated the AISC will meet with those groups to talk through the role and how the new arrangements will work. Please refer to paragraph 5.2.6.

79. When will decisions be made about the membership of Industry Reference Committees (IRCs)?

Paragraph 5.2.1 sets out the attributes for membership of an IRC and Paragraph 5.2.1.1 outlines the process the Australian Industry Skills Council (AISC) will undertake to review and scope the membership from August 2015.

Paragraph 5.2.6 indicates a ‘refresh’ of IRC membership might occur every three years, but in practice there will be flexibility around this. Over time the AISC will make a determination as to whether or not an IRC’s membership needs to be supplemented or changed to reflect the work that needs to be done during that period of time. This is in keeping with the responsive nature of the new model.

78. How will work to review or develop training packages be managed? Will Skills Service Organisations be required to develop an annual workplan for approval by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC)?

The detail of those processes is still to be worked through with the AISC. A key focus is to ensure that the system is able to respond quickly to priorities and that the advice about what changes need to be made, and when, can come from a range of different sources, including the Industry Reference Committees.

There is a policy imperative to ensure that decisions about prioritising training packages changes are made by the AISC based on evidence of the need for change and the potential impact of that change, but the details of these processes are yet to be decided. What is clear is that, once decided, the processes will be transparent and there will be mechanisms in place to ensure all stakeholders are aware of the forward workplan and can provide comment on any proposed changes.

77. Can you export your entire application from the online application system?

Yes, applicants can export their entire application. The online application system will export a PDF of all the Expression of Interest questions and the applicant’s responses to those questions (if answered). It will also export any attachments included in the response, with the text in PDF format.  

76. When you submit your response to the Expression of Interest (EOI) via the online application system can you save your application as you go or do you have to complete the application all at once and then submit?

No, applicants do not have to complete the submission all at once and then submit. Applicants can save their application as they go - they are able to save, log out, log back in and continue working on their application right up until the EOI closes.

75. How will the potential proliferation of accredited courses be managed?

One of the roles of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) is to oversight the policy around accredited courses. The review of training packages and accredited courses is considering this issue. Whilst the number of accredited courses is in decline we do need to look at the role of accredited courses including how they are developed and what is their benefit to the national training system. The recommendations from that review process will go through the AISC to Ministers at the end of this calendar year.

74. How will industry input to draft training packages?

Where the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) has commissioned work on a training package, the relevant Skills Service Organisation (SSO) will engage directly with industry and other stakeholders and provide feedback to the Industry Reference Committee (IRC). If there is a significant issue with the training package that is raised, for example by a regulator, then in accordance with the processes agreed between the IRC and SSO it would be brought to the attention of the relevant IRC in the first instance. If in this example the regulator is not satisfied with the outcome, then it could then raise the matter directly with the AISC.

73. Who do you go to and how do you raise issues, if you have concerns regarding a training package or training arrangements?

At an operational level, stakeholders will be able to contact the Skills Service Organisation that has been allocated responsibility for that training package or part thereof directly.

At a strategic level there are two mechanisms for industry to raise issues and provide advice about the skills and competencies required by their industry sector and these are outlined in paragraph 6.5.1 of the Expression of Interest.

72. How will the new arrangements constrain the proliferation of training packages as niche orless prominent industry sectors argue that they are unique and require dedicated training packages?

Under the new arrangements the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) will be the Central body that prioritises, schedules and commissions the development and review of training packages. In addition to receiving industry proposals from Industry Reference Committees, the AISC will also receive direct feedback from industry and other stakeholders, especially about issues that cut across industry sectors. In its oversighting role, the AISC will consider core common competencies and generic units which cut across all industries, or industries with common and emerging technologies.

One of the objectives of the new arrangements is to achieve efficiencies through the greater re-use of components of training packages where skills needs across industry sectors are similar and improving the scheduling of training package development and review.

71. Is there a permanent administration body that’s funded for the Industry Reference Committee to monitor and maintain stakeholder engagement and communication?

