Competency vs Proficiency – does it matter?

Competency vs Proficiency - TAEtanic

If Competency is if you “could” do the job in theory, proficiency could be demonstrated when you do the job in the real world.

Why does proficiency matter more to the public?

Would you sign up to travel on a cruise ship if you knew the captain had never driven a ship of that size in open water? Even if it was marketed as “unsinkable”?

This is why proficiency matters.

The Titanic was not the first of its kind. RMS Olympic was a British ocean liner and the lead ship of the White Star Line’s trio of “Olympic-class liners” that the Titanic was a sister ship of. Unlike the other ships in the class, Olympic had a long career spanning 24 years from 1911 to 1935.

The VET sector in Australia is more than just RTOs and TAFE (public RTOs). Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), operate in a protected bay area known as the VET Quality Framework. Not accustomed to the open waters of the VET sector, a few years ago many RTOs hit an iceberg in the form of forced professional development known as the TAE40116 upgrade.

When trainers said “this is not what I signed up for” many took to the life rafts and got the skills. Others stayed in the comfort of the luxury liner waiting for someone to save them believing it would not be possible in this day and age for a ship like that to sink.

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

No alt text provided for this image

But it is compliant, so competency is good enough!

There are 2 issues with this statement for the RTO industry when competency is assessed in a simulated or training environment.


From the TAE Training and Education Training Package Companion Volume Implementation Guide (Version 3.2)… “Foundation skills are the non-technical skills that support an individual’s participation in the workplace, in the community and in education and training. In this training package, the foundation skills incorporate the learning, language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills described in the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) , and the employability skills described in the Core Skills for Work (CSfW) Developmental Framework.

What does the CSfW say?

“…, performance is not automatically transferrable to new contexts, as the application of skills, knowledge and understandings in a new context requires an understanding of that context. Hence, an individual who has only ever applied their skills in a classroom setting will need to learn about the protocols and expectations of a work situation, and gain practical experience in applying their skills in a work environment before they can demonstrate their skills at the same stage of performance within that work context.”

Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework (CSfW)

So you can be competent, but not proficient.

And this…

“Research investigating the advantages of workplace-based education found that training providers who offer work-based education programs can also benefit from a positive reputation, better relationships with employers, and students who feel more motivated to complete their training” –

SIMON WALKER, Managing Director, NCVER.

This relates to any industry, however in this case the industry was also a customer of the training. Training for a mandatory qualification as a minimum quality benchmark, issued by approved suppliers only. And trainers with a higher qualification than the level being delivered. Yet assessment tools written by graduates of the training product would routinely not pass an Audit. The same body that approved the training and assessment strategy to… “Gather evidence to demonstrate consistent performance in conditions that are safe and replicate the workplace”

Come up with all the conspiracy theories you like about ASQA. Do you think compliance is enough for the VET sector? To “benefit from a positive reputation, better relationships with employers, and students who feel more motivated to complete their training”, particularly for assessors who were forced to do their upgrade or were told they would no longer be employed?

No alt text provided for this image

Advice from the ACCC

The first point you should know is the upgrade is a “training product”. Defined in the Standards for RTOs (2015) as “means AQF qualification, skill set, unit of competency, accredited short course and module.”

“Businesses must provide these automatic guarantees. Regardless of any other warranties they give to you or sell you.” According to the ACCC. At this stage, we are not going to get into all the extra promises (warranties) RTO gave you. We will cover this in other blogs in detail over the coming weeks.

Since 1 January 2011, the following consumer guarantees on products and services apply. You be the judge if these have been met in your case…

Products must be of acceptable quality, that is:

  • safe, lasting, with no faults
  • look acceptable
  • do all the things someone would normally expect them to do.

Acceptable quality takes into account what would normally be expected for the type of product and cost. (see the VET Quality Framework for more information on Training product quality)

Products must:

  1. match descriptions made by the salesperson, on packaging and labels, and in promotions or advertising
  2. match any demonstration model or sample you asked for
  3. be fit for the purpose the business told you it would be fit for and for any purpose that you made known to the business before purchasing
  4. come with full title and ownership
  5. not carry any hidden debts or extra charges
  6. come with undisturbed possession, so no one has a right to take the goods away or prevent you from using them
  7. meet any extra promises made about performance, condition and quality, such as lifetime guarantees and money-back offers
  8. have spare parts and repair facilities available for a reasonable time after purchase unless you were told otherwise.

