You have probably heard of the term Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) before. Put simply, RPL is the process of getting a qualification (or part of a qualification) by formally acknowledging your skills and experience in that subject.

 

RecogniseME is our take on RPL. We believe you should be recognised for your experience and your skills using a straightforward methodology to gather your evidence with full support from our trainers.

 

We enhance the RPL process by ensuring you are made fully aware of the skills you have applied in your career. When chosen as a pathway to a qualification, RecogniseME can count as professional development.

 

The RPL process can be summarised into 3 main steps. These are Eligibility, Prepare, and Assess.

Key Points

Eligibility

Before you hand over your funds or enrol into a qualification via RPL, there are a series of eligibility checks which must be completed. These checks must be carried out by a suitably qualified and experienced vocational education trainer and assessor.

 

Eligibility checks typically include

  • An initial discussion about your experience and intended pathway
  • Review of your most recent CV with particular attention paid to your job position and duties carried out
  • Review of copies of academic transcripts and award testamurs
  • A formal questionnaire of specific skills related to your intended qualification via RPL
  • Language, literacy and numeracy testing (if required)

 

Reasons why eligibility checks are undertaken

  • To allow the trainer to gain an understanding of your reasons to gain a qualification and to thus provide you with the best advice regarding your pathway – including choosing units and elective units that best match your experience.
  • To ensure the qualification is at the right level for you
  • To minimise the likelihood of any gaps in your experience that may require you to undertake additional study (gap training)
    • Gap training is required if you or your trainer do not think you can meet the requirements of a certain unit. Gap training can be undertaken as self-paced learning, online learning or face to face learning.
    • It is typically up to the trainer to decide how much gap training is ‘allowed’. As a general guide, no more than 25% of the qualification by RPL should comprise of Gap training.
    • High volumes of gap training do not reflect well on the trainer for an RPL pathway and you may be advised to undertake a different mode of study
  • To identify any difficulties or gaps you may have collecting evidence of your experience. Collecting evidence may be difficult if you:
    • Do not have experience in a unit or area of the qualification
    • Are no longer in touch with a previous employer to gain access to evidence
    • Are dealing with a significant amount of confidential information
    • Do not have your name on documents that could be classed as evidence
    • Have not been working long enough or have enough experience
    • Have been out of work or for a significant period of time (months or years depending on the area of qualification) or your evidence is based on experience that happened a long time ago (again, months or years depending on the area of qualification).
  • To prepare a draft plan for collection and submission of your RPL evidence
  • Identify any gap training that may be required:

 

Once you are eligible, you typically follow a formal enrolment procedure where you pay your fees and get your student handbook.

Prepare

The bulk of ‘work’ you have to do in an RPL process happens now. Your trainer should advise you and plan your evidence collection and submission strategy.

 

Some of the activities you will do with your trainer include:

  • Reviewing the performance criteria and knowledge evidence you are required to meet for each unit of competency
  • Going through a comprehensive list of what counts as suitable evidence (and what doesn’t) in your chosen qualification
  • Providing samples of evidence from previous students (with names, confidential and/or sensitive information removed) to help guide you
  • Going through a suitable file and naming convention for submission of your evidence in accordance with the unit requirements

 

Preparing your evidence can take time, sometimes even months. Evidence can also come in a variety of forms but must demonstrate the skills relevant to the unit / qualification. The most common forms of evidence include work samples, reports, certification, records and digital media.

 

Almost all other forms of evidence are considered supplementary and it is not considered good practice for them to stand on their own. Supplementary evidence may include signed statements from supervisors or colleagues, self-declarations or other types of letters of support.

 

When preparing your evidence, you may also come across some unexpected hurdles along the way.

 

Common issues that occur include:

  • Not having sufficient proof that evidence was your own (usually through lack of your name on documents)
  • Not having sufficient proof that evidence was created/made by you (common in team-based environments)
  • Not having contact (or not able to make contact) with your previous employer(s) to get a hold of evidence
  • Being placed under time pressure to collect evidence or not making sufficient time to collect evidence
  • Internal company hurdles to use evidence
  • Simply not having evidence to show you have skills in a particular area

 

The difference between a good trainer and a great trainer is the amount of help and support you get to tackle any issues you have. Experienced trainers will do their best to identify issues in Step 1, but it is not always possible to be right.

 

Thankfully there is often scope to address gaps when evidence requirements cannot be met.

