Quality assurance of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) qualifications should be seen as an end-to-end process that applies to the conception and formation of skills as well as to the practical administration of assessment on the ground. This spans a long timeframe and many steps in the processes of designing, developing, implementing and monitoring the qualification.
Quality assurance of TVET provision can be implemented at various levels, including through international initiatives and national approaches, and at the awarding body and individual institution level. In many respects, these different levels are connected, and quite often interrelated at the national and local levels.
In the context of TVET, quality assurance generally refers to planned and systematic processes that provide confidence in services provided by TVET institutions under the remit of responsible bodies. Quality assurance of the assessment and qualification processes allows stakeholders in TVET qualifications to have faith and trust in those qualifications.
TVET Quality Assurance Systems Need to be Continuously Improved
TVET quality assurance systems need to be continuously improved and that the key to improvement is establishing an effective governance structure in which strategic leadership can bring about changes over a relatively short time frame.
For building a robust system for quality development, it is crucial to engage employers in various aspects. For instance in identifying occupational skills and standards as the basis for education and training, or inclusion/membership on decision-making boards. In general, engagement is more accessible to achieve for the standard-setting process, because businesses see standards as something they own, but it is much harder to make concerning qualifications because the industry often sees this as the responsibility of government.
“TVET comprises education, training and skills development relating to a wide range of occupational fields, production, services, and livelihoods. TVET, as part of lifelong learning, can take place at secondary, post-secondary and tertiary levels and includes work-based learning and continuing training and professional development that may lead to qualifications. TVET also includes a wide range of skills development opportunities attuned to national and local contexts. Learning to learn, the development of literacy and numeracy skills, transversal skills and citizenship skills are integral components of TVET.” 
System and Standards
The quality assurance processes focus on the consistency of the assessment and qualification processes, so that qualifications have currency, and also on ensuring that assessment meets the required standards, raising the likelihood that qualification is a valid and reliable testament to a learner’s knowledge, skills, and broader competencies.
Within any TVET system, there are multiple options for the construction of TVET achievement standards, including:
- Competency standards are statements of knowledge, skills, and competence linked to a job
- Occupational standards are statements of activities and tasks related to a specific position and its practice
- Assessment standards are statements of learning outcomes to be assessed and the methodology to be used
- Certification standards are rules for obtaining an award and the rights conferred.
- Educational standards which are statements of learning objectives, content to be addressed, entry requirements and resources required
A country’s TVET system may use a mix of these standards or focus on one or two, for example, competency or occupational standards. The critical focus of developing standards is ensuring that they are relevant and current for the industry. Regardless of the standard used, within the TVET system developers use private sector industry representation in the development of the standards, document these standards in a consistent format, and include an endorsement stage in the process. 
Examples of TVET Quality Systems
If we look to different countries, we will find different approaches and different ways to work with the quality assurance. In this article, we will show three different methods, represented with three countries. We will look into the TVET system and quality assurance in Australia, Norway, and France. These countries are examples or cases.
Australia has a Well-Organized Model for the Assessment
Australia  has a well-organized model for the assessment and recognition of skills which includes qualification assessment and identification, license recognition, assessment for skilled migration and trades recognition. A range of agencies are involved in this work including the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training, State and Territory assessing authorities and Trades Recognition Australia.
Australian Government Department of Education and Training, the Australian Industry and Skills Committee are responsible for the development, updating and quality of VET curriculum.
The formal VET qualifications in Australia fall under their respective Training Packages based on the area of study. A training package is a set of nationally endorsed standards and criteria for recognizing and assessing people’s skills in a specific industry, industry TVET Country Profiles. These are administered by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, with the assistance of Industry Reference Committees.
Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) are the formal channel for considering industry skills requirements in the development and review of training packages. Each IRC is made up of people with close links to industry. They are leaders in their sectors from big business to small enterprise and peak bodies to unions, who understand the skills needs of their area, trade or occupation. IRCs advise the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) about the skills needs of their industry sector. IRCs ensure training packages meet the requirements and concerns of employers, employees, training providers, and people seeking training qualifications.
Skills Service Organisations (SSOs) are independent, professional service organizations that support Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) in their work developing and reviewing training packages. There are six SSOs funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training. SSOs support industry engagement while remaining independent from both the industry and the training sector. Each SSO provides agreed services to several IRCs.
TVET institutions need to be accredited to teach.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority promotes quality training so that students, employers, and industry have confidence in Australia’s training sector. It is responsible for registering institutions as VET providers (except in Victoria and Western Australia which have their state regulators (Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority and the Training Accreditation Council in WA).
