11 tough questions to ask your RTO

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With a number of RTO Strategic Reviews completed around Australia, there are key questions that Registered Training Organisation (RTO) CEO’s, owners, board and team members need to be asked.  Responding to questions like these requires a level of trust, honesty, openness and a positive attitude.

  1. Why do you exist?

Starting with understanding the RTO’s background, when it was established, with what purpose in mind and the history to date gives a good sense of what is has been like.Training pic

  1. Who are you?

Some RTO’s have been reactive, pursuing government funding over fee for service, expanding their scope, adding programs and moving into new industry areas.  This has left them now asking who are we and what is our focus resulting in an identity crisis and muddled branding.  Other RTO’s have stood firm with who they are which hasn’t been swayed by changes in VET policy.

  1. What VET markets are you in?

There are different ways to think about VET markets considering:

  • Businesses – working with small and medium enterprises, medium-large businesses, government, industry associations and groups, co working spaces
  • Partners – partnerships with schools, community providers, private and public providers, higher education providers and Universities, youth organisations, influencers and referrers
  • Students – what do each student cohort have in common, what are they motivated by, are their specific needs to cover because of their backgrounds?
  • Local, state/territory, national – where are you?
  • International – which countries and regions?
  1. How do you know your scope and product mix works now and into the future?

Often an RTO’s scope has been added to as opportunities arise or markets change but how does that serve you now?  Pathways into and out of programs, with breadth and depth of industry expertise, shows a commitment to industry sectors and knowledge of the skills required for job roles.  A balance between accredited and non-accredited is a good approach.

  1. What are your measures?

Sustainability of the RTO over the longer term means you must look at profitability or surplus but not only overall but product by product.  Trends over time give insight into where demand might be headed or perhaps area to delve into and find out more.  High cancellations, low completions and a high percentage of active students could mean they are taking too long to complete – a combination that is undesirable.

  1. What are your strengths?

Perhaps the easiest of the ‘tough’ questions but is your list short, about right or overly long?  Be honest here and use evidence from clients to back up your statements.

  1. Where are the areas for improvement?

Asking this question and receiving a response such as, “Well where shall I start?” signals a potential overwhelming to do list and so picking the priorities plus actions that will have the most impact, is critical.  If responses here are little then flip the question and focus more on into the future.

  1. What are you trying to achieve?

Maybe you think there are things you should or could be doing, you’ve noticed subtle (or direct) shifts and are wondering what to do.  A clear purpose statement for your RTO can be what all potential actions are checked against.

  1. Where are the new market opportunities?

Now we are starting to get into the area that is exciting and many people like to discuss, where can we help people change their lives and businesses improve?  A practical market analysis based upon your region, clients, industry sectors, partners, products and capability can uncover all sorts of new ideas.  Rather than putting a great deal of time and effort into new programs, validating a minimum viable product is a must do.  Ask do people need this program, will they buy it now, and what will it lead to?

  1. What are your aspirations?

Others may prefer to ask this question and the next first, but without context, history and understanding, it can be very difficult to answer.

Where do you want to be?  With whom?  What do you want to be doing?

  1. What is your vision?

You may have an existing vision that has served you well but out to 2018 or 2020 even will it cut it?  Have a big but simple vision that is easy to communicate, that gives you laser focus inspiring you, your team and your RTO community.

If you are thinking about your RTO and what you might need to do into the future and you’d like some assistance from Australia’s leading VET Strategist, please express your interest by emailing wendy@wpaa.com.au.

August 2015

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