Paragraph 5.1 of the Expression of Interest explains that the Australian Industry and Skills Committee will endorse the establishment of Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) and their membership. Skills Service Organisations (SSOs) are funded to support the IRC in their stakeholder engagement and communication functions and the performance of SSOs in doing so will be monitored by the Department.

70. How does an Industry Reference Committee (IRC) enforce the performance of a Skills Service Organisation (SSO) given an MoU is not enforceable?

The work commissioned by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee to be undertaken by an SSO on behalf of an IRC will be covered by a work order under the funding agreement between the department and the SSO. The work order will set out the parameters of the work and the timeframes. The funding agreement will provide the enforcement mechanism.

69. Who is the independent evaluator that will be assisting the department in stage 1?

Lange Consulting and Software

68. Will funding for support materials and additional activities attract a weighting because training package development is based on a unit of competency?

The funding framework for support materials and additional activities will be available as part of stage 2. Guides for assessing the complexity of units of competency will also be provided as part of stage 2.

67. How will activities that support the implementation of an endorsed training package be funded, eg. information sessions for training providers and pilot programmes?

Paragraph 4.1.2 states that support materials for the purpose of this Expression of Interest (EOI) include materials prepared to support the implementation of training packages. These materials may include guidance materials to assist training providers to develop and deliver training courses and to undertake assessment. Development of support materials is included in the scope of this EOI. Support materials may be commissioned and funded under the direction of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) as additional activities or may be funded and developed independently by Skills Service Organisations under direction of Industry Reference Committees under commercial arrangements (for examples of support material see paragraph 5.3.2).

The list of support materials in paragraph 4.1.2 is not exhaustive and the AISC may choose to commission activities such as implementation workshops and pilot programmes.

66. How are you going to ensure that the Skills Service Organisations (SSOs) have an effective footprint to do the job properly across Australia?

In addressing Criterion 2 of the Expression of Interest (EOI) applicants will need to demonstrate how they will develop effective networks across industry sectors. In the EOI process the government is looking for organisations to develop and propose innovative ways to ensure they have a footprint in areas where there are thin markets, remote and regional. It is highly unlikely that SSOs will be established in all states and territories.

65. The EOI requires an applicant to provide details of principals of the organisation as well as the skills and knowledge of staff. How can applicants who might be considering standing up a new organisation provide this level of detail? 

Criterion 6 relates to the skills, experience and capacity of the applicant organisation as well as its key personnel. Applicants should address all criteria in their applications. An applicant who offers a solution involving a newly formed organisation will need to demonstrate in its response to the relevant criterion how the organisation (once formed) would be able to satisfy the criterion specified in the EOI.  

64. Have any current ISCs been given a guarantee that they will be funded to be a Skills Service Organisation?

No. The Expression of Interest is an open and competitive process that will be conducted in accordance with the Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines. All applications will be subject to the evaluation process described in sections 8.9 to 8.11 of the Expression of Interest (inclusive). An application received from an Industry Skills Council will be evaluated in the same way as all other applications.  

63. What happens if the advice given to the AISC is in direct conflict to that given by industry and/or the IRC?

This is an issue that will be resolved by the AISC in consultation with the relevant IRC(s).

62. What mechanisms will be available in the new model for VET providers to feed into the development of new training packages?

Under the new model, SSOs are funded to support IRCs to undertake broad ranging consultations to develop a business case setting out the case for change and, once agreed, to develop the revised training package. The objective of this consultation is to achieve national agreement where possible. Where this is not possible, the case for endorsement would need to include the details. In addition, under the new arrangements there will be mechanisms established for stakeholders to provide advice on the need for change to training package qualifications directly to the AISC.

61. When do you anticipate the AISC will start engaging with members of the current reference groups?

ISCs are in the process of providing advice to the Department on the membership of their industry reference groups. As soon as that information has been received, the AISC will begin engaging with those representatives.

60. To what extent is industry expected to provide in-kind support for the new model? What mechanisms have been put in place to ensure SMEs can contribute to the development process?

The new model has been designed to better support the in-kind contribution already being made by industry. It does this by giving industry the lead and by funding SSOs to support the work of the IRCs in the development and review of training packages.