An institution must meet the following requirements to become registered:
- compliance with all components of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) Quality Framework:
- cooperation with ASQA—including compliance with general directions and collaboration with compliance monitoring activity
- payment of charges associated with registration
- courses must be registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) to offer those courses to overseas students on student visas
There are additional requirements for institutions offering VET courses with other licensing requirements, and institutions must be registered for at least two years before applying to deliver qualifications or assessor skill sets.
Norway is Implementing a Quality System for Upper Secondary VET
In Norway , upper secondary VET includes typically two years at school with practical training in school workshops and short work placements in a company. This is followed by two years of formalized apprenticeship training and work in an enterprise or public institution. During the latter two years, the apprentice completes one year of training and one year of work. This is known as the 2+2 model. The regional county authorities are responsible for the training.
The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training is implementing a quality system for upper secondary VET. The system aims to contribute to the provision of relevant training for students and apprentices. This includes creating a good learning environment where as many as possible to complete the training. The system aims to enhance the quality of VET by improving the knowledge of VET, making information more accessible to all stakeholders, presenting good examples and clarifying the training and legal responsibilities of each organizational and administrative level. The system is not mandatory, but it is meant to provide guidance on quality issues to the national authorities, the regional county authorities (the VET providers), the schools and the training companies. The system uses a quality circle similar to the one in the EQAVET Recommendation illustrating how systematic work on improving quality can be undertaken.
The County Vocational Training Boards are advisory bodies with responsibility for checking that VET provision responds to the labor market. The Boards’ work covers school-based study and the company-based parts of an apprenticeship. The Boards’ work is:
- the quality of the education and training;
- an adequate supply of VET provision in the region;
- guiding students.
The Boards seek to achieve high quality upper secondary education and training. They advise the authorities on the annual decisions about which courses should be offered. They also suggest on the development of vocational training and the effectiveness of the collaboration between schools and training establishments. This planning arrangement helps to support regional development and the creation of new enterprises and jobs.
The county parliament appoints members of the Boards. Although the composition varies between counties, the social partners are always represented.
In France, Training is Provided Mainly by Vocational Schools
The framework for the vocational school-based system includes a compulsory period of training in companies (périodes de formation en milieu professional – PFMP). The system leads to one of the vocational qualifications (called vocational diplomas) awarded by the Ministry of Education (EQF Level 3 or 4). Each diploma is defined by national standards that describe the knowledge, skills, and competencies that must be acquired as well as the assessment approach. 
With this system, training is provided mainly by vocational schools and includes general academic subjects, technical and practical subjects, and project activities. It also includes periods of compulsory training (between 12 and 22 weeks depending on the diploma level, which can be EQF 3 or 4) in the workplace which is assessed. These assessments are taken into account for the final decision concerning the award of the diploma. A key aspect of quality assurance is the process used to define the objectives of the work-based training periods. The process includes:
- the pedagogical team in the vocational school prepares the training programme leading to a diploma. This takes account of the official regulatory texts and existing standards for each vocational diploma. These standards define the learning outcomes which are expected to be achieved. Each diploma’s learning outcomes are set at a national level in consultation with the economic and social partners. The programme also includes the timing and duration of the work-based training;
- the VET school teachers contact employers to agree the detailed arrangements for the work-based training, the role of the employer, the learning outcomes that should be achieved, and the activities and tasks that will be undertaken by the learner. To support employers and the vocational schools, a set of guidelines have been developed for each diploma;
- the VET school, employer and learner complete a compulsory partnership agreement – this includes administrative and pedagogical aspects. It sets out the objectives of the work-based learning, tasks that will be undertaken by the learner, the learning outcomes that should be achieved and the assessment processes.
To support this process, employers and VET schools need to remain in contact and ensure there is an on-going discussion on the quality of training. There are regular visits from teachers to the work-based instructors (tutors in the companies) to support dialogue and the production of reports on the learner’s progress. These visits also allow adjustments to be made to the training when necessary.
This type of work-based training is supported by liaison documents that allow the VET school and employer to jointly check the learner’s progress on tasks which are based on the agreed objectives, and to complete the final assessment.
The Industry, the Government, and the Schools
From these examples, we can see that Quality assurance of TVET qualifications is as an end-to-end process that applies to the conception and formation of skills as well as to the practical administration of assessment on the ground. It spans a long timeframe and many steps in the processes of designing, developing, implementing and monitoring the qualification. The method includes both the industry, the government, and the schools.
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References: UNESCO. (2015). Kuala Lumpur Declaration: Quality Education and Skills Development for a Sustainable Future. Outcome of the Asia-Pacific Conference on Education and Training, Kuala Lumpur  ASEAN Guiding Principles for Quality Assurance and Recognition of Competency Certification Systems Jakarta, ASEAN Secretariat, August 2016  TVET Country Profile Australia, UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (2018)  EU QUALITY ASSURANCE, CASE STUDIES
First published in the Lucubrate Magazine October 5th, 2018