CrowdInk had the chance to sit down with Ian Oliver, CEO of National Training, an RTO that has a completion rate more than 10x that of most competitors at an absolute fraction. He gave us some brilliant insights into the Vet FEE HELP scheme, what students are actually looking for from online courses, and how to make a sustainable business out of happy customers.
CrowdInk: How long have you been the CEO of National Training?
Ian Oliver: National Training was registered as an RTO in 2006 and I have been the CEO for the past 3 years.
CI: What was the most challenging part of managing National Training in the beginning? The most surprising?
IO: The most challenging part was shifting the focus away from the funding dollars we could claim through the State Government Contracts. Available funding seemed to drive the entire decision making process of the company. We switched from focusing on how much we could get from each enrolment, to providing a quality training service that people would value and pay for.
The most surprising thing was the very real need for the VET sector and workplace-based skills training. It took just one day of talking to the public at last year’s Careers Expo for it to become blatantly clear that University graduates were struggling to get a start in the workforce. A Masters in IT is of no value to an employer if on the first day you cannot connect the new employee to MS Exchange, the shared printer, backup the shared files to the cloud, etc.
A Bachelor’s degree in Accounting does not include how to run the end of year Payroll using MYOB or Zero for the customers of your accounting firm. How to help them with their Bank Reconciliation and end of year file closing is essential customer service for the suburban accounting firm. The degree does not give you this.
CI: What do you feel is your biggest success with National Training?
IO: Resetting the objectives, developing our own quality materials, and shifting the focus on providing a quality service that people regard as a valued purchase.
The VET market has been totally distorted with sharks, get-rich-quick commission agents, ripping off the system. Some of those agents are enrolling more than 6,500 Vet Fee Help students in a month, taking $10,000 plus upfront for each student with often less than 5% completions.
In the last 9 years, National Training has enrolled more than 8,000 students with greater than 50% completion rate.
Our real ‘biggest success’ has been implementing an affordable business model that works for both students and National Training.
CI: What courses does National Training offer?
IO: We offer Diplomas in Business, Accounting, Management, HR, Logistics, Project Management, and Work Health and Safety (WHS) at the moment starting from $1,275.
CI: How is National Training different from the typical RTO with similar course offerings?
IO: We differ in that we use our own learning materials purpose-built to support students that are working full time.
Our trainers are subject matter experts in their own right, our online services have been modelled to the learning patterns requested by our students.
We continually survey our students asking what we can do to make their learning experience easier.
CI: If you could give one piece of advice to a small-medium business owner in their first year of operations, what would it be?
IO: If you want to build a sustainable business, keep asking your customers what they want. Also try to get feedback from those that left your website without completing their purchase. What altered their thinking? What stopped them from completing the application or checking out with the shopping cart.
That’s hard information to get, but very valuable feedback.
Work hard on satisfying your customers, the rest will come. Don’t give up.