Occupational licensing overview
This information provides an overview of occupational licensing in Australia. It explains the relationship between occupational licensing and VET.
What is occupational licensing?
Key licensing terms and concepts
How does occupational licensing relate to vocational education and training?
What are the distinctions between training for licensing and vocational purposes?
An occupational licence is any form of regulation that restricts entry to an occupation or profession to people who meet requirements stipulated by a regulatory authority.
Occupational licensing reflects Australia's strong commitment to ensuring that public risk from industry conducting their business operations is limited as much as possible. Occupational licensing is one of the most effective and easily recognisable legislative and regulatory controls that governments have at their disposal to control public risk.
Occupational licensing is enforced to mitigate a wide range of public risk factors such as:
- public health and safety
- occupational health and safety
- consumer protection
- environmental protection.
The restrictions enforced by occupational licensing ensure people who work in occupations or professions deemed as having a public risk meet the determined competency and non-competency requirements which reduce the public risk factors for that particular industry or occupation.
Historically, occupational licensing legislation and regulation has been done on state by state and industry by industry basis. The result has been that occupational licensing requirements vary in each state and territory and vary from industry to industry.
In some cases the occupational licensing requirements for particular industries and occupations are similar across the country while in other instances only a small number of states might have occupational licensing or regulatory requirements for a particular industry.
Currently industry regulators in each state and territory oversee compliance with industry occupational licensing requirements. These regulators manage and monitor the application of these requirements, stipulating whether workers need to obtain a licence or licences in order to work in their chosen industry.
The Council of Australia Governments has recognised how the state by state nature of occupational licensing impacts on workforce mobility and increases the regulatory burden for industry and business. To help alleviate some of these burdens and create a more seamless national occupational licensing environment, COAG has implemented major reform in this area.
The licensing systems uses a range of terms, abbreviations and acronyms with some of important licensing terms explained below.
- An occupational licence is any form of regulation that restricts entry to an occupation or profession to people who meet competency-related requirements stipulated by a regulatory authority. This includes any physical or implied licence, registration, certification, approval or permit required by someone to gain employment, including self-employment.
- A physical occupational licence is a licence physically issued by a licensing authority as evidence that the holder has satisfied licensing requirements. Examples include driver licences, national certificates of competency and crowd controller licences.
- In the case of an implied occupational licence no physical licence is issued by a licensing authority. Instead workers must meet certain skill-related standards set by a regulator (usually through legislation) to perform in a particular occupation.
For example, hairdressers in New South Wales must meet certain criteria to be eligible to practise. In New South Wales a Certificate III in Hairdressing is an implied occupational licence. The certificate is a qualification from the Hairdressing Training Package which was developed by the hairdressing industry and is recognised by all state governments as meeting national hairdressing competency standards. A certificate holder has satisfied the regulator's requirements and is eligible to practise.
- Embedded occupational licences refer to any occupational licensing requirement assumed or implied within a business licensing regime. For example, a condition of a child care centre business licence is that employees have specific qualifications for their jobs. These qualifications are a form of embedded occupational licence.
- Under a negative licensing regime, individuals who satisfy the relevant regulatory requirements are allowed to work in an industry. Anyone who does not meet the regulatory requirements is excluded from the industry. Breaches of the industry performance conditions can also result in exclusion.
The Licensing Line News glossary has more licensing and vocational education and training definitions.
Meeting competency-related requirements is often a key component a regulatory authority will use to determine a person's suitability for an occupational licence.
Depending on the licensing requirements stated in the legislation or regulations, an industry regulator may require a prospective entrant to have:
- an AQF qualification from a training package or accredited course
- completed certain units of competency from a training package or accredited course
- completed training and assessment requirements set by the regulator which may not be based on nationally endorsed or accredited training.
In this way there are close linkages and synergies between training and assessment to meet occupational licensing requirements and vocational education and training. However, while that is the case, it is important to recognise the distinction in purpose between the two.
The purpose of training and assessment undertaken for occupational licensing requirements is different to the purpose behind the delivery of vocational education and training meets training package requirements which result in a qualification outcome.
Regulatory bodies are primarily interested in ensuring that an applicant for an occupational licence can demonstrate that they meet the minimum standards outlined in the regulations. Those requirements often include other factors beyond skills competency including:
- suitability of character
- current financial situation
- level of experience.
While the industry and licensing competency level requirements may intersect for some licenses, in general, the competency standard expected or assessed by the regulator will often not extend beyond operational safety and public risk reduction.
Depending on the occupational licence, the regulator is not concerned with whether the applicant can meet the industry determined competency levels stated in training packages before they award a licence.
For example, if someone applied for a licence to operate a machine, the primary criteria the licensing/regulatory body will follow is whether the applicant can operate the machine in a safe and effective manner. On the other hand an employer will need evidence that the operator can use the machinery with the precision expected to meet industry, employer and customer standards.
This page was generated on 04 March, 2011