Naming and Shaming, Risk Assessment and Contract management

So as we have seen throughout the media over the past week a number of RTOs have been allegedly caught with their fingers in the honey pot so to speak, with a number shut down, Victorian training contracts removed from others and yet others (publicly listed) with class action claims launched against them.  While I support all of this and think that it is good to see that those providers who are not playing by the rules, or in some cases it seems even playing the same game as the rest of us are being called to account, as I have said previously

It should never have come to this!

Now I know that there will be people out there (yes Senator Lee Rhiannon I am looking at you and others) who will no doubt claim that this is all because funding was taken away from TAFE and non-public providers were allowed into the sector etc.  However that is simply rubbish!  What caused this was not competition, it was not opening up the market place, it was a complete and utter failure of a number of state and federal governments to actually manage the funding contracts they had with providers properly.  

Others will of course try to blame the regulator ASQA or its Victorian or WA equivalent, but again I am going to call rubbish!  Now it is true that the regulators may have some burden to bear in this, perhaps their risk management or auditing regimes could have been better, but lets not forget something here.  It is not ASQA who chooses who gets to deliver government-funded training, it is the various state governments.  They contract providers to deliver, they pay the money and they are the ones that are responsible for managing the entire process and making sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen.

Now don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting that the providers themselves are not responsible, should not be called to account and are not the reason this has happened.  If all providers did the right thing then there wouldn’t be this situation either.  That being said, particularly it seems if we look at Victoria, there has been a catastrophic failure on the part of the government departments to properly manage these contracts.  There shouldn’t be discussions about improving outcomes, transparency and accountability now, that should have all been done even before the contracts were ever handed out in the first place.  Did the department in Victoria not have any kind of robust monitoring and contract management processes around this, did they not look at the outcomes reports and various bits of data?

Sure it is good that this is getting cleaned up.  It is good that providers who have had their contracts removed are being punished, but maybe, just maybe the government could also think about naming and shaming the people who were in charge of the management of these contracts as well or at the very least actually making sure they are doing the jobs they are being paid to do.


Anyway that is just my opinion.


How did you get here? How did you become a trainer?

So while reading through some LinkedIn posts this morning I came across a post on how trainers are recruited, what people looked for and the like.  There was also a number of people who commented that they were having difficulty finding work in the Learning Sector, because they didn’t have enough experience, but they couldn’t find anywhere to get experience.  One of the people who posted asked how people started their career in training or learning or whatever you want to call this space in which we work which prompted me to think about a couple of things.  Firstly how I got started in this industry and secondly the differences for people trying to get into this industry today.  So first off I thought I would share my story about how I got here and then look at how things are different today.

I started in the sales and motivational training arena many, many years ago with a large financial services and insurance brokerage and then moved through a range of HR/L&D roles all with differing levels of actual training delivery, across a range of employers and industries.  A lot of it was contract work or startup work (before startups were all tech and cool).  I work in cleaning, manufacturing and distribution, project management and IT.   I had a couple of short stints with TAFE in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, while I was finishing up some university study and after having a break from working on a range of large projects including the Sydney Olympics.  Once university was wrapped up and my head had got over the horror of the Olympics, I went on higher level degree work and teaching at university. After that I went back to training, mostly non-accredited, where I was training between 1500 and 3000 people a year and managing a team of trainers, and at the same time did an RTO initial registration and start-up with the organisation I was working with.  I then moved into enterprise level L&D in government, managing accredited and non-accredited training across a range of teams.  From there I moved to the same kind of roles in the not for profit and community services sector, though the connection with VET was much more pronounced.  All throughout this though and even now I still train, in some roles there was a lot, in others not much, and now as with the last couple of jobs, I have the luxury of training pretty much only when I want to actually train.

I had no qualifications when I started, but to be completely fair and honest, pretty much no one did (I fear I am giving away my age here a bit as well) as the BSZ only came into being towards the end of the 90’s and I only got that after a long argument about how stupid it was that I could teach at Uni but not a TAFE (Yes, yes I know there is a difference).  There was also way back then, less separation between L&D and HR, a lot more cross over of skills and way less specialisation, so it was much easier to move organisations or change roles.  There was also less unemployment it seemed, but you know rose-colored glasses and all of that.  So this all got me thinking about people trying to get into the adult post-secondary training/learning industry today and whether if I was starting out today a journey like mine would be possible or if the whole thing was far more complicated now.  The other thing I got to thinking about is how I hire people today to be trainers or L&D people and what my hiring practices meant to people who were trying to get a start.

