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What is Recognition of Prior Learning and What are the issues? 

by | Feb 2, 2024 | Latest News, Marketing, NatHERS, Procurement and Contracting

Almost every day we are approached by current and prospective students who request ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ or RPL for short. They typically have studied something similar previously or have a heap of workplace experience.  

What is RPL?

The top of our list of FAQ’s is ‘What is RPL?’.  RPL, or Recognition of Prior Learning is an assessment process that examines your existing knowledge and skills and determines if you can get some sort of ‘credit’ for what you have done in the past. It helps you leverage all the years of experience to let you ‘shorten’ the overall process of achieving your qualification i.e. you don’t need to study online or sit in a classroom and go through a heap of materials you already know back to front. 
 
We screen every new student to determine if they are eligible for RPL. This is done by completing an online self-assessment. The results of the self-assessment will give an indication of whether you are eligible for RPL based upon how you answer. 
 
If the self-assessment indicates you are ‘eligible’ for RPL this means you have the right sort of background and experience. This doesn’t mean that you are automatically granted RPL for that unit – you still need to put together your submission! 
 
Haven’t done the self-assessment? Take me to the self-assessment 
 
RPL is designed for people with current or recent skills, knowledge and experience in the specific field covered by the unit. So, for example, if the unit was about managing risks, to apply for RPL you would need to have a few years’ experience managing risk and would need to provide examples of a risk plan and a risk register as part of your portfolio (your portfolio is just all of your documentation that gets put together for your assessments tasks). 
 
To obtain RPL for one or more unit, you need to prepare an RPL submission which involves collating a portfolio of documents and undertaking an assessment interview. If the portfolio and the interview is satisfactory, then you will be granted RPL for that specific unit. 

Why apply for RPL?

RPL is an alternative pathway to completing one or more unit. For people with experience, this means that you don’t have to study what you already know and don’t need to read material or complete assignments when you already have these skills and knowledge. 

What are the downsides to RPL?

RPL isn’t a shortcut however. Some people find that gathering the evidence can take some time or they simply no longer have access to any evidence because they have changed jobs or moved to another employer. 
  

What happens if I don’t have the skills, knowledge or experience?

If you don’t have the skills, knowledge or experience, then RPL isn’t for you. It’s almost impossible to complete RPL if you are not able to provide a portfolio of evidence or without the required knowledge. 
 
If you are not really sure, or only have some experience, or don’t have any documentary evidence to provide, you are best doing the unit, undertaking the reading and completing the assessments. You will learn a lot from this process. 

How does RPL work?

RPL is designed to minimise the amount you need to redo, and to recognise any skills gained through working. There are however a few rules that apply and a few things you need to be aware of. 

Firstly, RPL is not automatic. RPL is an assessment process that requires you to provide evidence of what you have done. Also, you typically need to answer questions, often through an interview, to demonstrate that you can demonstrate the required knowledge. The evidence needs to be recent, be your own work and meet the specific requirements of the unit of competency.  

Let’s take unit CPCCBC4014: Prepare simple building sketches and drawings which features in the CPP41119 Certificate IV in Home Energy Efficiency & Sustainability as an example. You would need to provide a number of drawings that includes: 

  • Site plan 
  • Sections 
  • Elevations 
  • A 3D drawing or render 

If you are a Building Designer or Architect then this would be easy. If you are not, you probably haven’t drawn these things before, so you would not have the evidence and therefore RPL is not an option for you for this unit. 

What evidence do I need to provide?

The evidence you provide needs to relate specifically to the unit of competency. So, for risk management for example, this would include a risk management plan, a risk register, a risk review or audit and so on.  

To make it simple, Transformed has set up an RPL system that outlines the types of evidence you need to provide for each unit. 

How is RPL assessed?

A WARNING: If you are speaking to an RTO about RPL before you enrol and they say they will automatically give you RPL without providing any evidence then this should ring alarm bells. Nothing in RPL is automatic. You need to provide evidence and this is assessed by an assessor, as has been outlined above.  

Is RPL cheaper? 

In general it is not cheaper to complete a unit by RPL. Typically, the assessment of evidence for RPL takes longer than it takes to mark an assessment that you would do when you complete the course. Training providers will usually not reduce the cost of the course for RPL. 

What happens if your RPL assessment is dodgy?

Whilst you might end up with an entire qualification or a few units completed by RPL, if at auditor finds the process was ‘dodgy’ your certificate can be invalidated and cancelled, meaning you are no longer actually qualified. This has significant implications for NatHERS Assessors and Builders who must hold specific qualifications in order to be licenced or accredited.  

What is industry’s view of RPL? 

In the NatHERS space, AAOs and the NatHERS Administrator have no major issue with RPL. Except that they have indicated that they do not accept and do not want RTOs completing students by RPL for CPPHES4004 and CPPHES5001 – the two units in which you are required to use NatHERS software to rate simple and complex buildings. 

What is the Regulator’s Review of RPL? 

The RTO Regulator – the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) – are currently targeting RPL as a priority in their regulatory activities. They have received many complaints from students and also had feedback from many industry bodies that some RTOs are not properly assessing students via RPL.   

What is Credit Transfer

Credit Transfer is quite a separate process from RPL but they are often confused. Credit Transfer involves examining the formal studies you have done in the past to determine if any of your past study can count towards the Certificate or Diploma you are currently doing. 
 
However, there are some rules that apply, which are specified by the Government. The unit needs to be the same unit code or equivalent to the current unit code (the unit code is the bunch of letters and numbers that is attached to the unit description for example: BSBRSK401A – Manage risk). The authoritative source for this is www.training.gov.au.  

This means that if you complete a similar unit more than 2 or 3 years ago then it probably isn’t current or equivalent to a current unit. This is because the training package upon which qualifications is based is updated by the government every few years and the course that you did may not be equivalent to the new qualification.  

If you are not sure, send us your qualifications and we can let you know whether you are eligible for Credit Transfer. 

I did a similar course at University – surely that counts?

Unfortunately, university courses cannot be used for Credit Transfer or as the only form of evidence in an RPL Submission. Even if you have undertaken for example a Bachelor of Architecture and you need to complete a unit in reading plans and drawings, you will need to prepare an RPL submission in accordance with our RPL Kit. 
 
University degrees and courses are mostly theoretical in nature and whilst they may have some practical component, they differ substantially to a unit that is similar in the Vocational Education and Training sector (ie what you would do for a Certificate of Diploma). The Vocational Education and Training sector is focussed in practical, on-the-job skills and knowledge, so quite often university programs don’t provide the same set of skills or knowledge that is provided through a Certificate (and vice versa). 

What happens if you want to change training providers and you have partially completed a course?

Under the Standards for Registered Training Organisations, students have flexibility in terms of where they study. Students can change training providers, if they find they are not getting the support they need, for example. 

If you want to change training providers, you need to request the Statement of Attainment from your existing training provider – this shows what units you have completed.  

You should also ask about any refunds for units you may have paid for bur not yet started. The training provider is required to provide a refund less any administrative fees in accordance with their fees policy.  

You then provide the Statement of Attainment to the new provider and they will assess and advise what Credit Transfer is available. Usually this would be the same as the units you have already completed, however, in a few instances this may not be possible due to changes in the training package if the qualification is updated. Government sets the rules around Credit Transfer (see above).  

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