Framework Approval and Accreditation

 

You have just finished your presentation to the client’s management team. It has gone really well, the training you have outlined accurately matches the identified training and developmental needs of their staff and the delivery has been carefully scheduled to fit around their complex work timetables.

The HR manager rises to thank you and there are nods of agreement and broad smiles all around the table as she verbally ticks off the items on her list of requirements. You allow yourself to relax and can almost hear the scraping of pens as the contract is signed. Then she adds, ‘Of course your programme has Framework approval and accreditation?’

‘Framework approval and accreditation?’ you stammer and a sinking feeling swiftly replaces the high you were just savouring. What is she talking about? The programme was developed by the best minds in the business and has been effectively rolled out across several other markets across the world. What other approval could it possibly need?

Hopefully this is not a situation you have been in but it is one that a number of my training provider clients have met as they pitch to business and industry and it has been the cause of several missed contracts.

So, what is Framework approval and accreditation and why is it becoming increasingly important to some clients? The simple answer is dollars! If your course is Framework approved and accredited the client may be able to get funding through the relevant Industry Training Organisation (ITO) to help offset the cost of the training. (Note that ITOs are not funding agencies in their own right but can access funds from central government principally through the Tertiary Education Commission)

Let’s look at how you can get Framework approval and accreditation so that you do not find yourself in the same situation as our friend in the scenario above.

Firstly what is the Framework? The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is administered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and provides nationally recognised standards and qualifications for a huge range of occupations in New Zealand.
The Framework is a modular system with the smallest part being a single standard or ‘Unit Standard‘ - this lists the minimum assessment criteria for a specific skill and is written in the form of performance objectives or learning outcomes. These unit standards are grouped into ‘Domains’ of similar skills, the domains are grouped into ‘Subfields’ of related skills and the subfields are grouped into the major ‘Fields’ of an occupation. For example the Field of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has the following subfields: Agriculture, Animal Care and Handling, Equine, Forestry, Horticulture, Pest Management, Pork Production, Poultry Production, Rural Contracting, Seafood, Sports Turf and Wool Harvesting. Each of these subfields has a number of domains and each domain has a number of unit standards.
Modular training systems are not new and the NQF was based on the Scottish Vocational Council model of the late 80’s. The basic premise of the system is that unit standards can be assembled into qualifications on a building block basis.

Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) have responsibility for setting and maintaining occupational standards for the industries they represent. They develop unit standards and put them together to form National Qualifications at a range of levels to suit the respective industries. Hence there can be several qualifications from National Certificates in Introductory Skills at level 1 or 2 up to National Diplomas at level 5 to 6 in a particular trade or occupation.

Whilst ITOs develop the individual standards and qualifications for their industries they are forbidden by law from becoming training providers. Instead they are given the task of checking that training providers are fit to offer the training standard and qualifications the ITO has developed. They do this in conjunction with the NZQA and a recommendation from an ITO that a provider is fit to offer training against particular standards and qualifications will generally result in that provider being accredited by NZQA to do so.

Some of the unit standards and National qualifications on the Framework (such as those concerned with management and communication) are considered generic and are developed and administered by NZQA rather than an ITO. Because of their generic nature a number of these standards are included in qualifications developed by ITOs.

If you want to offer training against a National Certificate or a number of unit standards in a particular occupation you must get the ‘thumbs up’ from the relevant ITO and subsequent accreditation from NZQA. However there is a preliminary hoop that you must jump through. Firstly you must become a registered Private Training Establishment (PTE). Only registered public and private training providers can be accredited to offer standards and qualifications from the National Qualifications Framework.

Becoming a PTE requires that you meet NZQA’s Quality Assurance Standard One. This means having in place a quality management system that ensures you can meet both your internal requirements for quality training and educational provision and also those of NZQA (plus those of any ITO’s whose standards and qualifications you might want to offer.) Those training providers who have been down this path will know that it is not without substantial time and dollar costs and ongoing compliance requirements.

So, what about getting your own course ‘Framework approved and accredited’?
Can’t you just submit it to NZQA, have them approve it and put it on the Framework?
Well, in theory, yes. Provided you are a registered provider you can apply to have any course you offer approved as ‘quality assured’ and you can be accredited to offer it.
(Note that Course Approval relates to the course meeting a set of criteria to ‘˜go on the Framework’ and Course Accreditation relates to your organisation meeting a set of criteria to be able to offer it.)

However:

  • Only courses of 40 credits (400 hours) or greater duration can be quality assured for approval on the Framework. So there is not a lot of point in seeking approval for short courses. (If your courses are too short to be quality assured for the Framework, seek accreditation from the ITO and NZQA for the equivalent unit standards instead - training subsidies can be on a unit standard by unit standard basis.)
  • Your course must be presented in a particular format acceptable to NZQA
  • The course must have a robust assessment strategy that effectively measures performance against the objectives/outcomes of the course. Note that a couple of multi choice tests might not cut it!
  • You will need to have an independent subject expert review the course and submit a report supporting the application.
  • You will need to get several letters of support from relevant people in the particular industry/profession the course is catering for.
  • You will need to convince NZQA that you have suitably qualified and experienced staff and sufficient resources and facilities to run the course.
  • If your course is similar in content and objective/outcome statements to an existing National Qualification or unit standards you will need to clearly justify why you are not requesting accreditation to offer the existing qualification or standards instead. Duplication of qualifications is not encouraged and several providers have been involved in lengthy and protracted exchanges with NZQA over this requirement. A great deal of public money and industry commitment has been poured into establishing New Zealand standards and National Qualifications.
  • Even if you are able to get your existing course approved and ‘˜on the Framework’ it is still unlikely that clients who are securing some funding through an ITO will want to sign up with you. The ITO will always favour funding courses built on the unit standards and National Qualifications they have developed.

Given the perceived obstacles placed in their way, many training providers have steered well away from Framework approval and accreditation. However occupations that have not had formal training systems and qualifications in the past are become more specialised and seeking to adopt structured training and certification. ITOs are capturing these occupations and expanding their spheres of influence. This in turn reduces the number of companies seeking training that is unrelated to the Framework. So the market is shrinking!

If you are considering getting your course ‘Framework approved and accredited‘ you should seriously investigate the:

  • full implications
  • time frame (which is likely to be several months)
  • costs involved (which will be substantial)
  • potential returns on the investment

If you are still committed to the idea:

  • Ensure that the course is directly aligned to the relevant industry unit standards and National Certificates so that the graduating trainees can be credited with them as well as your own certification.
  • Gain the relevant ITO’s sign off on unit standards accreditation before you go to NZQA for course approval and accreditation.

And if you want to know more contact me!

Andy Leader