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It’s no secret in the VET sector, that a couple of big RTOs (not just one, even though that’s all we see talked about) have had some challenges, and made some pretty big waves in our industry over the last 24 months.

I find the amount of media scrutiny very interesting. It’s not something I really remember seeing so much of in the past, but recently, it’s been everywhere. Perhaps it’s compounded by the constant sharing on social media, LinkedIn, etc.—but what I do know is that it’s here to stay.

As a VET professional who has been through several redundancies brought about by organisational change, I understand what it’s like to be someone on the market for a new role. And let me tell you, it isn’t easy.

I’ve been fortunate enough to land on my feet quickly after my redundancies,
but that’s not everyone’s experience.

I was really troubled to see some commentary on the online forums about the quality of staff from certain organisations. These comments related to an RTO that had attracted a lot of bad press, with qualifications recalled, funding cancelled and redundancies resulting etc., and that the staff who worked there weren’t exactly at the top of the ‘to interview’ pile for new jobs.

Essentially, the sentiment suggested that because the person had worked at the RTO, they probably weren’t worth employing, or at the very least, the RTO’s reputation was negatively impacting that person’s reputation. The focus seemed to be on trainer and assessor roles, but not exclusively.

As someone who has worked in a large RTO (100+ staff at its peak), this perspective is completely unfair. In my experience, there are only a handful of people who make decisions in any RTO, while the rest of the organisation’s employees carry out that vision or direction. They often don’t have an opportunity to input, or provide any influence at all over the direction.

In fact, if we’re talking about trainers, I’ve seen more trainers go above and beyond their role to ensure the learning experience for their students is as good as it can be, within the constraints imposed by their RTO employer. Their passion drives them to make sure students are not disadvantaged.

In short, you simply cannot assume that a person acts in the same way as the RTO is viewed—that they have the same philosophy of learning as the RTO.

In fact, you cannot draw any conclusions until you speak with them directly.

As always, I encourage you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you feel if you were reading this commentary about yourself? My guess is that you’d feel pretty disempowered, degraded and perhaps humiliated.

Now imagine that this person actually has all the skills and knowledge you need and the exact cultural fit for your RTO.

What possibilities exist now that you’ve allowed yourself latitude to recognise this? It could just be that this person is the perfect fit for your role and company in every way possible, but that you haven’t been able to see past their reputation by association.

Over the last 12 months, our industry has seen many people leave because of this kind of thing. The very people we need in our industry are being driven away. And who hasn’t seen a blog post or a LinkedIn discussion about the near impossible challenge to find people with the right skill set?

And I’m not just talking about trainers. I’m talking about experienced VET professionals in every facet of our sector.

There’s a double standard at work here, too.

For some roles, it can even be seen as advantageous to employ someone from one of these “high volume” or “dodgy” RTOs (the communities’ words, not mine—I’ll write a whole new blog post on that word!).

The classic example is data team members. Some employers think: “Wow! They handled all that data! They must be awesome—we need them on our team.”

My point is, in both the trainer and data expert examples, the preconceptions about their skills or ‘fit’ may be true… but the opposite is also equally as possible.

So, I encourage you to buck the trend here. Keep an open mind, ask the applicant great questions, interview well—and make your decision based on that—not on what you may have read online, or the misconceptions you may have, based on where they’ve worked.

You might be overlooking exactly the right person for your role if you don’t. And who can afford to do that in the current environment? 

As always, I welcome your feedback and comments. What’s been your experience? How do you handle recruitment? Do you think people are leaving the industry based on how we engage with them? Tweet me @avetmess or email or give me a call on 0410 582 747