In terms of ensuring SMEs can contribute to the development process, the new model does also provide SSOs with the capacity to fund some activities in support of their IRCs, for example by meeting the travel costs of IRC members to facilitate the broadest possible representation.

59. What sort of support or guarantee of confidentiality is there in terms of expressions of interest that are lodged?

All responses to the EOI will be managed in accordance with the rules for any competitive grants process undertaken by the Australian Government. We are being assisted with stage one by an external evaluator. We are also being assisted in our allocation and consideration of industry sectors by the Industry Working Group (comprising a number of people who are currently members of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee). All the parties involved in this EOI have signed a Confidentiality Declaration. Further information about disclosure of application information can be found in paragraph 8.15 of the EOI.

58. During the transition phase from ISCs to the new arrangements, where will users of the system be able to source information?

The Department is putting in place arrangements to ensure a smooth transition from the current system to the new model and updates on progress towards the new model will be posted to the Department’s website. 

Negotiations are underway with Industry Skills Councils to continue in their current role until the end of 2015. Training package updates provided by ISCs are being considered by the AISC as they come forward and any approved changes will be uploaded to the national register - training.gov.au.It is expected that training package and support materials developed by ISCs will be transferred to a national VET repository established by the department, as specified in paragraph 4.2.2 of the EOI. In addition, paragraph 5.3.1 specifies that it will be the responsibility of SSOs to maintain a website and publication of materials to support industry engagement and implementation of training packages.

57. Is it possible to submit an application proposing to manage a single industry sector currently within a broader training package?

Yes.  However, the EOI does indicate a preference for SSOs to operate across a range of different industry sectors, or across a range of generic skills. Please refer to criterion 3.1. Paragraph 2 of the EOI states that under the Australian Government’s Smaller Government Reform agenda the number of formal bodies to support training package development is expected to be reduced.

Whilst this EOI is open to proposals that may be innovative and different to traditional arrangements, it is highly unlikely that the new arrangements will feature a large number of narrowly focused or “boutique” skills service organisations.

56. When will organisations be advised if they are being considered for stage two of the EOI process?

Paragraph 8.9 in the EOI outlines the process for stage one which will culminate in a shortlist of applications and indicative industry allocations and a series of negotiations. All applications are active until such time as either the applicant withdraws or the formal announcement is made by the Assistant Minister. The department may choose, through the process of evaluating, assessing, allocating industry sectors and negotiating, to revisit applications, including applications that have not been previously excluded or withdrawn, to ensure the needs of the national training system are met. Please refer to paragraph 8.10.4 of the EOI.

55. What if the AISC rejects the business case?

A business case would only be rejected if it is not compliant with the commissioning request from the AISC. The purpose of a business case is to establish the evidence base for changing a training package. If the business case that is developed does not meet the standard for evidence established by the AISC, or in some other way fails to meet the terms of the commissioning request – then the AISC may reject the business case and ask for additional work to be done. If the business case finds that there is insufficient evidence to support a case for change – then the business case would not be rejected.  

54. What format can the attachments be in for uploading to the online application system?

Attachments uploaded to the online application system should be in the format of Microsoft Word or Excel, and PDF versions of documents.

53. Is it possible that an SSO may be allocated an industry sector which might feature in a number of training packages?

As described in criterion 2.2, to meet the objective of national coverage, the allocation of industry sectors across applicants may include:

  • part or all of one or more industry sectors; and/or
  • combinations of industry sectors; and/or
  • combinations of training packages.

These combinations may be innovative and different to traditional arrangements. Possibilities include, but are not limited to, vertical or horizontal synergies such as alignment through supply chains, generic units which cut across all industries, or industries with common emerging technologies.

The Australian Industry and Skills Committee, in its oversighting role of industry reference committees, will also identify opportunities for collaboration between industries and training packages.

52. What is meant by the reference to the national training system?

In section 10 of the EOI, the national training system is defined as the Australian system for VET under which employers, the states and territories of Australia, and the Australian Government, collectively develop national standards for the development of curricula, units of competency and processes for the assessment of students and the issuance of qualifications by Registered Training Organisations.

