During the journey of growing Excel Consulting it has been suggested to me: Why we are not an RTO? (a Registered Training Organisation). This would allow Excel Consutling to offer nationally accredited courses, access VET Fee HELP students, increase prices and make great profits. While learning about RTOs over the years through information gathered by research, the media and anecdotally, I have become less encouraged to seek RTO status and I am happy not to have that label attached to our company.
What are RTO’s?
My understanding of RTO’s is that they provide vocational level courses and qualifications to job seekers to help them find pathways to employment or to provide qualifications for people in employment to perform certain roles. To become an RTO you need to pass a long and rigorous assessment process (up to 9 months and costing over $50,000) to ensure you have met the rigorous requirements of the Australia Skill Quality Authority (ASQA), the national regulator for vocational education and training.
The education provider seeking to become an RTO will have their course material (either purchased or developed in house) mapped to the learning outcomes of a diploma level ASQA accreditation. The benefit for the RTO is that their courses now come stamped with a nationally recognised accreditation and the student is able to access government loans to fund the tuition fees for their course.
The system as described seems sound and fairly provides education, pathways and government assistance for those students who fall outside of tertiary education system. The reality has been different.
The Reality and the Anecdotes
Course fee inflation – RTO accreditation has seen fees increase up to 400% for the same course provided pre RTO accreditation in some cases. The students are not price sensitive as their tuition fees are being funded by a loan that they consider unlikely to ever need to pay back.
Sales focused RTO’s – unscrupulous RTOs selling to government funded students courses they are not suited to and with the student at times unaware that they will be left carrying a debt.
Candidates reliance on diplomas instead of achievements – job candidates listing diploma courses that everyone seems to have as opposed to achievements and initiatives (either workplace or extra circular) that employers value.
Low completion rates – notoriously low student engagement (completion rates as low as 7%) on the back on slick sales and student. Government attempts to link funding with student progress and engagement resulted in RTOs ‘front loading’ the course reap the government funding before the student inevitably disengaged.
Courses of dubious value – the same observation applies to tertiary education. I have often wondered why some of these diploma are necessay
Government clampdowns – inevitable government tightening of rules has seen many RTOs go out of business and RTO staff redundancies.
While I could list further criticisms of RTOs and the vocational training sector I come to the point of the blog – why are we not an RTO?
· We want to focus on providing courses for reasonable value that provide the participants the tools to enhance their workplace productivity and achievements.
· We don’t want our participants funded by an overly generous government scheme prone to being pulled back.
· We want to train people who are engaged and interested in what we teach.
· We rely on our building our own credibility through running courses that are reviewed positively.
Disclaimer: I am speaking from my own experience and observations of RTO’s. There are some diplomas I know little about (machine operating and personal training) and have little cross over with the short courses we provide at Excel Consulting. The same criticisms can also be made at the tertiary education sector. We should also acknowledge the RTOs who do a great job and genuinely assist their students to meaningful employment.