 

Some strategies your trainer may discuss with you include:

  • Undertaking an assessment to prove your skills. An assessment may be any combination of:
    • Written assessment (short, long answer, questionnaire, scenario)
    • Oral (interview, verbal test, question and answer, group activity)
    • Practical (skills demonstration, scenario activity)
  • Discussing opportunities for you to gather ‘new’ evidence based on your current workflow (usually with involvement and support from your supervisor/manager)
  • Adding supplementary evidence (like written statements) to strengthen your RPL

 

As a last resort, there is always the possibility to undertake gap training. Unforeseen gap training should only be considered as a last resort because it can reflect poorly on the trainer’s initial judgement on your eligibility to undertake an RPL process in the first place. The reasons for taking gap training must be clearly documented and included as part of your folio.

 

Once your evidence is ready and prepared in a format suitable for submission, your trainer will assess your evidence against the qualification requirements.

 

Evidence for RPL – Here is some insight from our experience

In traditional teaching or training, the student is taught and then set a range of assessments – all of which are designed to ensure that the student produces sufficient evidence that, through and learning and training, he is able to perform the prescribed tasks to the set standards. In RPL, too, your assessor needs to ascertain that you have sufficient, relevant, and recent evidence that you are able to perform the prescribed tasks to the set standards. There is no learning or training as in the traditional teaching and training. Instead, it is all evidence produced to show that you have performed the task to the standard required.

 

There is one easy way to decide if you have the evidence required and to determine if the evidence you have is sufficient and relevant.

 

Let us take Element 2 in the table of Elements and Performance Criteria below:

 

2. Develop project plan

2.1 Develop project plan in line with the project parameters
2.2 Identify and access appropriate project management tools
2.3 Formulate risk management plan for project, including Work Health and Safety (WHS)
2.4 Develop and approve project budget
2.5 Consult team members and take their views into account in planning the project
2.6 Finalise project plan and gain necessary approvals to commence project according to documented plan

It would be useful to add the words “Have you….” In front of each of the Performance Criteria. And so, for 2.1 you can read it as “Have you developed a project plan in line with project parameters?”. If the answer is, yes, then you should be able to produce the actual evidence that shows clearly and sufficiently that you have developed a project plan in line with the project parameters. And what better evidence than the project plan!

 

If you use this method and turn each performance criterion into a question, you will find it that much easier to determine if you have the evidence required and to determine if the evidence you have is sufficient and relevant.

Assess

This is where the bulk of work is done by the trainer. Your evidence must be carefully mapped against all the unit requirements.

Here is an example of the BSBPMG522Undertake Project Work.

You can view all the official unit requirements online at https://training.gov.au/Training/Details/BSBPMG522

 

Your trainer will now be assessing your evidence against the:

  1. Application of a unit
  2. Elements and Performance Criteria of a unit
  3. Foundation skills of a unit
  4. Performance evidence and Knowledge evidence of a unit
  5. Assessment conditions of a unit

 

This section should give you an appreciation for how much work is involved in assessing RPL’s. It is important to consider that most qualifications have over 8 units (and some over 20 units!). Furthermore, there is absolutely zero room for deviating from the requirements set out in a unit.

 

1. Application of BSBPMG522: Undertake Project Work

This unit describes the skills and knowledge required to undertake a straightforward project or a section of a larger project. It covers developing a project plan, administering and monitoring the project, finalising the project and reviewing the project to identify lessons learned for application to future projects.

 

This unit applies to individuals who play a significant role in ensuring a project meets timelines, quality standards, budgetary limits and other requirements set for the project.

The unit does not apply to specialist project managers. For specialist project managers, the other units of competency in the project management field (BSBPMG) will be applicable.

No licensing, legislative or certification requirements apply to this unit at the time of publication.

The trainer will have to ensure the application of this unit matches your evidence submission in full. If there is any doubt whatsoever that you the application has not been met, the trainer will flag the unit.

 

2. Elements and Performance Criteria of BSBPMG522: Undertake Project Work

Element

Performance Criteria

Elements describe the essential outcomes.

Performance criteria describe the performance needed to demonstrate achievement of the element.

1. Define project

1.1 Access project scope and other relevant documentation

1.2 Define project stakeholders

1.3 Seek clarification from delegating authority of issues related to project and project parameters

1.4 Identify limits of own responsibility and reporting requirements

1.5 Clarify relationship of project to other projects and to the organisation’s objectives

1.6 Determine and access available resources to undertake project

2. Develop project plan

2.1 Develop project plan in line with the project parameters

2.2 Identify and access appropriate project management tools

2.3 Formulate risk management plan for project, including Work Health and Safety (WHS)

2.4 Develop and approve project budget

2.5 Consult team members and take their views into account in planning the project

2.6 Finalise project plan and gain necessary approvals to commence project according to documented plan

3. Administer and monitor project

3.1 Take action to ensure project team members are clear about their responsibilities and the project requirements

3.2 Provide support for project team members, especially with regard to specific needs, to ensure that the quality of the expected outcomes of the project and documented time lines are met

