To Be or Not To Be… Qualified that is [The Certificate IV in Recordkeeping journey]

It’s been a long, arduous journey. We’ve broken new ground. We’ve taken on challenges set by the industry, and imposed our own stringent quality standards. We’ve debated amongst ourselves and industry professionals on content, context, format and style. It’s taken 6 months of solid work, and now we have a Certificate IV in Recordkeeping program ready to unveil to the records management industry.

And what could make it so difficult I hear you also ask. And if it is, then why bother at all?

Let me take you on a journey.

What a qualification in Certificate IV in Recordkeeping should deliver

Not surprisingly, I believe in the worth of qualifications. Not because of the value of the qualification itself though. Yes, that piece of paper listed on your resume will enable you to meet the criteria listed in job descriptions, and open opportunities to get the job you want. However if you completed the qualification and failed to learn the skills and knowledge taught within it (and there are multiple scenarios where this happens) then you’ll find yourself unable to perform to the expectations of those who employed you. Disappointment for both parties involved.

It is the learning inherent within completing the qualification that is of value and must be the focus of achieving the qualification. Learning is described within the Australian Qualifications Framework as comprising the development of Skills, Knowledge and the appropriate Attitude. The Certificate IV in Recordkeeping as well as Certificate III and Diploma in Recordkeepingare all vocational qualifications; that is, what is learnt is directly applicable to specific job roles in the records management industry. A requirement of the assessment process of vocational qualifications is of evidence that the participants can apply their learning in the workplace; that is, participants transfer learning to performance.

Frequently the acquisition of a qualification such as Certificate IV in Recordkeeping  does not achieve on-the-job performance. Employers expect performance and are disappointed when time and money invested in the gaining of a qualification fails to deliver it. In their view the qualification is then not worth the paper it is printed on.

Our commitment as a training organisation must be to provide qualifications that deliver on this expectation of performance. The first step to delivering a qualification is gaining accreditation by the national authorising body (ASQA) to do so. We took that step back in 2009. Then, as is our approach to developing qualifications, we commenced researching the best way to deliver on our commitment.

Options of delivery of Certificate IV in Recordkeeping

Basically there are three modes of delivery and assessment available; face-to-face, recognition of prior learning and distance. All of them have their advantages and drawbacks.

Face-to-face training, delivered by a skilled facilitator, is personally my preferred method of learning, and is for many people. The practical reality in a relatively small industry is providing frequent enough delivery for people to enrol when it suits them is difficult. Where assessment is provided on the day of delivery too, it conveniently gets it over and done with. However it provides no guarantee of skill acquisition that the participant can replicate in their workplace.

Recognition of prior learning involves submission of evidence that demonstrates competency against each unit of competence. It may sound easy, but gathering all the required evidence is actually challenging and takes most people much longer than anticipated, with a high level of non-completion. If skill gaps are identified then additional training is undertaken. Most importantly, what is missed is formal acquisition of the in-depth records management knowledge. For example, you might be able to apply a disposal authority, but is there a full understanding of retention and disposal.

Distance learning is a broad description of a variety of delivery methods. It includes self-paced manuals, eLearning, webinars / videos or a blend of these. Distance delivery is frequently available for commencement on demand and no minimum class size is required. When catering for a diverse audience it is important the delivery is stimulating and keeps the participant engaged. As participants will most frequently be studying in isolation, material that is dull and dry will not motivate completion of assessments.

Training program transformation

The critical challenge for people wanting to complete a recordkeeping qualification is accessing training when they want and/or need it. Insufficient numbers of participants within local regions present a major barrier to the supply of frequent face-to-face training in this dispersed industry. Facilitator travel costs also place an increased budget burden on employers that reduces the likelihood of approval of training.

People are attracted to our well-presented RPL program, which we offered from the outset, as enrolment on demand is available. However, the reality is high non-completion due to the personal responsibility to gather evidence, as it is with most RPL programs that do not have direct assessment on the job.

In order to deliver a training program at the time skill acquisition is required, within an affordable budget, we opted for distance delivery.

We were committed to developing a program that was engaging. We usually source our training resources from what is available on the market and only develop our own when we cannot source the quality we demand. After all, why reinvent the wheel? However, it was apparent that readily available training resources for recordkeeping qualifications are poor. Each unit of competence reiterated the same information in tedious detail. The assessments were likewise repetitious and so broad in nature to lack relevance to any industry.

In the real workplace we don’t use our skills in isolation. As we undertake a project for example we may analyse information, write up a business case, make presentations to people, and manage the project to completion. As recordkeepers day to day work of providing access to records requires prioritisation of work and the ability to assess what the customer needs. This is using our skills holistically. Each of these elements is a unit of competence within a qualification, and where each unit is assessed in isolation leads to a very high level of repetition in assessment. Because distance students, although fully supported by their assessor, are working in greater isolation than face-to-face students, maintaining the motivation to complete this style of assessment is challenging.

So what did we do that makes our Certificate IV in Recordkeeping qualification stand out. There are five critical elements:

  1. Industry sector specific assessment: Local Government, State and Federal Government, and Semi-Government / Private Industry all undertake recordkeeping with a slight variance in language and practice. We’ve created an assessment program specific to each industry sector that is written in the language and standard practices of that industry. Participants benefit by increased relevance to them and ease of transfer of learning to the workplace.
  2. Holistic assessment: Assessment projects reflect real life practice. Participants build a portfolio of work to present as they complete assessments, avoiding repetition. Learning is monitored by continuous submission of stages of projects relevant to units of competence (so students always know how they are going).
  3. Contextualisation of Administration units: The qualifications include core recordkeeping units, and generic business administration units. We developed the latter specific to practice within a records unit (e.g. the type of documents a records officer writes are included in Write complex documents), whilst covering all aspects of the unit requirements.
  4. Streamlining training manuals: In the Certificate IV in Recordkeeping there are four core recordkeeping units, all of which required a foundation of recordkeeping knowledge. To avoid repeating this we’ve developed five course manuals. The first one covers foundation knowledge and assesses that. The remaining four can therefore be in-depth and focused on core content. Life is just more interesting without repetition.
  5. Engaging training manuals: The look and feel of our training manuals has always been important to us. Reading and referencing them must be appealing. This is even more important when participants are going through them in their own time. Important also to learning is ensuring participants take a break and consolidate concepts before moving on, just as you would in a classroom. Straight forward activities are structured throughout that build engagement, learning and confidence before moving to more complex assessments.

Are we proud of what we’ve produced? Certainly. I’m always proud when we’ve broken new ground to deliver outstanding quality.

Does it meet the needs of the records management profession? I believe so. This program definitely provides quality education and skills that transfer into improved workplace performance. For those who are not participating in training due to inability to access face-to-face training, gaining a qualification is now accessible.

Will you like it?

I sat down recently to enrol a group of eight in an RPL program, and at the same time introduced the distance delivery option. On seeing the quality of the content in the training manuals and assessments the manager and the group changed their mind. Filling in all their knowledge gaps suddenly became attractive, easy and relevant.

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