When I first started looking into starting my own RTO a decade ago, there was hardly any information I could find online about what I needed to do, what I needed to have, what software and systems do I need in place before lodging an application for an RTO with ASQA.
Now that I have a flourishing RTO, I have decided to pay it forward and arm others with the information they need to help them start their very own Registered Training Organisation in Australia!
Get your business plan right
It can be hard and long before you see good returns coming from your initial investment when starting an RTO, but if you have developed and are following a solid business plan, it makes the journey a little easier. Understand the market very well, whether your market is international students, or your market is apprenticeships and traineeships, or your market is fee-for-service, make sure you understand what is involved, what legislation will affect you and the behaviours of those customers. Check out your competitors and see what courses they are offering, what they are spending their marketing dollars on, what strategies they have in place to grow. It is important to note that when you are doing a market analysis, you should cast your wide broad enough to include those who are delivering not just courses that are in your industry, but narrow enough that you are both on the same path. More information can be found here –https://www.rtoadvantage.com.au/articles/how-to-start-an-rto/
You should also ensure you have sufficient funds for your project. ASQA now requires that you provide bank statements together with a Financial Viability Risk Assessment completed by an independent accountant to prove that your plans are workable. Whilst it might sound ludicrous, it is just one of their ways to ensure the safety of the students, as if you were to go bust a few months into your operations and leave your students hanging, that will impact the VET industry and be detrimental to students’ wellbeing.
Compliance is key
In the vocational education space, compliance is the main factor in your RTO staying registered for a very long time. You would have heard horror stories about regulators such as ASQA sanctioning an RTO for non-compliances or even shutting down an RTO for not complying with the Standards for RTOs 2015, the National Code 2018 (where applicable), and the NVR Act 2011 (as well as the NVR Amendment Act 2020). Don’t be frugal on hiring a Compliance Consultant or a Compliance Manager who can guide you on what the best practices are and what policies and processes are compliant. I have seen too many RTOs close down for not having compliant processes or espousing procedures which are not student-centered.
I myself used a reputable Compliance Consultant when registering my first RTO, and they were an amazing resource! There was no way I would have known and learnt all that I needed to by myself without their help and guidance! A good RTO Consultant can even help you project manage your initial RTO registration so that you don’t miss or forget anything. From helping you develop a compliant Training and Assessment Strategy, to ensuring your Marketing and Refunds policy are in line with the Standards Another great resource is https://www.tac.wa.gov.au/registration/becominganrto/Pages/default.aspx.
When I first started my RTO, I was using a desktop-based software to manage my students, trainers, courses, and operations. It took me going through 4 different software systems before I found the right one for my RTO.
You want to make sure that your RTO software can:
- Manage your students’ information compliantly
- Manage your trainers and assessors’ information and schedules
- Manage your classroom allocations and scheduling
- Manage your finances (ideally have an API that connects the software to your accounting system (such as Xero, Quickbooks or MYOB)
- Manage your complaints and appeals efficiently
- Manage your compliance obligations and requirements smoothly
- Manage your continuous management activities easily
- Help you automate processes such as the development of your Confirmation of Enrolment and your graduation documents and certificates
Most importantly, make sure the RTO software is Cloud-based so that you can access it on any device or computer. An example of Cloud-based can be found here – https://www.rtoadvantage.com.au/rto-resources/. The very first RTO software I used was not Cloud-based and it was horrible! Whenever I was out doing industry consultation, I would have to record the information on paper first, and then enter it back when I’m in the office. Whenever my Trainers were offsite conducting training, they could not record attendance and outcomes immediately. Rather they had to use a pen and paper to do so, and then come back into the office to enter the records. This double handling cost me a lot of money and there is room for error whenever there is double handling of information. Don’t make the same mistake I did! More information can be found here https://www.edna.edu.au/rto-software/