Here is a copy of our interview with Tamara Simon – Australia’s Only Dedicated RTO Business Coach.
Tamara Simon is the Australia’s Only Dedicated RTO Business Coach who knows the key to RTO success lies in your Business Strategy, People Performance and Systems Simplification.
Tamara has taken countless RTO CEOs, RTO Managers and RTO Owners from feeling stuck and burnt out to getting back in control with simple solutions because she is all about the HOW!.
With over 20 years experience in VET, change management and business improvement including being FITAB’s CEO, Tamara’s down to earth yet straight talking attitude provides her coaching clients and audience members with practical and fun ways to manage a simple profitable RTO business which everyone actually loves.
Tamara has written the first and only business book specifically for RTOs: The Five Little RTO Pigs, and has developed Australia’s only 12 week webinar PD Program for anyone running or aspiring to run an RTO called RTO Grow. She also hosts her monthly RTO Conversations Webinars where she chats with one of her 3 industry specialists (Compliance, Finance and Marketing) to provide RTOs with tips to build, manage and grow a profitable RTO business.
Her leadership and management expertise was recognised as a Finalist in the Queensland Telstra Business Women’s Awards and the Institute of Managers and Leaders (was AIM)’s Excellence Awards.
She loves sport including AFL, netball and tennis; and she is a passionate member of the Hawthorn AFL Football Club.
Take Another Look
0438 262 727
Tamara, in a nutshell, what has been your experience of working in the training and education industry?
For over 20 years, I’ve been working in what I call ‘RTO Land’ – firstly as an auditor and developer/implementer of Training Packages within the old ITAB environment which is now the SSOs which included being CEO of the Qld Forest Industries ITAB.
I also worked with Education Queensland and was the industry representative with a team of teachers when School-based Apprenticeships and Traineeships were first introduced in Qld. My role was to help RTOs and Schools understand their roles inside and outside the school gate, as well as helping DET determine the funding model and processes for the three education sectors.
I have then run a number of RTOs and held every position (RTO CEO, RTO Manager, Compliance Manager and Trainer/Assessor). I have also been a Velg Training Presenter and Compliance Consultant.
Since 2002, I have run my own small business which has 2 business brands: Business Scene Investigation for small business owners, and Take Another Look for RTOs.
What is the purpose of Take Another Look and how can a training organisations benefit?
As a Speaker, Author and Coach, I helps anyone running (or aspiring to run) an RTO – be it Owner, CEO or Manager; and take them from feeling overwhelmed, burnt out and STUCK to SIMPLE SOLUTIONS which helps them better manage their day, their team and their RTO.
Why? Because I know there are so many fabulous RTOs out there doing great training and upskilling our workforce BUT unfortunately, they are not always running great businesses. And if you run an expensive hobby instead of a simple profitable RTO business, no matter how good your training is, your business won’t survive.
And this happens because most people running RTOs are great at training but don’t always have the skills and knowledge to do all the other essential functions…. Strategy, Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR and Systems.
And without the business fundamentals of:
the RTO becomes a place of:
Not only for those managing the RTO, but the staff and students as well.
So I help RTOs through:
Coaching sessions – either one on one or group sessions – to provide accountability, support and clarity from someone who understands and gets ‘RTO Land’
Professional Development – to help you manage the business side of the RTO, I have developed my RTO GROW 12 week webinar program (self paced) which provides the business fundamentals and templates needed to get you and your RTO back on track; as well as other free and paid webinars
Author – The Five Little RTO Pigs is the first and only RTO business book
Speaker – Keynote and Workshop for conferences as well as inhouse PD
What do you think are the main threats to training organisations in the current environment?
The shift in the buyer’s mindset – students and organisations want short sharp training which immediately provides a return on investment (profitability and productivity). They think short term so qualifications which take 12 months or more to complete sounds too long – they want quick outcomes NOW.
The change in training delivery methods – we are seeing a reduction in people paying to attend face to face workshops, conferences etc. Online delivery via webinars, Zoom sessions etc provides a more cost effective option where people can undertake training at a time and place they want, rather than wasting time and money travelling and losing a day or two out of their business.
RTOs need to start thinking of their businesses as a training business which offers both accredited and professional development training to solve the problems of their clients. Training is an outcome and not a product. It shouldn’t be an all or nothing approach – accredited training only because nothing else is good enough.
As an industry leader, what are your views on how we can improve the vocational education and training sector in Australia?
I believe RTOs need to decide if they want to remain in a regulated space ie accredited training, and if they do, then stop whingeing about regulation. It will probably always be there. I’ve been through at least 5 changes in standards since I started in VET in 1996. Can it be improved? Sure but it is a known space RTOs enter when you CHOOSE to deliver accredited training. My mantra to RTOs is ‘if you don’t like compliance and don’t like change, then don’t work for an RTO or be one’. Why? Because you chose this space so embrace it and integrate it into your business operations instead of it driving you.
RTOs need to look at their business models to ensure they have multiple income streams to ensure financial viability. When more than 70% of your income is dependent on government funding, then your RTO is at financial risk.
RTOs need to start listening to their clients (and potential clients) to see if accredited training is actually the outcome they want to solve the problem. My personal view is unless you offer training which is required as part of a licensing requirement (eg first aid, trades, childcare, aged care), then people will start looking at alternatives – be it in Australia, overseas or online to meet their needs. Case in point. I don’t need a business qualification to run a small business. Not everyone wants or needs the piece of paper but that doesn’t mean they don’t invest in professional development. They do but now it’s around business coaching, marketing, sales, social media etc. And this training provides immediate results which increases the bottom line. Lots of people want the content and strategies but don’t want the hassle of having to undertake assessment. You have to determine what value assessment and accredited training provides to the end user – and the answer of ‘because it’s quality’ is not enough of a reason. I do lots of professional development including having a Business Coach and I absolutely gain quality training but it’s not accredited nor does it need to be.
I would like to see the Trainer/Assessor qualification simplified so it meets the needs of business operations. I believe the current TAE is for a more experienced Trainer and Assessor who is skilled or wants to be skilled in development of training material, assessments and validation. I believe this is a Senior Trainer and Assessor role within the business and everyone doesn’t have to have these skills, at least not initially because as we know, like any job, it takes time for anyone to become a competent trainer and assessor.
I believe most RTOs need great Trainers and Assessors who hold the Presenter and Assessor Skill set – who are good at their technical skills, and gain the knowledge to get up in front of students and impart that knowledge succinctly – by following the approved training material (Trainer). And then they understand the key elements of assessment and can follow a Marking Guide to conduct fair, valid and reliable assessments (Assessor).
My concern by making the TAE qualification such a high entry level is we are making it too hard for people with great industry knowledge and expertise to come off the tools and impart this knowledge and experience to the next generational workforce. We are already seeing the impact of the current TAE requirements by how difficult it is in the trades sector to get qualified trainers.
So I believe the biggest challenge for RTOs is how they ‘sell’ their relevance to an ever changing buyer who is only looking at the short term (3-12 months at the most).