I suppose we could debate what any business’s best asset is, but for my money, it’s always people. Without good people, no matter how fantastic your product is, you won’t sell it, your customers won’t come back, and the backend won’t be seamless. All of these individual aspects of a business require good people.
This is also true in a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) where our product is intangible—learning. It takes the right team to develop the learning materials, the right style of business development staff to promote the benefits of learning, and possibly more importantly, the right fit for the trainer to deliver the learning.
So what makes the right fit for a trainer?
Often trainers are hired with such tight timeframes. We’ve sold the product to an employer, we’ve hastily purchased the resources and now we just need someone with enough industry knowledge to be ‘a page ahead of the student’. Sound familiar? This is really a recipe for disaster.
Trainers are the ‘face’ of your company.
They function as leaders, as ambassadors and as imparters of knowledge.
Sending in the wrong trainer can have larger implications than just a ‘grumpy’ class.
The Standards for Training Providers tell us that trainers must have ‘current industry skills’, which are defined as the knowledge, skills and experience required to ensure that their training and assessment is based on current industry practices and meets the needs of industry.
- having knowledge of and/or experience using the latest techniques and processes
- possessing a high level of product knowledge
- understanding and knowledge of legislation relevant to the industry and to employment and workplaces
- being customer/client-oriented
- possessing formal industry and training qualifications
- training content that reflects current industry practice.
In addition, trainers are required to have vocational competencies at least to the level being delivered and assessed; current industry skills directly relevant to the training and assessment being provided; and current knowledge and skills in vocational training and learning that informs their training and assessment.
Is that enough?
The Draft 2016 VET Funding Contract (Victoria) has included a new standard for trainers—the ‘VTG Teacher’. This person must meet all the requirements listed above and in addition:
… the Department may at its absolute discretion, and from time to time, require VTG Teachers to undergo certain professional development courses or training, within a timeframe determined by the Department, and consistent with the relevant Regulatory Standards.
This has a greater impact than just a need for professional development.
The Department will not be liable to make any payment to the RTO in respect of an Eligible Individual to the extent that the training or assessment they received was carried out by a person who was not at all relevant times a VTG Teacher. 
They also need to have a connection with their students, and if relevant, the workplace. It might sound nonsensical, but not every ‘trainer’ is a people person. Just because they know the industry, and hold a current Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, doesn’t necessarily make them a good trainer. Being able to impart the knowledge in an interesting and engaging way is vital. Reading off a PowerPoint slide and line by line through a textbook is NOT teaching.
So not hiring the right person, not only impacts negatively on your client relationships and your cash flow, but now also on your funding contracts. So it’s time to rethink your hiring strategies for trainers. You need to ensure, like with all your other staff, that they are the right cultural fit, have industry currency, have a sound knowledge of the VET sector, and are willing to undertake additional professional development to meet the requirements of the VTG Teacher.
It’s important to remember that if you are required to terminate someone’s employment, generally it’s because you made a mistake by hiring them in the first place. As managers, we all need to be better at spotting a poor fit. The stakes have been raised.
Interested in finding out more? Connect with Marie on LinkedIn to keep the conversation going https://www.linkedin.com/in/marievassallo
 Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015, Clause 1.13
 2016 VET Funding Contract (draft) Victoria Clause 4.13
 2016 VET Funding Contract (draft) Victoria Clause 13.4
Marie Vassallo has more than 15 years of experience in vocational education. She has worked at all levels within a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), including as CEO for a large national RTO. Marie has also worked as a Skills Victoria Auditor. Since 2008 she has managed her own company, Marie Vassallo Consulting, and brings her business and compliance skills to the table, delivering real world solutions for RTOs. Her consulting business provides assistance with regulatory and funding authority audits, contract applications, validation and moderation workshops and professional development workshops for all levels of staff. In 2014 Marie became an Accredited VETtrak Consultant, providing training to administration staff and management in how to gain the most from this student management system.