My first year at a publically listed private RTO: A reflection

While some may take this opportunity to take a shot, I write this article because I am hoping most will read this and quietly nod their heads and reflect on the similarities between my experience and their own whether they are in a private or public RTO.  Just a few days ago I celebrated my 1 year anniversary as the National Quality Manager of the training division at Ashley Services Group. Yes, the name will seem familiar and over the last few weeks and months, we have had our name splashed across a few articles, almost all of which have taken the opportunity to link us to that other publically listed and troubled RTOs in the Vocational sector. As the National Quality Manager, you can imagine my personal feelings about the correlation. But this article isn’t about that but about my experience with Ashley and how being a publically listed RTO affects us on a day to day basis.

It doesn’t.

At least from my perspective, my CEO, CFO and MD, well, that’s another story, but from the perspective of most trainers, admin, student coordinators, curriculum developers and the quality team, we just keep doing our jobs. Providing quality training to thousands of students including jobseekers, trainees, apprentices, employers and fee for service students.

This year has been truly exciting for me to be involved in some major internal investments.

  • We have invested significantly in a brand new LMS system, Circulate, which has some truly wonderful capabilities and through the tireless work of a dedicated Curriculum Team (yes a team dedicated to creating, updating, and validating our training and assessment materials), we are slowly rolling out some great new blended training. The LMS has also given my team the capacity to start developing some great internal training programs, whereby our policies and procedures are starting to be supported with short online presentations, videos, audio, fact sheets and more. It’s early days for this project, but being able to help our own internal staff develop their knowledge of VET is a real passion for me. Often administrators, sales staff, and even managers operate with little real understanding of the standards, just the key points that apply to them. Staff are told what but not why and being able to develop programs which grow and cement this knowledge adds real value and quality to an organisation in my mind.
  • We are also slowly migrating over to a new SMS, it’s been slow going and there’s been lots of learning curves, but with a dedicated National Systems Manager overseeing the implementation the new system is providing better controls, transparency and reportability. With thousands of students enrolled and trained every year, the ability to gain instant access to students key documents and information from an audit perspective has provided myself and my team with a new way of interacting with all the states, and is providing a road to a more online, greener ASG too (with a 20 page enrolment pack alone you can see the advantages).


This year has been a great year of internal development for me too, for those of you who work as the sole quality/compliance person in an organisation I know you can relate to the frustration of having to make all the calls by yourself and often feeling like it’s you versus the company. Working this last year at Ash with a team of quality staff, including an amazing National Program Manager and great CEO, being part of a team dedicated to quality can make all the difference in the world. Being able to bounce off ideas about quality, run ideas about policies through three, four or five sets of eyes, means that any decisions that are made are backed with concerted effort and care. We’ve successfully passed state audits in every state around the country, achieved re-registration for our largest RTO with the toughest ASQA auditor I’ve ever met (but whoa was it great PD), and received very positive praise from the last CRICOS and TAC audit we undertook (yes, most auditors we have faced have been great to work with).

There’s a huge level of irony to me that a drop in profits somehow indicates that a provider is low quality. And a level of sadness that we (and other providers) are being punished in a way for the investment in longevity, the decisions our training advisors have made to turn away VFH students who aren’t suitable and the slow careful development of new business as opposed to a broker all take all strategy.

While I will probably never get used to been tarnished with the same brush (I was in a meeting with some state reps just last week who noted that “the big private ones are the dodgy ones”), I can say that I get up almost every morning and look forward to working with my colleagues and making a small difference in this very big company made up of over 200 people who just want to make a difference in someone’s life. And whether we are public or private, more or less profitable, I think that’s a pretty amazing thing and I can't wait to see what 2016 holds... 

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Bea Chambers
Bea Chambers