Branding Vocational Education – Connecting L&D and VET

So today in my continuing series of pieces on connecting the Vocational Education and Learning and Development communities I wanted to talk a little about brand.  Now I have spoken about the VET Brand before and the need for us to ensure that the VET Brand in this country is a strong and vibrant one, that is both attractive and well-respected.  Now given the current climate and negative press that has been circulating around the sector it seems an appropriate time to talk about it again, all be it from a completely different angle.  Before I go any further however, last time I talked about this there was a number of people from the public provider side of the fence who shouted to it shouldn’t be about brand, it was education and just providing people with a quality education was what was required, almost as if everything else would then simply take care of itself.  As I said then however, in my mind learning is a business, a business which is worth in excess of $150 Billion worldwide and if we don’t start treating the vocational education sector as a business then we will see it eroded on a range of different fronts and despite calls to the contrary brand and the value and perception of that brand are vital ingredients in the equation.

So what do I mean?  Well if we look at the example of Prince2, which I have talked about before as well; why would an organisation or an individual choose to spend $3000 on a Prince2 course when they could spend the same amount and get a certificate IV or even a diploma of project management through the Australian VET system?  While as some commentators have rightly pointed out, part of the reason has to do with the time frames associated with the completion of the program, however one of the other significant reasons behind this choice is BRAND.  Prince2 is a powerful brand, it is an internationally recognised and accepted certification of knowledge of the Prince2 project management methodology.  It is a ‘requirement’ for employment in an ever-increasing range of government and public service positions, as well as in the private sector, so strong in fact is the brand that often experienced project managers with degree level study in the field, find it difficult to obtain roles without it.

So given the choice of sending your staff or yourself to a certificate IV in project management or on a Prince2 course, which one would you choose?

Now we can was lyrical about the quality of outcomes and education in the VET sector.  We can discuss at length, how it should be structured, what components it needs, whether it should focus on immediate job role skills or knowledge for future roles, BUT if there are no students there is no VET sector.  If organisations choose international qualifications and programs over our home-grown accredited training system, then we won’t have to worry about who pays for TAFE infrastructure costs or how much profit is being made by gigantic private RTO’s because there wont be any students and there won’t be a vocational education sector.  Now I am being a little melodramatic here, but sometimes we need to realise that without students there isn’t sector and if students see more value in doing a certification from an American or European training organisation, because it has a stronger brand or is better recognised, and employers and organisations see it the same way, then the value of our sector will continue to erode.

Of course I can hear the cries now;

  • It’s the private RTO’s that are the problem, get rid of them and give it all back to TAFE, everyone trusts TAFE,
  • If only the Training packages were more flexible that would solve all of the problems,
  • TAFE is so inflexible, they make it hard for everyone,
  • The ISC’s cause all the problems they take so long to update anything,
  • If the government didn’t stop changing the rules things would work much better,
  • and so on.

Guess what, it doesn’t matter.  All this arguing is doing is hurting the VET brand.  It is making organisations and individuals less likely to choose a VET program over some other program with a better brand and stronger, cleaner reputation.  We need to pull our socks up, all of us.  We need to stop thinking that what matters to organisations are completion rates, and free or heavily subsidies training or full qualifications, or whatever else it is we are worrying about today.  Organisations care far more about what the training their staff do means to their day-to-day business than they do about subsides and completion rates or pretty much anything else.  If the only reason someone is going on a training course is because it is free or almost free, you can bet the organisations perceived value of that course is fairly low.  If we want this sector to be strong, vibrant and to provide for the needs of organisations and individuals now and into the future, we need to build a brand that both organisations and individuals view as valuable as worthwhile and as meeting real business needs and actually providing some real tangible return on investment.

Anyway that’s my opinion.


Paul can be contacted through his website  Rasmussen Learning Solutions



About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

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