Daniel Wurm | 30 Jun 2019
Recognition of Prior Learning is one of the most common ways that painters get qualified or licensed. However, it has been blamed by many experienced painters for their perception that industry standards are dropping. Is RPL to blame for incompetent painters getting qualified or licensed?
With best-practice RPL the candidate must usually show that they have a minimum of 4 years experience. That means that they have had the same amount of time in the industry as someone who has done a traditional apprenticeship. The reality is that most painters who apply for RPL have a minimum of 6 years experience. That means that they have had 50% more time working in the industry on real jobs, than someone who only did an apprenticeship.
To be signed off on subjects in the painting qualification the student must have their experience confirmed by another qualified tradesperson. This is the same as someone who has done an apprenticeship.
To prove competence in the practical requirements of the qualification, the student needs to demonstrate that they can do all the required tasks, or have done all the tasks recently. The tasks and practical skills are exactly the same for students getting qualified through RPL as for students completing an apprenticeship.
The assessor must check that the RPL candidate has exactly the same knowledge about the trade as someone who has done an apprenticeship. They do this by asking the RPL student to answer the same kind of questions as an apprentice.
If the assessor discovers that the RPL student does not have all the required knowledge or skills for the qualification they must provide gap-training to the student to bring them up to the required level. For example, if they have never learned how to strip lead paint safely, they need to be trained how to do it before they can get the certificate.
Therefore, it is clear that the requirements to achieve a qualification through RPL are exactly the same as someone who has done an apprenticeship. The only difference is how the person has learned the skills. Many tradespeople learn by doing an apprenticeship, but others learn the trade just by on-the-job training and experience. If you ask your colleagues or workmates you will be surprised by how many successful and competent painters have become qualified through RPL. Many TAFE trainers have gone through the RPL process so that they can stay up-to-date with the latest techniques without having to redo their entire apprenticeship.
In view of these facts, why is there a perception amongst some painters that obtaining a qualification through RPL and gap-training is not as legitimate as doing an apprenticeship?
The reason is that some colleges do not follow the above process. Some colleges do not assess correctly. So the problem is not the process of RPL; it is the college, and how committed they are to the industry's standards.
If you are aware of a college that does not follow this process, and cuts corners by not offering gap-training, or by accepting RPL applicants with insufficient experience, please contact the National Painting and Decorating Institute so that we can report it to the relevant regulators. Together, we can ensure that the RPL process for our trade is done correctly, and protect high standards for our industry.
Of course, doing an apprenticeship is always a great way to get qualified, because it's government funded, and is usually completed at the beginning of your career in the industry. It also means an employer is committed to training their staff correctly. Either way you get qualified, choose a training provider who uses qualified and experienced tradespeople for training and assessment, and uses up-to-date methods for training and education.
Author: Daniel Wurm is a fully qualified painter and decorator, with over 10 years experience as a qualified trainer and assessor for the industry. He is currently on the Technical Advisory Group for the update to the painting industry qualification, and has helped over 150 painters become qualified through RPL and apprenticeship training.