Proposed national licensing rules for real estate agents, released last week, have sparked robust debate amongst industry professionals, particularly around the absence of continuing professional development (CPD) requirements.
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) released its Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on national licensing for the real estate industry, which is due to take effect on July 1 next year.
As part of the proposed new rules, which are currently open for industry feedback, CPD would not be a requirement of a national license for property-related professions. Furthermore, diploma-level education would no longer be required for a full real estate agent licence.
This news sparked a robust exchange of views on www.rebonline.com.au, with a number of people questioning the validity of CPD requirements, particularly when courses are of a short time frame or contain material lacking educational merit.
“I think the national licensing system is a great idea but … I also think that a CPD system should be in place too,” said Larry Nelson. “For some agents, it is the only form of training they get."
“Ideally, some specific standard of CPD training should be set so that it is not just a turn up and copy out the given answers system, as seems to be the case now.”
Jorden added the following comment: “I think national licensing is fantastic and CPD is important but it needs to be a more challenging and relevant process, than just simply handing over cash. I'd like to think all the money that I spend on training is actually educating me.”
CPD is currently mandatory for real estate agents in NSW, WA, Tas and the ACT.
Peter Ford, director at Qld-based Complete Property Training, told Real Estate Business that while he was pleased that, under the RIS, the full license requirement would rise in Qld, from 19 units of competency to 21 units, he would have preferred it to increase to 24 units. This would have made it a full Cert IV qualification, thus enabling principals to apply for traineeships that mean they can employ budding principals on lower salaries, while obtaining a $4,000 government subsidy.
The extra units would also take the licensing requirements closer to the diploma-level standard that already exist in some states.
He also would like to see CPD as an annual license requirement, provided courses are delivered by Registered Training Organisations (RTO).
“RTOs take CPD very seriously,” he said. “They are also regularly audited, and can be deregistered at the drop of a hat if they don’t deliver the training services they’ve promised.” Mr Ford said the rate of legislative change alone necessitated the need for an annual CPD-related component of national licensing.
Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) president Pamela Bennett agreed. “The key to providing a low-risk professional service to home buyers is through a high level of initial qualification and through compulsory ongoing professional development to maintain these standards and to keep abreast of the changing regulatory environment that agents operate in”, she said last week.
George Rousos, director at NSW-based Industry Training Consultants, conceded that some agents had told him that much of the CPD training available “is not of a high standard”.
“Although, others have said the training delivered by some providers was very good and beneficial,” he added. “Overall, CPD needs to stay, making it necessary for practitioners to keep up-to-date with the constant changes happening in the industry, among other things, business skills, new editions of codes, amended legislation, evolving industry practice and heightened consumer expectations,” he said.
In a submission to the Licensing Task Force, Mr Rousos said he was “perplexed” by the decision to deregulate mandatory continuing professional development in NSW, WA, Tas and ACT.
“If anything, it [CPD] should be regulated and a mandatory requirement in each state of Australia,” he said in his submission. “The ongoing CPD training is a critical component to training and education, as it is aimed at maximising consumer protection outcomes, maintaining public confidence by ensuring that agents are continually updating their skills and reducing disputes within the property industry.”
Mr Rousos added that it was his interaction with agents in CPD courses that helped him identify areas of marketplace concern.
“It is this feedback derived from CPD classes that has assisted the NSW Office of Fair Trading, in considering a set of compliance standards to form part of a requirement of national licensing in NSW or other regulatory approaches that may involve the Australian, Securities and Investment Commission in the future.”