3.3 Establish and maintain required recordkeeping systems throughout the project

3.4 Implement and monitor plans for managing project finances, resources and quality

3.5 Complete and forward project reports as required to stakeholders

3.6 Undertake risk management as required to ensure project outcomes are met

3.7 Achieve project deliverables

4. Finalise project

4.1 Complete financial recordkeeping associated with project and check for accuracy

4.2 Ensure transition of staff involved in project to new roles or reassignment to previous roles

4.3 Complete project documentation and obtain necessary sign-offs for concluding project

5. Review project

5.1 Review project outcomes and processes against the project scope and plan

5.2 Involve team members in the project review

5.3 Document lessons learned from the project and report within the organisation

The trainer now has to assess your evidence against EACH performance criteria without any room for uncertainty whatsoever. Again, any doubts or inability to meet the performance criteria will require the unit to be flagged.

 

3. Foundation Skills of a Unit

Foundation skills describe the language, literacy, numeracy and employment skills incorporated in the performance criteria that are required for competent performance. The trainer will need to ensure these skills are also met in your evidence.

For the BSBPMG522: Undertake project work unit, the foundation skills are:

 

Reading

Performance Criteria: 1.1, 3.4, 3.5, 4.1, 4.3, 5.1

Organises, evaluates and critiques ideas and information from a range of complex texts

Writing

Performance Criteria: 2.1, 2.3, 2.6, 3.3, 3.5, 4.1, 4.3, 5.3

Develops plans, reports and recommendations using vocabulary, structure and conventions appropriate to text

Establishes and maintains records according to organisational requirements

Numeracy

Performance Criteria: 1.6, 2.4, 3.4, 4.1

Uses formal and some informal, oral and written mathematical language and representation to prepare and communicate budgetary and financial information

Oral communication

Performance Criteria: 2.5, 5.2

Participates in verbal discussions using clear language and appropriate features to present or seek information

Using listening and questioning skills to seek information and confirm understanding

Navigate the world of work

Performance Criteria: 1.3, 1.4, 2.3, 3.1, 4.3

Recognises and responds to organisational and legislative/regulatory requirements

Interact with others

Performance Criteria: 2.5, 3.1, 3.2, 4.2, 5.2

Selects and uses appropriate communication protocols and practices to ensure shared understanding of project roles and expectations

Uses collaborative techniques to engage stakeholders in consultations and negotiations

Get the work done

Performance Criteria: 1.2, 1.5, 1.6, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.6, 3.1-3.7, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.1, 5.3

Develops and implements plans to manage projects that involve diverse stakeholders with potentially competing demands

Systematically gathers and analyses all relevant information and evaluates options to make informed decisions

Evaluates outcomes of decisions to identify opportunities for improvement

Uses digital technologies and applications to access, organise and share information

 

What to consider before pursuing RPL?

Before you undertake an RPL, you may want to consider or ask the following questions.

 

1. Which qualification level is right for me and will I have enough evidence?

The best place to start is to look at the units in a specific qualification and ask yourself if you have experience in these topics. If you are certain you do have the experience, that’s great – you are probably ready to get in touch with a trainer. You may even want to consider looking at a level higher.

 

If you are unsure or need more detail, it pays to look at the unit information in the same way we have shown in “What is involved in the RPL Process Stage 3: Assessment”.

 

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Navigate to training.gov.au by following this link: https://training.gov.au/Home/Tga
  2. Enter the code or title of the qualification or unit and click search
  3. Read through the unit requirements and ask yourself if you have evidence for that unit

 

Of course, you can also go straight to a trainer and make contact to ask for guidance!

 

2. What am I trying to achieve by gaining a qualification via RPL?

People get qualifications for many different reasons. It is important you know why you want to get your qualification before starting the process to ensure that your trainer can help you see the process through.

 

It is also important to explain this to your trainer because you may want to fund it via your employer and your trainer can help with this process also.

RPL’s are also considered a form of Professional Development and is at a cost that often fits in most organisation’s budget for individual PD. It can also be done in a group setting which is highly attractive for many organisations.

If you have been eyeing another qualification (not via RPL) it also pays to talk to a trainer to discuss your pathway and order of upskilling. In some circumstances, it may pay to do an RPL later or vice versa.

 

3. Is an RPL cost-effective and fair?

You may notice that the cost of RPL’s varies significantly across training organisations. While we cannot speak for other organisations, our cost has been set based on hourly rates and estimates we believe RPL will take for each trainer for specific qualifications.

 

For a typical qualification with 10 units, the cost can be broken down in the following way:

  • Eligibility testing: 1 to 4 hours
  • Pathway development: 2 to 8 hours
  • Setup for your industry and qualification: 8 to 40 hours
  • Assessment: 2 to 8 hours per unit (or 20 to 80 hours for a full qualification)
  • Administration: 2 hours
  • Total work: 33 to 132 hours

 

That’s a massive variance, which is why absolute care and due diligence must be taken in the eligibility testing phase. At a typical senior trainer rate of $50/hour, the cost to the organisation can range from $1,650 to over $6,500 per RPL for a qualification with 10 units.