51. I understand all questions need to be submitted by 12 August 2015. When will responses be available on the website?

The Department will aim to have all responses to questions received by 12 August 2015 available on the FAQ page of the website by COB (AEST) Monday 17 August 2015. To facilitate this, the department encourages all potential applicants to forward their questions to the inbox as soon as possible.

50. Training packages have a substantially wider use than as a signal to the training providers for skilling a workforce. Has this been considered in developing the policy for the contestable development model?

The role played by training packages in supporting a range of human resource and workforce planning and development functions has been taken into account in developing the contestable model.

49. Can you provide information about how the performance of SSOs will be managed – what the key performance indicators will be?

One of the principles on which the revised approach to funding for training package development and review is that there will be transparency in the performance expectations of SSOs. Attachment A to the EOI outlines a performance management framework and states: ‘The quality of training packages, timeliness of delivery and the satisfaction of industry reference committees with their skills service organisation will be measured under the framework’. KPIs will be developed and will be very clearly articulated in the performance agreements offered to successful applicants.

48. Are there word limits in the response form, and is there a limit to the number of attachments that can be uploaded to support claims against the criteria?

There are word limits attributed to some questions and these are indicated against the relevant questions in the online application system. In regard to the number of attachments able to be included, there is no limit, but each attachment should be added one at a time.

47. Could you please clarify whether 8.3.1 (g) of the EOI requires all successful applicants to establish a new legal entity to undertake the SSO role even if their existing organisation satisfies all other requirements for governance, independence, etc?  

A successful application that is from an existing single legal entity, will not be required to establish a new separate legal entity. Where an organisation is not currently a single legal entity, if its application was successful, it would be required to establish a new single legal entity.

46. Can a person or corporate body be involved as a company member in more than one SSO bid?

There is no limit on the number of applications that can be submitted to this Expression of Interest by company or individuals. However, as outlined in paragraph 8.13.1 of the Expression of Interest, applicants who submit more than one application can have a maximum of one successful application.

45.Do you know how many industry reference committees (IRCs) will be part of the new arrangements?

We understand there are currently over 50 IRCs in place and we are awaiting confirmation from the existing Industry Skills Councils. The existing IRCs will transition to the new arrangements. However, some may be reformed or new committees established where the Australian Industry and Skills Committee is of the view the committee needs to be more representative of the industry sector, or where there is capacity to generate greater alignment between industry sub-sectors, or to bring new industry groups into the training system.

44. Do you know how many skills service organisations will be formed as part of this EOI process?

There is not a specific number. However, the EOI states that under the Australian Government’s Smaller Government Reform agenda the number of formal bodies to support training package development is expected to be reduced.

43. Do applicants need to include pricing in their response to the EOI?

Applicants are asked to provide an indication of pricing in Stage 1 (refer to Criteria 7.1, which states: 

‘…you should provide:

  • the basis of your claim to commencement costs;
  • your approach for determining overhead costs; and
  • your approach for determining unit complexity and the cost structures.)’

At stage 2, applicants will be asked for a funding structure including final commencement and overhead costs and initial training package development costs.

42. If an organisation has a preference for supporting industry to develop generic units that are applicable across industry sectors (for example around leadership, communication or problem solving skills), can they put in an application that doesn’t necessarily identify a particular industry sector?

Applicants can describe their particular strengths which may lie within cross-sectoral or generic units. These strengths would be taken into account in the same way as other preferences as we move into stage two.

41. Who pays for the business case to be prepared?

The business case is considered to be a part of the activity for training package development which is funded by the department.

40. How is the business case put before AISC?

The SSO puts forward the business case to the AISC once it has been signed off by their IRC.

39. Will the submissions to the discussion paper Industry Engagement in Training Package Development – Towards a Contestable Model be published?

No. Submissions to the discussion paper Industry Engagement in Training Package Development – Towards a Contestable Model will not be published. Submissions were received by the Department’s Consultation Hub. The Privacy Statement on the Consultation Hub stated in part: ‘Submissions will not be made publically available’.

