There has been much of late regarding Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and the Certificate IV in Building and Construction and Diploma courses they offer.

The prescribed qualifications to obtain Building Practitioner Registration in Victoria, requires a degree, diploma or associate diploma in building from a university or TAFE college together with the right amount of experience.  Applicants with these prescribed requirements will also be required to pass a further examination by the Building Practitioner Board Assessors.

Contrary to popular belief, a Certificate IV in Building and Construction is not a prescribed qualification to obtain building registration in Victoria. Nor is it a prescribed qualification listed in the Building Regulations 2006 (Regulations) for the Domestic Builder-Unlimited class or indeed any other class.

A Certificate IV in Building and Construction is an absolute advantage to any person in the industry wishing to upgrade their knowledge of the industry and its trends and to learn more technical aspects of the building process. We often hear stories of people being advised that the only way they can become a registered building practitioner is to do a Certificate IV in Building and Construction and once completed, they will achieve their registration.  This is, in fact, not the case.

Concerns have been raised by a number of people advising us they had been informed that they couldn’t get their registration without the Certificate IV in Building and Construction, meaning they were encouraged to enrol in a course they may not necessarily need or even want to do.

Often we are approached by a conscientious young person, just out of apprenticeship, who has done the Certificate IV in Building and Construction, only to discover he/she is nowhere near experienced enough to apply to become a registered building practitioner. After many months of study and dollars spent, it is disheartening for them to learn that the information provided to them was incorrect and they may need to provide proof of at least three or four years’ experience post apprenticeship to apply to become a registered building practitioner relevant to their chosen category of registration.

As the media have outlined of late, the increased funding to private RTOs across the board are of concern to the industry. Some are using scare tactics and enticements to encourage people to undertake courses for reasons that are not in the best interests of the student.

Some Certificate IV courses in Building and Construction have been reduced in time to such an extent that it is sometimes impossible for students to achieve the required learning outcomes as prescribed in the syllabus. Some RTOs are receiving funding on student enrolment and a second round when students successfully complete the course. In a number of cases, we are aware of assignment answers being provided to students to assist them to complete the units of competency.

The other matter which should be of great concern to the industry is that some RTOs use trainers whose whole role in the classroom is to instruct students to read the text books in class and complete the exercises at home with no consultation or instruction from the trainer. Some trainers have no experience whatsoever in the subject matter and therefore are unable to address students’ questions.

While we acknowledge that the majority of RTOs do a thorough job and their trainers are well resourced and educated, it is of some concern that the rise of ‘fast-track’ RTOs are affecting those quality providers and additionally affecting current and future funding models.

The outcome of students undertaking these ‘fast-track’ courses without adequately learning enough to perform responsibility on site has an effect on all areas of the industry.

A recent study from the Australian Education Union called for major reforms to the sector. The National Audit Office has also acceded to a request that a performance audit be carried out on unscrupulous operators. We await the outcome of these two initiatives.

  • The "dumbing down" of the construction industry has been in progress for years. In the ACT, where there are over 1,000 'A' Class (the highest standard) Builder's Licences on issue (in a population of less than 400,000) and where "Quickie Brickie" courses have proliferated regularly to "respond" to trade shortages, shortcuts to qualifications and licences (practitioner registration) have been the norm. Once upon a time the highest standards of qualification or licence were reserved for those who knew and displayed excellence in what they did. Now you can almost find them in the Corn Flakes packet any morning…. and we wonder why building standards have fallen so low!