How to incorporate RPL in Professional Development for Organisations

We often talk to organisations who consider RPL very much an ‘individual’ process.

In the last year, we developed a new trademarked program called RecogniseME that is essentially an RPL process for organisations.

 

The benefits of an organisational RPL process are clear:

  • It is more cost effective than regular training
  • There is less time taken away from work activities
  • It is easier to collate evidence in a group-based environment
  • The RPL can be enhanced with workshops and seminars on the skills acquired and practiced (almost like awareness sessions for the skills already gained)
  • The level of qualification attained is usually higher

 

The benefits of RPL have been identified and clearly acknowledged by both employers as well as RPL candidates.

 

Employers encourage RPL because it:

  • It allows fast-tracking, and this means that employees become fully competent to national standards and are more quickly recognised as such as quickly as possible
  • It allows for the quick and reliable identification of competency gaps, if any, and for appropriate training interventions to introduced quickly
  • It goes a long way towards creating a learning organisation that motivates its workforce to gain new skills and levels of competence that will turn translate into better work performance and productivity
  • It has a significant impact on the motivation and self-esteem of employees who have all the skills and experience but not the formal recognition for it.
  • The formal qualification gained through RPL then opens pathways to other education and training programs and qualifications that will further benefit the employer

 

Examples of how RecogniseME work in an organisational setting include:

  • Groups of consultants getting RPL’d for Project Management qualifications
  • Safety teams getting RPL’d with WHS qualifications
  • Administration teams getting RPL’d for Business qualifications
  • Senior Management getting RPL’d for Leadership and Management qualifications

 

The applications of RecogniseME are endless and can be blended with learnings to create very-unique qualification solutions for organisations.

Misconceptions of RPL

As we mentioned in the introduction, a lot of people will have their own ideas, understanding and experiences when it comes to RPL. Unfortunately, there are also some misconceptions that have developed as a result. We wanted to take the opportunity to clear some of these up!

 

Misconception 1: There is no work involved in an RPL – it is quick and easy

If you have read Part 1 you will now know this is false. There is a degree of ‘work’ that needs to be done to get an RPL. As a student, the time taken to complete your RPL depends on:

  • Size and complexity of the qualification (number of units and qualification level)
  • Ability to access good evidence
  • Time taken to name and place evidence in the right location

As a trainer, the time required to complete an RPL depends on:

  • Again, the size and complexity of the qualification (number of units and qualification level)
  • How long it takes to assess the evidence
  • Whether there any gaps that need to be addressed

As a general guide, most RPL’s can be completed as quickly as 3 months, and up to 12 months. Your trainer should set specific timeframes with you.

 

Misconception 2: You don’t learn anything new when you do an RPL

This depends on your individual experience.

When undertaking an RPL, you are given the opportunity to reflect on skills you have. This often serves as additional awareness of the skills and knowledge you have and how you have applied them. A common piece of feedback we get is “I did not realise the depth of skills I had and how I was applying those skills in the real world”. Furthermore, if you needed Gap Training, then you will certainly be picking up new skills.

On the other hand, there are some who simply say, “I knew I could do all that already. I just needed the certificate”.

 

Misconception 3: If I can’t find evidence, someone can write a letter to say I have the skills

This is not true for most cases. Someone saying you have a skill or have performed a skill does not count as strong evidence unless the person saying so has a specific level of authority (for example from a licencing or governing body). It can however serve as supplementary evidence to strengthen a submission.

 

Misconception 4: Anyone can get an RPL

If anyone tells you that you can get an RPL before they have gone through an eligibility process with you, be careful. There should be little deviation from the RPL process for individuals.

You can only get an RPL if you have evidence of the skills and experience that align with a specific qualification (or part of a qualification).

References

https://training.gov.au/Training/Details/TAEASS301

https://training.gov.au/Training/Details/TAEASS401

https://training.gov.au/Training/Details/TAEASS502

https://www.aqf.edu.au/sites/aqf/files/rpl-explanation.pdf/

Vocational Training and Assessment 2, Hill, Hill, Perlitz (2016, McGraw Hill)

Definition of RPL

In Australian Vocational Education and Training, RPL refers to the pathway taken by someone to get a qualification (or part of a qualification) by mapping documented evidence across to the units’:

  • Elements (essential outcomes of the unit)
  • Performance criteria (performance needed to demonstrate achievement of an element within the unit)
  • Performance evidence (ability to undertake certain tasks)
  • Knowledge evidence (show understanding)