Regulation case file

Hypothetical stories told from the employer's perspective to help you understand common problems and solutions.

​The automotive workshop owner

man with checklist while mechanics work in backgroundGary is a trained mechanic who owns and operates a medium-sized auto repair workshop in Melbourne. He employs a team of six mechanics to keep up with the busy work schedule.

One day Gary gets a call from a registered training organisation (RTO). The RTO asks Gary if he's interested in supporting his staff to achieve their Certificate III in Automotive Electrical Technology. The RTO tells Gary it's a great way for him to make some extra money through government incentives, and to help make his business more attractive to customers.

It sounds like a win-win scenario. Gary suspects it might be too good to be true, but he decides to ask his employees if they are interested.

Three employees say yes. All three are already qualified automotive mechanics but they tell Gary the extra electrical qualification would help their careers.

The RTO calls back the following week and asks Gary if he's had time to think it over.

Gary says three of his employees are interested and asks what the next steps are.

The RTO arranges a time to come down to the workshop, meet Gary and his employees and explain a few things.

In the meeting with the representative from the RTO, Gary feels a little rushed. The RTO quickly explains that the program will take between three and four years for each employee to complete and outlines how much government funding Gary and his employees will receive along the way. The representative says signing up is easy and there's nothing to worry about. The training will be paid for by the government, his employees will get to stay on their current wages, and Gary will get some incentive payments from the government upon starting and completing.

Gary's employees are keen to proceed. Gary is not so sure, but he could use the money. Reluctantly, he agrees to proceed. As the final step of the process, the RTO sets up an appointment between Gary, his employees, and an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) provider. In this meeting Gary signs a training contract between himself and each of his employees. The RTO says this is just a formality.

hands working on car electronics

A few months later, Gary gets a call from a VRQA authorised officer. They want to make a time to visit his workshop to meet with him and his employees. Gary asks what the visits are about. The VRQA authorised officer tells him they are investigating a spike in automotive electrical apprenticeships in Victoria. The visit will be to check that Gary and his employees are meeting the requirements of their training contracts.

Gary tries to remember if the RTO explained the requirements to him. He cannot clearly recall.

Later that month, the VRQA visits his workshop. After interviewing Gary and his employees, the VRQA tells Gary there are problems.

The VRQA is concerned the training contracts are not being met because Gary is failing to provide the apprentices:

  • adequate on-the-job training
  • proper supervision by a qualified auto electrician
  • suitable work related to automotive electrical technology
  • appropriate tools and equipment
  • release from their normal working duties to attend structured training.

The VRQA authorised officer asks Gary if he was aware that these were requirements of the training contracts he signed with his apprentices. At this point Gary realises he had not fully understood he was initiating formal apprenticeships with his employees. Based on his conversations with the RTO, Gary thought he was simply signing his existing mechanics up to a training program that would recognise their on-the-job skills and award them an additional qualification. He did not realise he was signing important contracts and taking on new responsibilities.

In the months that followed, the VRQA cancelled the training contracts Gary had entered with his employees. Gary's business also lost its approval to train automotive electrical apprentices in future. Finally, Gary was ordered to pay back some the government funds he had received for entering the contracts.

The RTO faced legal action and had limitations placed on its ability to operate.