    • I am currently completing a certificate IV in building and construction through Master Builders Association and have found they are very competent and thorough with all their courses and have found them more than satisfactory throughout the process

      In Victoria there is 20,000 registered building practitioners with approximatley 50,000 new homes built annually and 30% of all building permits granted being to owner builders so the actual RTOs providing the proper training like MBAV are providing courses of a high standard

      Building standards have certainly changed over the years for the better and the worse but this is for various reasons some being volume builders , design changes , owner builders, non registered builders and tradespeople with minimal construction or business experience including all OHS responsibilities

      I would like to think that most RTOs are doing the right thing above and beyond what is required as my experience has been very positive

  • Andrew Heaton
    Industry Journalist
    2 years, 8 months ago

    This is a big area of concern. In 2013/14, around three quarters of RTOs audited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority were unable to demonstrate compliance with the core standard which defines acceptable standards and practices regarding training quality, and I have heard stories of people getting their qualification whilst having hardly any practical experience on a building site.

    All this will lead to people on site who neither have the skills nor the knowledge or experience to perform the job properly or safely.

  • Welcome to my world. Nearly every day I receive calls asking me about a Cert IV building courses and seeking my view on its appropriateness for career advancement. The AIB has offered accreditation to the TVET sector for years but not surprisingly very few providers take up our offer. One has to wonder why – I suspect it’s because if we were to review their program for accreditation we'd more likely than not reject the whole thing. Cert IV programs have their place but they should not in any way shape or form be the requirement for a building license. When I put this to a very Senior Minister of the previous Federal Government, during the time of the National Occupational Licensing Authority, I was told that to raise the academic entry point for a builder’s license was a barrier to entry. Too right mate! That's exactly what it is and what the industry needs. I question the motives of regulators – are they focussed on increasing the number of skilled practitioners or just after the $$ from license fees and to meet demand at the expense of quality? RTOs are proliferating because building regulators are giving them the green light to do so at the expense of the industry.

    • Agreed Robert.

      We need better skilled people with a mix of qualifications and experience. Qualifications are not enough. You don't learn to drive from a book, so why should you be able to be a builder/tradie by completing a course? Do the course, get some appropriate experience, then get your license.

    • Like he said…..

  • Brendan thanks for sharing your experience, you raise a very valid point. It's generally accepted that the current market leading (for quality) RTO's for construction courses in Victoria are the industry associations, HIA & MBAV, and the major TAFE's. This is due to the resources they have available, access to experts in all fields and proven success over many years of training. If our clients are seeking recommendations on construction training courses, they are who we recommend. It's the proliferation of RTO's without adequate industry knowledge and receiving large amounts of Government funding which have allowed them to run sub-standard or fast-tracked courses that we believe are the issue. If any RTO sells their Certificate IV in Building & Construction course to a student as a prerequisite for obtaining a building licence in Victoria then they are misleading the student and this is happening far to often. Good luck with the course Brendan, I'm sure it will help you achieve your goals.

    • Hello Nick,
      Thank you for your wishes as it is appreciated, unfortunately where government subsidies and monetary incentives are involved there will always be present people or organisations looking for a cash grab regardless of their responsibilities and this happens in all walks of life and in this case i would like to think it is a minority giving reputable RTOs and bad name

      Although certificate 1V building/construction is not a prerequisite it is recommended in most cases and RPL ( recognised prior learning) is also taken into account as i know of people who have been granted registration with and without a certificate 1V due to their working history within the industry

      Once again i stress that this course is of benefit to most people if conducted correctly as i personally have been involved in the building industry for 25 years employing large staff numbers/tradesman and apprentices, sub-contractors and will walk away from course the better for it

  • After a lifetime as a Building Practitioner and part time TAFE & Uni teacher i have observed a steady decline in the standard of knowledge pertaining to an educational level.
    Soon it will be necessary to hold a Doctorate to screed concrete.
    Anyone wanting to advance in the Building Industry must carry a certain level of knowledge, and that knowledge consolidated by a measure of experience.
    The only 'fast tracking' is when the student studies 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    Anyone can study at any RTO, but if the knowledge in not imparted, both the employer and the new employee will realise by about 2pm on the first day that its all been a terrible waste of time and money.

Lovegrove Solicitors – 300 x 250 (expires Dec 31 2017)