38. Are the new arrangements about industry being better able to meet the needs of the VET system?

No, it’s not about industry meeting the needs of the training system. It’s about better enabling the training system to meet the needs of industry. There needs to be a partnership between industry and the training system if we are to ensure that the outcomes of training meet the needs of industry and deliver people with the skills that employers need.

37. How will the new system allow for mobility across different sectors, particularly if current sectoral coverage within a training package is split across IRCs?

The IRCs will play a critical role here. As described in paragraph 5.2.2. of the EOI, each IRC will develop a set of priorities and a workplan to ensure the training package content they are responsible for is current and relevant to industry demand. The AISC will rely on IRCs to provide advice on linkages within and between industry sectors as part of their strategic oversight for the industry sector/s within their remit. It will be the AISC’s responsibility to ensure that work is commissioned in a way which allows those linkages to continue.

36. Criterion 3 talks about achieving national coverage. How will the new model take account of those sectors that need to operate both nationally and internationally in terms of the regulatory environment?

Criterion 3 requires the applicant to demonstrate the capacity to operate effectively across industry sectors nationally. The intent of this criterion is to ensure we continue to have coverage across all industry sectors nationally. For some sectors, alignment with international regulations is critical and there is no intention to limit that engagement.

35. Will exemptions be considered for organisations which have multiple functions, including within the training industry?

Exemptions will not be considered at this point in time. Under paragraph 8.3.1, in order to be considered eligible to submit a response under the EOI process applicants are required to demonstrate independence, the definition of which refers to both structural independence and independence of decision making. In responding to this requirement applicants would need to demonstrate how they would manage any potential conflicts of interest in order to meet the criteria of independence.

34. Will the level of consultation required under the current Training Package Development and Endorsement Process continue through the new arrangements?

Yes. SSOs will be expected to consult broadly with relevant stakeholders, including employers, employees and the training sector to gather the evidence for change as part of a business case. Once work has been commissioned and developed, SSOs will also be expected to provide advice to their IRC and through the case for endorsement, the AISC, about whether there are exceptions or issues being raised by key stakeholders. This information will support the AISC in making decisions to approve a training package for implementation.

33. What evidence will the AISC require - and when - to commission a training package review?

The Australian Industry and Skills Committee is considering the sorts of requirements it will have in terms of an industry proposal, a business case and a case for endorsement. It is likely that some of the information ISCs currently provide in the Case for Endorsement, for example how the changes being proposed meet industry needs, may be required as evidence to support the business case for change.

32. What information do applicants need to enter into the ‘Exclusions or limitations’ section of the Industry Sector and/or Training Package Nomination Forms in the online application system?

Applicants should indicate in that section of the Industry Sector and/or Training Package Nomination Forms any industry sector, or part of an industry sector, or training package, or part of a training package, that they are not well placed to service.

31. Are you anticipating only one IRC per industry sector? For example, would the dairy industry need an IRC as opposed to one for the whole farming sector?

It is expected that the current construct of IRCs operating under Industry Skills Councils (ISCs) will transition to the new arrangements in the first instance. However, some will be reformed or new committees established where the Australian Industry and Skills Committee is of the view the committee needs to be more representative of the industry sector, or where there is capacity to generate greater alignment between industry sub-sectors, or to bring new industry groups into the training system. The Department of Education and Training is expecting advice about the current IRCs in place from the ISCs in the next couple of weeks.

30. Will the MoUs to be put in place by IRCs with a SSO have standardised content provided by the Department of Education and Training or can they be unique to each individual IRC or SSO?

This is yet to be determined by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, but it is envisaged that the MoUs would contain a core set of content, but be flexible enough to encompass the specific needs of each industry sector.

29. Will the level of SSO funding be set based on the number of IRCs they need to support?

No, as outlined in paragraph 7.1.3 Basis for pricing of the EOI, ‘Training package development funding is activity based funding that will be paid on a price per unit of competency basis for work that has been commissioned and endorsed by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee.’

