During the journey of growing Excel Consulting it has been asked of me: Why we are not a Registered Training Organisation (RTO)? This would allow Excel Consulting 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. Consequently, 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, helping them find pathways to employment or to provide qualifications for people in employment. To become an RTO you need to pass a long and rigorous assessment process (up to 9 months and costing over $50,000). This process ensures 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 a Registered Training Organisation 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. Therefore, 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.
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. Students are not price sensitive to their tuition fees. Especially since their course is being funded as a loan. We want to keep our courses as the best value.
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%). Government attempts to link funding with student progress and engagement. This results in RTOs ‘front loading’ the course to reap the government funding, before the student inevitably disengaged.
Courses of dubious value – Some RTOs are only in it for the money, and offer training paths that are of no real value to a student or an employer. I have often wondered why some of these diploma are necessary
Government clampdowns – inevitable government tightening of rules has seen many RTOs go out of business and RTO staff redundancies.
Why aren't we 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 a 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 Registered Training Organisations who do a great job. Who genuinely assist their students to meaningful employment.