IHEA Dual-Sector Network Conference

Reflections on the IHEA Dual-Sector Network Conference: Sukh Sandhu Discusses Changes and Challenges in the VET Sector


The recent IHEA Dual-Sector Network Conference became a focal point for discussions around the evolving landscape of Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Australia. Sukh Sandhu, among other prominent figures in the industry, took to the stage to elaborate on the ongoing changes and challenges in the VET sector. This article aims to provide an in-depth overview of the conference's key takeaways.

ASQA's New Directions

The conference praised the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) for its shifted focus from a person-centered to a system-oriented auditing approach. This change aligns ASQA more closely with principles of continuous improvement and self-assurance, diverging from a fixation on mere compliance. The new direction is also reflected in the wealth of informative fact sheets and resources available on the ASQA website.

Challenges Addressed

The conference did not shy away from highlighting the sector’s challenges, some of which are outlined below:

Clear Guidelines for RTOs

ASQA has been urged to provide more specific guidelines on what is expected from Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) for each clause and standard. The need for clarity was emphasised, especially for eliminating any ambiguities and focusing on quality assurance and student experiences.

Transparency and Compliance

A pressing concern was the confusion between "best practices" and "compliance requirements." The industry seeks transparent regulations that clearly differentiate between these two to avoid issues during audits.

Flexibility in Training and Assessment

In the post-COVID-19 era, flexibility has become more critical than ever. The regulatory body must adapt to these changes and lay out guidelines for more flexible training and assessment methods.

Data Collection and Monitoring

The conference called for updated, reliable tools for data collection, replacing outdated methods that do not meet current needs for client and employer satisfaction metrics.

Development of New Standards

With new standards for RTOs in development, set to be published next year, there was a unanimous call for these to be released for public feedback before becoming law.

Other Key Discussion Points

  • High-quality training and assessment services
  • Clear benchmarking by the regulatory body
  • Ongoing professional development and moderation activities for auditors
  • Subjectivity in auditing and monitoring
  • Minor administrative issues and their implications on compliance
  • Collaborative engagement with sector stakeholders
  • Changes with High Managerial Agents guidelines and requirements 

What's Next?

ASQA representatives at the conference noted the key points and promised a revisit in future IHEA conferences, indicating a proactive approach to continuous improvement.


1. What is ASQA's new focus?

ASQA is moving from a person-centred to a system-oriented auditing approach, focusing more on continuous improvement and self-assurance.

2. What challenges were discussed at the conference?

Issues such as lack of clear guidelines for RTOs, ambiguities in compliance requirements, need for flexible training methods, and improved data collection were among the challenges discussed.

3. Why is there a need for new standards?

New standards are being developed to adapt to the evolving needs of the VET sector and will be published next year for stakeholder feedback.

4. What are the implications of ASQA’s new role as an assurance body?

This role implies that ASQA would be more involved in setting quality benchmarks and supporting training packages, aligning the sector toward a more quality-focused approach.

5. How does ASQA plan to address the challenges and changes?

ASQA representatives took notes on the main challenges and changes discussed and committed to revisiting them in future conferences.

The IHEA Dual-Sector Network Conference was a comprehensive platform that invited crucial discussions on the VET sector. From applauding ASQA's new directions to critically examining current challenges, the event presented a balanced perspective, promising a more transparent and quality-driven future for VET in Australia.

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Sukh Sandhu

Executive Director

Sukh has been working in the VET and Higher Education Industry for over 25 years. In this time, he has held several roles with RTO's and Higher Education Providers (HEP) including CEO roles for International Colleges and National Compliance and Quality Assurance Manager roles for several RTO's, TAFE's and Universities. Sukh has also worked for the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) as a Business Systems Project Official. Sukh is a Canadian permanent resident and Australian citizen.

Sukh has had extensive project management experience in risk management, compliance, administration and as a training consultant. He has extensive knowledge in government compliance standards and has participated in nearly one hundred audits across Australia and provided consultancy advice regarding ASQA/VRQA, TEQSA, ACPET, DET-HESG, VQF/Higher Education, ELICOS, NEAS, ANMAC, AHPRA, CRICOS, ESOS and ISO.

Sukh is a member of several independent professional organisations and government bodies including, ACPET, VELG, ACS, AITD, MARA, MIA, ISANA, APEX, IEEE, The Internet Society (Global Member), AISIP, IAMOT, ACM, OISV, APACALL, IWA, Eta Kappa Nu, EDSIG and several others.

Sukh's qualifications include two MBAs, three masters in IT and systems, a Graduate diploma of management learning, Diploma in training design and development, Diploma in vocational education training, Diploma of work, health and safety, Diploma of Quality Auditing, Advanced diploma of management, Advanced diploma in marketing, human resources, information technology, and a number of other courses and qualifications. He has been working as a lecturer and as a trainer and assessor since 1998, Sukh has been a vocal advocate of audit reforms and system centred auditing practices rather than auditor centred auditing practices for many years.