28. Will the complexity of IRCs and considerations such as the number of stakeholders and their geographic distribution be taken into consideration?

The complexity of units of competency will be considered. Please refer to paragraph 7.1.3 Basis for pricing of the EOI states ‘…the assessment of complexity will take account of the level of industry engagement required to develop the unit of competency (e.g. the number of industry reference committees, industry sectors, industry sub-sectors, engagement with government, licensing and accreditation agencies, the number of qualifications and training packages affected by the unit of competency)…’

27. What is the funding cap referred to in Paragraph 5.3.3 Costs to be covered of the EOI? Who sets it and when?

The funding cap is yet to be decided by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee and will be partly informed by the advice about the current IRCs being provided by the ISCs.

26. Could you please explain the financial model i.e. how the funding will work? For example will funding be available during the development phase or on completion and sign off of training packages?

As outlined in Section 7.1 of the Expression of Interest, there are two types of funding that will be provided to successful applicants: commencement and overhead funding; and training package review and development funding.

The amount, timing and frequency of commencement and overhead funding will be discussed with applicants during stage two negotiations.

Under the new arrangements training package review and development work will be commissioned in discrete stages:

  1. Business Case to develop or review a training package. This involves:
  • gathering industry intelligence and building the case for change;
  • identifying the units of competency that require development or revision; and
  • consulting with stakeholders.
  1. Commissioning Request to develop or review a training package. This involves:
  • writing changes to the unit; and
  • developing the case for endorsement
  • managing the endorsement process including uploading it on the national register.

Payments to SSOs for work on business case development and commissioning requests will be paid according to a schedule of milestone payments that will be specified in the Work Orders issued by the department.

25. While we have a broad framework of funding and cost models, do you have a format, so that we could convert our cost structure into that format?

There is no specified format or template for the provision of cost estimates in stage 1 of the evaluation process, however, you should provide:

  • the basis of your claim to commencement costs;
  • your approach for determining overhead costs; and
  • your approach for determining unit complexity and the cost structures.

Applicants that progress from stage 1 to stage 2 of the evaluation process will be invited to provide further information. To support applicants to provide this information, applicants will be provided with additional guidance material.

24. I would like to view the guidelines for the Expression of Interest to operate as a Skills Service Organisation under the new VET Reform process.

The draft guidelines and the draft funding agreement for the new arrangements for industry training product development will be available for the second stage of the application process, due to begin in mid-September 2015. Please refer to Section 8.11 of the EOI.

23. When responding to the EOI via the online application system, can you include hyperlinks in your response?

No, hyperlinks will not be accessed or evaluated as part of your response to the EOI.

22. What is meant by “independence” in relation to the board or equivalent of a skills service organisation?

The definition of Independence in the EOI documentation refers to both structural independence and independence of decision. 

  • Structural independence refers to the independence of the board, or its equivalent, and its members. For the purposes of this Expression of Interest an independent director is a non-executive director who is free from any business or other association – including those arising out of a substantial shareholding, involvement in past management or as a supplier, customer or adviser – that could materially interfere with the exercise of their independent judgement. The EOI documentation at page 17 makes clear that the board of a skills service organisation must be structurally independent from any controlling interests in the training industry and in other skills service organisations.
  • Decision making independence refers to the independence of the board, or its equivalent, and its members from the policy discussions and decision making processes of the industry reference committees. 

The EOI documentation at page 17 also makes clear that a skills service organisation must have:

  • a governance structure to ensure that the members of its board can demonstrate they are not affiliated with, and are independent from, controlling interests in the training industry and in other skills service organisations; and  
  • governance arrangements to ensure they are independent of the policy discussions and decision making processes of the IRC.  

The expression of interest does not seek to dictate how governance is structured in each organisation. Instead, it provides a minimum requirement for independence and requires applicants to describe how this minimum standard will be met.

21. Where do applicants provide information on their additional attributes in the online application system?

Applicants can enter information regarding their additional attributes in the online application system at “Tab 10. Additional attributes”.

