Helping Your Clients Choose a Quality Training Provider
Rebecca Herbertson is the the Director of Training and Compliance for the Betterlink Group. She is a qualified trainer and assessor, has a Psychology Degree, plus a post graduate qualification in Career Development. She is a professional member of the CDAA, the Australian Institute of Company Directors and has a passion for continuous improvement and personal development in individuals.
Working with clients in career transition, it is inevitable that the issue of training providers will come up. Vocational education and training (VET) courses enable students to gain qualifications for all types of employment, along with specific skills to help them in the workplace. The providers of VET include technical and further education (TAFE) institutes, adult and community education providers and agricultural colleges, as well as private providers, community organisations, industry skill centres, and commercial and enterprise training providers. In addition, some universities and schools provide VET.
As career practitioners, our clients may seek our advice or thoughts on how to choose between the large range of training provider options available to them. Or the client may ask for a direct recommendation such as, “who is the best person to study the Diploma of Leadership and Management with?” You might be asked these questions by students looking at post-secondary school options, mature age or mid-career clients who are looking to make a career jump sideways, or clients who just want to increase promotion opportunities by upskilling. It can even come up when working with retired clients who are looking to re-skill and re-enter the workforce.
So how do we best answer these questions around choosing a quality training organisation?
Having worked in the vocational education and training sector for almost fifteen years, this is a topic that comes up often in my work. When the course the individual wants to do is offered by a colleague or training provider that I know well, it can be simple to provide information. This is with the caveat that I have known people who have had a positive experience with this course or with this provider, but that they should make sure that it will fit their needs.
Sometimes it is not that simple. Yesterday I was sent a message by someone in my network asking, “Where would you recommend for me to enrol in the Diploma of Youth Work online?” My knee jerk reaction in my head is, “I have no idea!” I don’t know anyone in my professional network who is currently delivering this course online. I have no personal experience, or client experience to draw on in this case. There are also so many factors that should be involved in choosing a training provider. There isn’t a simple and easy “best one to enrol with” answer. It depends on what the students’ priorities are, how the training is structured, will the delivery fit their learning needs, as well as a myriad of other factors. So how can we answer these questions, and provide good useful information to our clients?
Let’s get started with why.
Why does training provider choice matter? Participating in training is a considerable investment for individuals in terms of their time, the money spent and expectations. A wrong choice, even if the course is subsidised or free though schemes like Job Trainer funding, can still lead to wasted time and effort on the part of our clients. Quality VET experiences are also an important part of a person’s lifelong learning journey. Our clients’ expectations of the course and the negative impacts on the client when these expectations are not met, can last much longer than the time they are enrolled with the training provider. Career outcomes for the student post training are clearly very important on a personal level. However, there are much larger productivity outcomes for the economy when a client, course and training provider are well matched. So, the choice of training provider certainly matters.
One factor that is normally considered first is the learning mode. We should be discussing with our clients how they best learn, based on their own past experience. For example, many clients will nominate online learning as their preferred option. It is often cheaper, can be done at any time, and available no matter their location. Few people stop to consider, if they have the discipline to log in regularly and make progress with their course when self-directed, as online studies often are. Or if learning alone, without the robust discussions that can often be had in classroom training, will feel dry and isolating for them. What supports are offered to them as an online student? Is there someone they can call if they have questions? Would face to face classroom training or a blended approach be more appropriate for the individual? Cost and duration of the course are also considerations that almost all clients look at. It is important to keep in mind that value has more to do with what the client gets out of the course in terms of knowledge, skills and experience, than the price paid. Is the duration realistic for the client to complete in given their other time commitments? The duration of an identical course does differ across training providers and must suit our clients.
Apart from the common factors of learning mode, cost and duration, there is a lot more that should be considered and discussed with our clients when choosing a quality training provider.
Some of the other questions we should be advising our clients to ask a potential training provider, include:
- What experience does the trainer/assessor have working in the specific industry and how long ago? This isn’t about the experience as a trainer, but in the subject area of the course.
- Is the training provider linked with industry/employers/peak bodies? Being closely linked or aligned with industry assists a training provider to be current in a fast-changing world of work.
- Can the client speak to some current or past students from the course? Speaking to someone who is currently studying with the training provider can be a good way to determine if what happens in practice matches the marketing!
- What is the training providers completion rates? A provider should be able to give rough benchmarks for completion for all their courses and modes of delivery.
- What are some of the career options for someone who has completed this course? This should be stated in their marketing materials.
- Can the client change their study mode during the course if their chosen learning mode isn’t working for them? If the answer is yes, how is this handled and what is the costs associated, if any.
Other ways of seeking information that we can recommend to our clients or assist them with is a Google search for reviews of a perspective training provider. Although it is important to remember that not all internet reviews are equal and plenty of happy and satisfied past students of a provider won’t think to leave a positive Google review. Look at the provider’s registration on training.gov.au and check if there are any restrictions on their training delivery in place. The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) also publishes their findings against training providers. Clients thinking of enrolling with an accredited training provider can search current and past decisions to see if the training provider has received a finding against them here. If you are looking at a private training provider, check and see if they are an ITECA member. Not every good quality private training provider is a member of ITECA, but it does provide another piece of quality information.
ASQA has a website which also provides advice on choosing a training provider. It can be accessed here.
No matter what training your client is interested in pursuing, discussing the different options together and clarifying the needs of the client, then providing some assistance and advice on gathering good information, is a practical way of assisting our clients on their career journey.
The most important tip of all - don’t just enrol with the first training provider they find/contact. Shop around, gather information, analyse how it meets their needs and then make a fully informed decision. Following those steps, your client is likely to have found their quality training provider.