Transitioning from a military career to the civilian job market can be daunting and difficult. Although there are many transferable skills, the difference in the language used and the lack of understanding and education around military systems and roles, can make it hard for military personnel to move seamlessly into a civilian career.
Because of the differences in how civilian job descriptions and advertisements are written, it can take serious decoding to understand whether you are even eligible to apply for certain roles. This disconnect between military and civilian life can be one of the hardest gaps to bridge.
This is why it is beneficial to consider your options for RPL or recognised prior learning through a registered training organisation. Receiving RPL for skills you acquired in your ADF career translates that experience into civilian language for recruiters.
We’re going to break down everything you need to know about the RPL process, what it is, how it works, how long it takes, what kinds of qualifications you may be eligible for and how to start the process.
What is RPL?
RPL or recognised prior learning is an assessment pathway to be able to gain a nationally recognised qualification. RPL is offered through most universities and registered training organisations, such as CONTACT supporter Asset College.
Usually when someone wants to attain a qualification, they go through the process of studying and then being assessed for the qualification. But the RPL pathway gives you the chance to bypass this.
The RPL pathway is open to anyone who has gained the skills equivalent to a qualification through experiences such as work, unaccredited programs, or volunteer work.
The RPL pathway basically recognises that not everyone needs to study something to understand and be qualified to do it – some people learn better through doing. Or some people have experienced enough through ‘just doing’ in other spheres – such as the military – to be practically qualified but without ‘the piece of paper’.
How does RPL work?
There are many different qualifications you might be able to gain through RPL.
Once you have determined the qualifications you believe suit your skills and experience, you can use the ‘quick search’ function at training.gov.au to review the knowledge evidence and performance criteria for the units of competency within that qualification.
Each unit of competency on the national training register specifically lists out the activities you must have performed in order to meet the requirements of that unit. So, this will give you a good idea straight off the bat as to whether your skills and those listed in the units of competency align.
Once you know which qualification you would like to go for, you can complete a free skills assessment with Asset College or any training institution offering RPL.
Within this assessment, you can upload your military service records in lieu of a resume. If you already have a resume, include that as well. You can also include previous qualifications you hold.
An RPL assessor will then assess whether you should be eligible for an RPL pathway.
If you decide to enrol, the RPL assessor works with you to create a mapping document which will guide further evidence collection relevant to the qualification.
What about Sensitive Documents?
This is a concern we see a lot at Asset from those who work with sensitive or private information. RPL assessors have been able to work around this previously by viewing redacted documents or discussing in person, over the phone or via video conferencing with an RPL applicant to discuss and view documents that they cannot take copies of.
How long does RPL take?
The RPL process can be anywhere from a few weeks to three months depending on how quickly you get all the documentation back to the assessor.
Considering most qualifications easily take a year to complete via study, the speed with which you can get your RPL qualification is one the things that makes it a popular choice.
How much does it cost?
Another bonus of going through RPL instead of full study is generally the RPL process will cost a lot less than the full study process. Making it not just a quicker option but also a cheaper one.
Take for example a Diploma of Work Health and Safety is approximately $4100 through online study, but if you are eligible for RPL, the cost reduces to $2350.
What kinds of qualifications can military personnel get through RPL?
There are all kinds of qualifications available through RPL. Which qualification you should go for is going to depend on what experience you have and what direction you want to take next in your civilian career.
A lot of military personnel do well in security-related qualifications. Their training and additional experience and skills make security analysis and assessment a good fit for them. There are also government security and government investigations qualifications that might be suitable.
Qualifications such the Diploma of Leadership and Management which will suit some ADF personnel – especially those who have progressed through NCO or officer ranks. If you’ve gained valuable leadership experience, a Diploma in this field is good for pretty much any industry.
If you gained business experience while you were serving, you might want to go for a Diploma of Business. This is a good general qualification to get you into a civilian career.
In addition, work health and safety qualifications are also very popular. Having a qualification in WHS sets you apart from others and there are always job opportunities for people with WHS knowledge in all industries.
Whatever your experience and skills, there is likely to be a qualification you might be able to get through RPL. Take your military experience and translate it into a civilian qualification.
RPL will cost less, take less time and give you acknowledgment for the experience and skills you gained in the defence force.