Even if it is not called a product, quality services must:

  1. provided with acceptable care and skill or technical knowledge and taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage
  2. fit for the purpose or give the results that you and the business had agreed to
  3. be delivered within a reasonable time when there is no agreed end date.
No alt text provided for this image

Lack proficiency? Who to claim a remedy from…


You can claim a remedy from the retailer if the products do not meet any one or more of the consumer guarantees, with the exception of the availability of spare parts and repair facilities.

The remedies you can seek from the retailer who sold you the product include a repair, replacement, or refund and in some cases compensation for damages and loss.

The retailer can’t refuse to help you by sending you to the manufacturer or importer. In the case of the TAE training product, the IP is owned by the Commonwealth of Australia. An RTO may send you to talk to ASQA as the training industry regulator acting for the manufacturer. ASQA also approved the retailer (the RTO) to sell the RTOs adjusted version of the training product.

ASQA can be reached between 9.00 am and 7.00 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST), Monday to Friday at 1300 701 801. Or via email at And if you are an industry expert, you can use the same content details to talk to ASQA about what you can do about RTOs stealing your IP and using your free online advice as training content for RTO courses. It’s not fair dealings if you are out of pocket

You can claim a remedy directly from the manufacturer or importer if the goods do not meet one or more of the following:

consumer guarantees:

  1. acceptable quality
  2. matching description
  3. any extra promises made about such things as performance, condition and quality
  4. repairs and spare parts – the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that spare parts and repair facilities (a place that can fix the consumer’s goods) are available for a reasonable time after purchase unless you were told otherwise. How long is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the type of product.

You are only entitled to recover costs from a manufacturer or importer, which include an amount for the reduction in the product’s value and in some cases compensation for damages or loss.


You can claim a remedy from the supplier if the services do not meet any of the consumer guarantees in relation to services. Remedies include cancelling a service and in some cases compensation for damages and loss.

No alt text provided for this image

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex … it takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction – Albert Einstein

What can you do about your situation?

You can ask a business for your preference for a free repair, replacement, or refund, but you are not always entitled to one.

For example, consumer guarantees do not apply if you got what you asked for but simply changed your mind, found it cheaper somewhere else, decided you did not like the purchase or had no use for it. If you think you didn’t have use for your TAE upgrade for the last 2 years because your employer told you that you didn’t need to use it, and you have not been “development and/or delivery of training and assessment products and services” you may not have a claim. But if you have been doing that… keep reading.

If you have a minor problem with a product or service, the business can choose to give you a free repair instead of a replacement or refund. When you have a major problem with a product, you have the right to ask for your choice of a replacement or refund. For a major problem with a service, you can choose to receive compensation for the drop in value below the price paid, or a refund.


If the problem with a product or service is minor, you must accept a free repair if the business offers you one.

If the business fails to give you a free repair within a reasonable time or cannot fix your problem, you can:

  • get it done elsewhere and pass on the costs to the business
  • ask for a replacement
  • ask for a refund
  • recover compensation for the drop in value below the price paid.

Replacements and refunds

You can ask for a replacement or refund if the problem with the product is major.

Replaced products must be of an identical type to the product originally supplied. Refunds should be the same amount you have already paid, provided in the same form as your original payment.

The business may take into account how much time has passed since you bought the product considering the following factors:

  • type of product
  • how a consumer is likely to use the product
  • the length of time for which it is reasonable for the product
  • the amount of use it could reasonably be expected to tolerate before the failure becomes noticeable.

For a major problem with services, you can cancel the contract. And obtain a refund. Or seek compensation for the drop in value of your services provided compared to the price paid.

Were you told your TAE40116 or Upgrade would make for competent or proficient when you signed up for the course? Comment below, but I’m going to bet you were just told you needed to be competent to keep your job, so is that all you expect from your students?