Step 1: Applicant enquiry and briefing

An enquiry about Skills Recognition should be addressed by a trained assessor (or suitable RTO representative) who fully understands the Skills Recognition process.

During the initial briefing, the assessor briefs the applicant/s about the process to ensure that they understand what will occur and what may be required of them. This briefing may be undertaken on a one-to-one basis in person and/or in a group, or via email, telephone, using SKYPE or any of the recent technologies which enable applicants who are geographically remote to be readily contactable.

The briefing provides you with an opportunity to:

  • decide whether Skills Recognition is appropriate for the applicant (if not, discuss training options)
  • explain, in simple jargon-free terms, the skills recognition process that you use
  • record the applicant's personal details
  • step the applicant through a self-assessment if they have not already  completed onedocument the applicant's employment history (paid and voluntary), names of one or two work referees, and any current licences/certifications
  • determine which units of competency the applicant could aim for
  • decide whether the applicant will need special support and/or reasonable adjustment to the assessment tasks
  • explain the costs involved
  • outline the range of evidence gathering options available to the applicant
  • discuss the confidentiality of the applicant's records
  • provide the applicant with clear information about the Skills Recognition process. You could provide the applicant with a copy of the material in the applicant's section of this handbook along with any other supporting documents that your organisation uses

 If the applicant decides to proceed with a formal application you will also need to:

  • supply the applicant with a clear, plain English application form
  • negotiate a suitable assessment plan and timeframe with the applicant
  • consider which assessment methods would be suitable for the applicant, given the units of competency they are aiming for and their (potential) job role in the rail industry
  • inform the applicant of the appeals process should their claim for skills recognition be unsuccessful

If the applicant decides not to proceed with an application for Skills Recognition, you should advise them of their options which may include:

  1. further development of workplace skills
  2. further training
  3. alternative qualification or career suggestions

After the briefing

Assuming the applicant decides to proceed, you need to consider their application in detail, in order to determine the best approach to assessment. Thoroughly examine the applicant's work history, formal, non-formal and informal learning experiences, and any self-assessment documentation provided, against the units of competency or qualification applied for in order to identify where the applicant may have strengths and weaknesses. You will also need to consider if the applicant is likely to need additional support, and if so, how best to accommodate this.

Assessments should:

•   address all training package and key industry requirements

•   be accountable, transparent and subject to appeal and review

•   be culturally inclusive, fair, flexible, reliable and valid

•   be structured to minimise time and costs to the individual or employer

•   provide a variety of ways for applicants to demonstrate relevant skills and knowledge

In addition to this, assessment by Skills Recognition should

•   be customised to the types of evidence most easily accessed by each individual

•   be based, on an evaluation of what the applicant has done in the workplace, where possible

•   ensure that the evidence establishes the applicant's current skills and knowledge to current industry standards

•   involve practical demonstrate skills and knowledge in a real or simulated environment, where possible

•   take place in the applicant's workplace, if possible, to observe the current application of knowledge and skills

•   avoid written assessments, except where these are more appropriate for industrial or regulatory reasons

Possible assessment methods

There are a number of possible assessment methods, some of which are relatively well-known, and others which are quite innovative. The advantages and disadvantages of various methods are summarised as follows, along with suggested some mitigation strategies.

Workplace observation


Assurance that evidence is authentic, valid and current

Applicant need not leave workplace

Can illustrate competence through reference to/use of workplace facilities and resources

Necessary method for some high risk activities and roles


Applicant may feel pressured, affecting performance

Assessor needs access to workplace


Ensure that the applicant is fully informed

Allow more than one attempt and inform the applicant that they are eligible for a second attempt.

Negotiate with the employer to allow workplace access



Enables assessment under simulated degraded or emergency conditions

Enables assessment of infrequent events that have not otherwise occurred during workplace assessment


In the case of safety critical roles in rail, requires access to simulator

Third party report


Can provide useful backup

Process need not be complicated. e.g. Third party completes form or checklist


Need to confirm that information is authentic and current

Third party must be informed and credible


Request a statutory declaration, signed and witnessed appropriately


in the form of a competency conversation, professional conversation, learning conversation, interview


Provides immediate feedback

Provides opportunity to explore skills and experience in greater depth

Does not disadvantage applicants with limited reading and writing skills


Requires a skilled assessor

Applicant performance may be influenced by assessor’s style



If possible, hold group assessments. This can elicit more detail, as applicants jog memories and support one another




Can provide extensive information on applicant skills, knowledge and experience

May be used in both group and individual assessment

Familiar assessment method for some applicants

Allows for differences in learning styles


Requires writing and presentation skills

May ask for skills that are not required of the unit of competency

May not be a good indication of workplace competence

May be judged on presentation rather than content

Difficult to confirm validity


Cross check validity with a peer or colleague

Print portfolio

Hard-copy documentary evidence compiled by applicant

May include various forms of evidence of informal, non-formal and formal experience

Applicants are likely to be familiar with this approach


May be difficult to confirm authenticity

Currency can be an issue

May be judged on presentation rather than content


Check certifications, qualifications, third party reports and referees re: authenticity


electronic documentary evidence compiled by applicant


May include various forms of evidence of informal, non-formal and formal experience

Suits applicants who are comfortable working with computers and online environment

Can be streamlined through use of templates or ePortfolio software

Information can be electronically shared and stored

Minimises paper-based evidence collection


Requires computer literacy

May be difficult to confirm authenticity/validity

May be judged on presentation rather than content


Check documents for authenticity where possible

Allow for a paper-based portfolio

Point of view glasses

video camera worn by an individual to take live audio-visual footage from the perspective of that person.


When worn by applicant or a colleague, provides audio-visual evidence of the applicant performing a work activity

Particularly useful in assessing the skills of workers who are geographically remote from the assessor


Requires access to the technology

Challenge Test

also called skills test


Can include practical, written and/or oral elements

Provides opportunity for targeted testing of safety critical activities and roles

Can test understanding and recall


May not adequately assess skills requiring synthesis and analysis

Stress may influence applicant performance


Ensure the applicant is fully informed about the nature of the exercise

Allow for a second opportunity and inform the applicant of this opportunity prior to taking the challenge.