A number of people have commented that they have found it difficult to get work in the industry, because while they have relevant qualification they don’t have experience, primarily experience in training and assessment and these people have legitimately asked well how do I get experience if no one will hire me.  This is I think particularly telling on the assessment side of the picture.  The only place were VET assessments are done, are in the VET sector, so where else are you going to get experience except in the sector you are trying to break into.  It is relatively easy to get experience in delivery of training or presentation skills, but experience in assessments is far more difficult to come by.  I have occasionally done deals with people, mostly ex students or people otherwise connected with the organisation around giving them experience in assessment work and training delivery, but only in cases where the skill set they had, was one that was useful or where we needed someone to meet a particular niche need.

I don’t necessarily pay a lot of attention to qualifications though when I am looking to hire a new trainer.  I have found over the years that unfortunately too often people who look good on paper unfortunately don’t stack up that well in the interview stage.  As part of the interview process I always insist that someone who is going to be in a training role, even if it is only a small part of the role, delivers a 15 minute presentation on a topic of their own choosing, first up, before the formal interview process begins and I am always stunned by how many people who look good on paper fail at this step.  Skills and attitude are way more important to me than qualifications, particularly TAE qualifications.  I can get you up to speed and am more than happy to invest the time to get you through you TAE properly if you are good at delivery and have the right set of other skills and the right attitude.  So what do I look for;

  1. Relevant, recent industry experience (if you have been a trainer for 10 years and haven’t had any real industry hands on experience in that time I am probably not going to hire you)
  2. Good front of room skills (you had better engage me in first 5 minutes of your presentation time)
  3. Great Communication skills
  4. A real willingness to work (don’t start asking me about how much time you spend in class vs how much assessment or things like that, because you will do the work that needs to be done, and if that means you spend a week or two doing nothing but delivering training that is how it will be)
  5. Some actual knowledge of the VET sector (if you don’t know the basics of how it works why are you even here)
  6. Qualifications (industry first and then Training)

And finally it will help if you know someone who I know or am aware of, because I am going to look at your LinkedIn profile (you had better have one) and if there is someone linking us in some way who I can ring and have a chat to about your skills then that will help a lot.  I don’t really trust references that much unless I know them.

Now I can see the people who were talking about not having experience thinking well I am never going to get a job, but think about what I am interested in.  I want you to have skills in the industry that you want to train in, good communication skills and a willingness to work and what sells me in the long run is your 15 minute presentation and whether you really are willing to work and trust me if you aren’t willing to work you won’t make you first 3 months.

Two things I say to people who want to be trainers or work in learning roles

  1. Figure out why you want to do this, what is it that drives you to be part of this profession
  2. Figure out what you are good at and just how good you are at it.

Why, because this profession isn’t for everyone, I have seen so many people over the years, come and go, struggle to find work, or be unhappy with their roles simply because they never figured these two things out.


Anyway that’s just my opinion.


Would you invest in TAFE?

So I have been talking recently about the concept of federalising VET funding and what that would mean for various parts of the sector and offered some thought about how the State owned public providers, TAFE, could adapt to a funding mechanisms where they were not necessarily prioritised by the State government that owned them, and how different models might work out.  So over the weekend, while building our new chicken coop, (there is no connection, I just do my thinking in strange places), I was thinking about various options.  Given that TAFEs are state-owned entities this limits to some degree the amount of flexibility they have in terms of raising funds to be used for various purposes,  I thought to myself, if there was an opportunity to invest in TAFE would I be willing to take it.

So here is my question for the day.  If through some mechanism, share market float, private equity arrangements, or some other model, people were able to invest in TAFE would you and more importantly would you need to know or what structure would need to exist in order for you to be willing to do this.

If we were to look at the concept of an IPO or share market float, where for example the Queensland state government retained something over 50% of the ownership of TAFE and the rest of the TAFE was open for the Queensland public, or Australian public to purchase an interest in (in the form of shares), would you invest and would the general public of Queensland look on it as an opportunity to be part of the education of the state and be willing to put money into the system.

As most of you know I like to play games with ideas like this in head, so I would be really interested in hearing the thinking of other people about this little kernel of a concept.



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