20. Are registered training organisations eligible to apply for funding to become a skills service organisation?

No, registered training organisations are not eligible to apply for funding to become a skills service organisation.

As specified in the Expression of Interest document in paragraph 8.3.1 Requirements:

8.3.1 Requirements

Each applicant must satisfy the following requirements to be eligible to submit a response and for funding consideration under this Expression of Interest process:

  1. applicants must show independence (as defined in the Definitions), directly or through Associated Entities, in the industry sector they have nominated to support;

  2. the applicant must not apply in the capacity of a trustee of any trust;

  3. the applicant must not be a Commonwealth, state, territory or local government department or agency of government, or an incorporated entity that is substantially controlled by such a party;

  4. the applicant must have no judicial decision against it (not including a decision(s) under appeal) relating to employee entitlements where the applicant, has not paid the claim;

  5. the applicant must not be a Group Training Organisation;

  6. the applicant must not be a Registered Training Organisation; and

  7. the applicant submits an application on the basis that, if the application is successful, a separate, single legal entity will be established to become the skills service organisation.

19. Will the successful SSO pay for the travel costs of members and meeting costs of IRCs? If not, who does?

As described in paragraph 5.3.3 of the EOI, skills service organisations will be funded to cover the costs of operating industry reference committees to a cap. Reasonable costs to non-government committee members such as travel and accommodation will be met from the funding for training package development costs. The use of online and virtual meetings will be encouraged to drive efficiency in meeting costs.

Paragraph 5.3.3 also states that the additional costs to a skills service organisation in establishing a temporary industry reference committee would be reimbursed.

Other costs of committee membership, such as members’ time, represent the industry in-kind contribution to the national training system.

Paragraph 7.1.2 of the EOI explains that training package development funding will be full activity based funding, meaning it is based on the full suite of commissioned activities, including organisational, supervision and oversight costs and board costs.

18. Is it possible to apply to operate as skills service organisation for only four qualifications?

Paragraph 2 of the EOI states that under the Australian Government’s Smaller Government Reform agenda the number of formal bodies to support training package development is expected to be reduced.

Whilst this EOI is open to proposals that may be innovative and different to traditional arrangements, it is highly unlikely that the new arrangements will feature a large number of narrowly focused or “boutique” skills service organisations.

17. Just enquiring if you have a definition of, or advice around, determining ‘Value for money’?

The Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines (Section 11, 11.1), state that achieving value with relevant money should be a prime consideration in all phases of grants administration.  Grants administration should provide value, as should the grant recipients in delivering projects/tasks/services funded by the grant. This requires the careful comparison of the costs and benefits of feasible options in all phases of grants administration, particularly when planning and designing grants processes and when selecting grants recipients. It is also a means by which officials can assure the entity’s accountable authority, Ministers and the Parliament, that resources are deployed in an efficient, effective, economical and ethical manner, while not imposing overly burdensome requirements on grants recipients.

16. Some Chambers of Commerce operate RTOs and GTOs as part of a broad range of services to members. Does this mean such organisations are ineligible to deliver SSO services?

As described in paragraph 5.3.4 of the EOI, the board of skills service organisations must be structurally independent from any controlling interests in the training industry and in other skills service organisations. The skills service organisation must have a governance structure to ensure that the members of its board can demonstrate they are not affiliated with, and are independent from, such interests.

Applicants will need to demonstrate in their application how their governance structures met the stated criteria.

15. Will you accept a company that is the trustee of a trust?

No. The eligibility requirements outlined in paragraph 8.3.1 b) of the EOI state that the applicant must not apply in the capacity of a trustee of any trust.

14. What will happen to the current industry reference groups?

It is expected that the current construct of industry reference groups operating under Industry Skills Councils will transition to the new arrangements in the first instance. However, some will be reformed or new committees established where the Australian Industry and Skills Committee is of the view the committee needs to be more representative of the industry sector, or where there is capacity to generate greater alignment between industry sub-sectors, or to bring new industry groups into the training system.

13. What are you looking for with regards to commencement costs?

The government is seeking for the applicant to identify costs associated with them establishing industry engagement networks and workflow process.

