What is Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)?

RPL, more formally known as Recognition of Prior Learning is simply a skills assessment.  It’s a pathway which recognises a student’s previous work achievements and competencies in view of attaining a nationally recognised qualification.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is offered to students who currently possess some or all of the required skills within the qualification they are seeking.  Competency based training allows for the issue of qualifications based upon the abilities demonstrated by the learner, not by the number of hours they have sat in a training course.

Given this a student may at the time of enrolment be close to meeting some of these requirements, if not all.  This may be due to work experience in the field or other studies, in this case the student will not benefit from being treated the same as a new entrant to the industry.

RPL’s do not replace training; they actually operate at the other end of the spectrum, where training is not required.  RPL’s are best suited to those who may not necessarily attain value from additional training, but are seeking to have their existing skills formalised.

RPL’s in the VET (Vocational Education and Training) industry has had a bad reputation.  I constantly hear from enrolled students that although they hold all the skills and have countless years of industry experience, they would rather attend the training course than endure the dreaded RPL process.

Whilst there are providers who still operate archaic systems and processes for RPL’s, the industry is shifting towards a more student focussed environment.  Seems obvious but for many years it hasn’t been the case.  When deciding on a provider to conduct your RPL use the following as a guide:


There should be no need for you to receive and complete mountains of paperwork.  If you are suitable for an RPL this assumes that you have achieved the work required for the qualification.  It should simply be a matter of you submitting your evidence for assessment.


This is a big one, the majority of the RPL process and a fundamental reason why RTO’s (Registered Training Organisations) discourage RPL is the amount of backend work involved.  This involves mapping each of the competencies with the student’s evidence.  I have heard of many RTO’s simply shifting this workload to the student. Choose an RTO which will do the competency mapping for you.


The cost of meeting, consultation etc. should be in the fee you are charged.  Part of the reason students don’t complete the RPL is they get stuck and sometimes just need a face to face or telephone call.  Make sure the RTO is open to meeting you or making arrangements to assist in the process.


In some RPL’s it is common that certain criteria will not be covered using the evidence, or the fact that a student may actually benefit from training in a specific area.  The fee charged by the RTO should cover the cost of any gap training associated with that qualification, but make sure you ask.

3 Responses to What is RPL?
  1. Thanks so much- great insight.

  2. Please send me information on the Rpl process for the Safety courses.


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