There is nothing we love more than spending quality time with RTOs and sharing our industry knowledge. Which is exactly what we did with the latest installation in our series of 2015 VET Industry Drinks last Friday, hosting in collaboration with our dear friends from aXcelerate. We wanted to push everyone a bit outside of their comfort zone and the atypical “VET mindset”, and it worked, beautifully so.
The August VET industry drinks was unlike any previous events we’ve hosted, as we experimented with a brand new format. 40-50 RTO senior managers were split into small groups, discussing and sharing their biggest challenges in business. We’ve enlisted the help of 10 highly experienced VET consultants to act as group facilitators for the day, and they spent 90 minutes rotating around chatting to different groups of RTOs. Our attendees therefore were required to join the conversation actively (which they all did!) and the results were exactly what we wanted: robust dialogues, solution-driven mindsets, and friendly knowledge sharing.
Doors opened at 4.00pm and delegates started coming in, enjoying some quality time networking and catching up with their peers over scrumptious Asian-fusion canapés and drinks. We’ve deliberately kept the numbers at 50 people in attendance this time, ensuring that everyone had sufficient time to connect and share openly about their own experiences and challenges.
The main part of the event was kicked off with a welcome speech by our Managing Director, Caroline Brock, and aXcelerate’s Managing Director, Reay Mackay.
Keynote speaker: Nick McEwan-Hall
We were very fortunate to have Nick McEwan-Hall, Founder of Latitude Coaching, to present the keynote presentation at this industry drinks. Nick frequently speaks at VELG and other industry conferences on topics around leadership, strategy, and improving RTO outcomes. Presenting highly insightful advices in a relaxed and approachable manner, Nick’s message of “Lifting the game in VET” set the right tone of voice to start our evening and was very well received.
What do you mean, lifting the game in VET?
Well, we’ve all seen and heard it. The angry, negative grumbles on LinkedIn. The constant complaining that the sector is full of dodgy training providers and nobody cares about quality student outcomes. The fear-mongering consultants.
Perhaps it’s time to move past the negative outlook and focus on the positive. Perhaps it’s time we all lift our collective game in the sector, and become more solution-driven and students-focused.
Nick started by breaking down 4 main characteristic of the traditional “VET mindset”:
• Compliance-led: The traditional VET mindset dictates that most operational decisions are made based on whether they suit government funding and other compliance requirements. But the reality is that this hinders us from taking a more strategic and effective look at operations.
• Outward-focused: most RTOs spend more time than they need to on what competitors are doing, rather than looking inward to identify what makes them unique.
• Fear as a motivator: “We’re being audited!”
The consequences from this traditional VET mindset are clear: many RTOs find themselves stuck in a rut, focusing their time, energy and money on the wrong things.
But how do we break away from this? As toxic as it is, the VET mindset has proved difficult to shift, as RTOs are situated in a sector that is heavily regulated. Not only the rules and regulations are constantly changed, they are also often not “black and white”.
Nick suggested that RTOs should start by looking inward and focusing on the right thing: Our People. He stated that it would be more straightforward and easy to identify the right thing to do, once we’ve asked ourselves what was driving the decisions we made, and what the impact would be on our people. Are we doing things 100% in the interests of the students? Are we putting quality first? Do our students actually have the computer literacy required?
The message was clear and it proved a refreshing outlook to take on board. Nick has made his presentation slides available here – CLICK TO DOWNLOAD.
We then moved on to small group discussions, and this was when the room truly came alive, buzzing with debates and laughter from every table. Each group of RTO representatives had the rare chance to spend quality time with 3-5 different facilitators on the main topics of:
• Strategy and Growth: how do RTOs quickly scale and grow? How do we compete? How do we enter new markets and attract new students?
• Blended Learning Design & Technology: online learning models and strategies, delivery modes
• Compliance & Business Processes: re-registration, audits, data management, and funding.
We were thrilled to see that our attendees happily took on the challenge: every table enjoyed robust discussions as VET leaders shared their real-life experience and great ideas that others could take back to their own RTO to try and implement.
Some of our biggest takeaways from the discussions:
1. The “ah-ha” moment is real: Each organisation has experienced this realisation that once we take a single baby step outside of our comfort zone, pushing just a bit further, good things will happen.
An example of this is when RTOs that provide courses with practical skills (e.g. commercial cookery, aged care, ..) realise that the common perception that their courses are “not suitable for online learning” is not true. Digital tools and online learning systems can be incorporated in different ways to facilitate this and still suit your special requirements.
By thinking back and identifying your own “ah-ha” moments in the past, RTOs can consciously try to replicate the process and push for more of these great moments. Creative and effective solutions come from this, instead of doing the same thing again and again because of our fear of the unknown.
2. Digital is not the be-all and end-all: Online (and blended) learning – as necessary as they are – should be incorporated to enhance students’ learning experience. It’s not to take away from or to replace the face-to-face component of training. Digital learning, therefore, does not mean cutting down on face-to-face time. Instead it is about providing our students with the flexibility to consume content through their medium of choice at times that suit them.
Moreover, it is extremely important to note that technology is just a tool in our toolkit. Start with the right purpose and the right strategy, not with the tools.
3. The concept of Flipped Learning is growing strongly in the VET sector: RTOs reported real success around very practical courses that have implemented this new approach: students can learn the theory at home, and spend more time in the classroom or on the field to focus on their skill development, assessment, and knowledge deepening. More and more videos, audio, and other multimedia content pieces are being used and proved more engaging for the learners.
However, RTOs should take care to choose the appropriate model of blended learning (there are as many as 9 different models of delivery!) for their students and the course in question. Technology has changed our sector so much, and a new focus on mobile accessibility is gaining strength.
All in all, it was a fantastic night, with great food, drinks, conversations, and knowledge sharing at its best. In fact, the biggest “complaint” that we received was that many wished the discussions could have gone on for much longer – as there was so much to look at.
We would like to extend a warm thank you to all for coming, and a special thanks goes out to the amazing team at aXcelerate for co-hosting this event with us. Nick from Latitude Coaching and all of our other facilitators have played a huge part in making this a great night.
We look forward to our next industry drinks on the 14th of October – Futureproofing RTO Business – and hope to see you all again soon!
Did you attend the event? Let us know what you think!
We have a small online survey (which only takes about 2-3 minutes to complete) and would love to hear your thoughts on what we did well and what could be improved. Your feedback is completely anonymous and we really appreciate it!
** EXCLUSIVE OFFER: If you are interested in having a longer chat with any of our facilitators from the event, get in touch and we will help you organise an hour-long, no-obligation coffee chat.
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