12. What will happen to the current ISCs – is there a role for them in the new model?

Funding agreements have been offered to all ISCs until the end of 2015. ISCs are being funded to continue their work to transition existing training packages to be compliant with the 2012 Standards for Training Packages.

Under the Expression of Interest process, the government welcomes applications from any organisation that meets the criteria outlined in the expression of interest. Current ISCs are able, like any other organisation, to apply to become a skills service organisation.

The government is also looking to put in place arrangements that will ensure a smooth transition from ISCs to the new arrangements. For example, it is expected that training package and support materials developed by Industry Skills Councils will be transferred to a national VET repository established by the department. The repository will act as a central source of information that includes documents and guides that will be necessary to operate the new model. Skills service organisations will have access to this repository as appropriate.

11. Are you accepting proposals from international organisations?

International organisations are not excluded from submitting an application and being considered for funding as a skills service organisation, provided they otherwise meet the eligibility requirements.

10. How was the data sourced in Attachment D of the EOI?

The data source for Attachment D is the national register for training in Australia, www.training.gov.au. The taxonomy descriptions provided in Attachment D of the Expression of Interest are the occupation and industry sector descriptors applied to qualifications by Industry Skills Councils at the time they are developed.

9. How is it envisaged that the management of cross industry skills, such as LLN and employability skills, will be addressed in the new system?

As is described in the Expression of Interest, the Australian Industry and Skills Committee will play the critical role of overseeing qualifications and training package development, ensuring Australian workers are provided with industry-relevant skills that meet the future needs of employers. Please refer to paragraph 5.1 of the EOI.

In the new model, there are two mechanisms for industry to provide advice about the skills and competencies required by their industry sector to effectively operate and be productive. Please refer to paragraph 6.5.1 of the EOI.

Issues relating to shared core components of training packages that cross industry sectors (including foundation skills) can be raised through either mechanism. Depending on the issues being raised, the Australian Industry and Skills Committee may decide to establish a specialist industry reference committee to undertake the work.

8. The current system works well – why is the Government changing something that works?

Feedback from the Discussion Paper released last year indicated that industry engagement in the development of training packages was paramount and that while the existing arrangements worked well in most cases, there was room for improvement. These new arrangements will maintain those features of the current system which work well and introduce change where necessary to make improvements as to how industry is engaged in the system.

7. When do you expect the new model to be up and running?

The department is working on a phased approach to implementing the new arrangements for training package development. We are aiming to have in place some skills service organisations later this year with the model in full operation from January 2016.

6. Please explain the meaning of ‘fluctuating proportion of existing units of competency’ at criteria 9?

‘Fluctuating proportion of existing units of competency’ relates to a changing volume of training product development and review work.

5. How will IRCs be established outside or independently of the establishment of an SSO through the EOI process? 

SSOs will be established through the EOI process. It is expected that the current construct of industry groups operating under Industry Skills Councils will transition to the new arrangements in the first instance. However, some will be reformed or new committees established where the Australian Industry and Skills Committee is of the view the committee needs to be more representative of the industry sector , or where there is capacity to generate greater alignment between industry sub-sectors, or to bring new industry groups into the training system. Please refer to paragraph 5.2.1 of the EOI.

The Australian Industry and Skills committee will endorse the establishment of IRCs and their membership. SSOs will assist, at the direction of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, in establishing IRCs. Please refer to paragraph 5.1 of the EOI.

4. Who has carriage of the establishment of the SSO through this EOI process?

The Department of Education and Training has responsibility for the conduct of the EOI process and the final selection of the applicants to receive funding will be made by the Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham. Please refer to paragraph 8.1 of the EOI.

3. What is an 'independent director'?

The definition of ‘independence’ in section 10 of the EOI includes an explanation of what an ‘independent director’ means for the purposes of the EOI.

2. Who will decide on the sectors to be allocated to SSOs?

The Assistant Minister for Education and Training.

1. Can you advise if the EOI documentation will be available at the information sessions?

EOI documentation will not be available at the information sessions. It is advisable to bring your own copy.