Choosing a Training Provider – Your Ultimate How To Guide
Posted January 21, 2019, by Jenny
You wouldn’t buy a car before taking it for a spin, or buy a house without a thorough inspection, so why would you invest in your education without the right research!
There’s a lot to check off your list when it comes to finding ‘the one’, and you only get out what you put in, so when you’re course hunting, be prepared to put in the time and effort to research.
Deciding who to study with is really important, and knowing the difference between university or vocational education training (VET) at a private college or TAFE is a must! So without further ado, here’s a little breakdown on each:
University has long been one of the most popular tertiary choices for Australian students. There are currently 43 universities across the country with more than 1 million enrolled students.
Uni is often a compulsory stepping-stone to many careers, arming students with highly regarded Degrees, Masters and/or Doctorates - we’ll talk more about what each qualification offers in Chapter 4. Regardless of your background, talents or career goals, the huge range of university courses on offer means you’re sure to find a degree to suit your interests and aspirations.
The time to complete a Bachelor’s Degree is 3-4 years and a Masters is 1.5-2 years.
Entry requirements for university tend to be more competitive and those straight out of high school will require a specific ATAR, which is set by each institution. There are alternatives for getting into uni without an ATAR including professional work experience.
Universities have large intakes and if you’re choosing to study on campus you’ll find yourself in lecture theatres among hundreds of fellow students. Lectures are led by industry experts who are at the top of their game – so listen up! You do, however, have the opportunity to pick the brain of your tutor during smaller tutorials.
Get more hands-on and practical with a TAFE course! Short for ‘Technical and Further Education’, TAFE offers a more focused learning environment, ensuring students gain more practical skills for the workforce. It’s a government-run education system offering courses in vocational areas such as beauty, trades, childcare, hospitality, tourism and much more.
At TAFE, qualifications you can graduate with include Certificate I, II, III or IV, Diploma and then Advanced Diploma – you can learn more about each of these in the next chapter.
The great thing about TAFE is that they offer smaller class sizes, which means you’ll receive more one-on-one teacher assistance.
There are generally fewer prerequisites for getting into TAFE and can often be considered a stepping-stone for those who don’t qualify for university.
Private providers are all about offering students a more personalised learning experience. Private colleges come in all shapes and sizes and often concentrate on delivering industry-focused training in their specialised field, such as design, hospitality, beauty, fitness, finance or more.
Private course providers offer a mix of VET* and higher education courses. Independent training providers can offer certificate courses, right through to postgraduate degrees.
Private colleges do not have to be government regulated so if you want your piece of paper at the end to be nationally recognised, then be sure to check that your institution is a registered training organisation.
*“Vocational education and training (VET) enables students to gain qualifications for all types of employment, and specific skills to help them in the workplace... [VET] is provided through a network of eight state and territory governments and the Australian Government, along with industry, public and private training providers. These organisations work together to provide nationally consistent training across Australia.” – ASQA
Be part of a more focused learning environment! Like TAFE, private colleges have a smaller student intake which means more focus on you.
An ATAR is not required for admission and the entry requirements for each course will depend on the level of qualification you’re applying for.
At the end of the day no one option heavily outweighs the others, each provider has different strengths, and each qualification offers different benefits, so it is up to the individual to choose the institution and qualification that suits them the best and gets them closest to their goals.
What to Look for In Your Education Provider
Be sure to shop around and enquire with multiple providers (/courses/course-providers). Compare course fees, content, the length of the course and their industry connections. The NSW Department of Fair Trading state they receive “complaints from students about fees, refunds, misleading information and course quality for training and education.”
Don’t commit to a course without adequate research and really weighing up your options. Here are some things to look out for when tossing up between training providers.
- Some providers specialise in one or two particular fields, while others offer a huge variety of courses. If an institution has put a lot of resources into mastering the field you’re interested in joining, then it might be worth signing up and allowing them to help you really excel.
- What’s their reputation like? Don’t be shy to ask around (colleagues, industry professionals or friends) to find out more about a training provider.
- Do you learn better among peers in a classroom environment or do you prefer to log on and learn online, allowing you to study remotely at your own pace? Perhaps you want the best of both worlds and will opt for a blended learning experience. Know what study mode works best for you and ensure your provider can meet your needs.
- Facilities offered to students can help be the deciding factor of whether to stay or keep looking. Institutions offer different facilities such as sporting facilities, student accommodation, libraries and study spaces; as well as speciality facilities that may be required in your field like science labs or health clinics. Ensure your provider has the right facilities to help support your learning experience.
- If you’re studying on campus, the atmosphere could be important to you. Be sure to research and visit the campus you’ll be studying at, chat with students and even see if you can have a look at some upcoming social events and activities.
- Have a good read over the course content. The same course can be taught quite differently across different institutions. It’s important to read the course outline, and pay attention to the core subjects and electives to ensure they’re suitable for you. You may also want to check whether work placement is a component (if relevant).
- Your qualification is recognised. If you’re putting in the hard yards, you want to ensure that the end result (aka that ‘piece of paper’) is accredited. Be sure to check relevant industry bodies accredit the course you’re looking at and your training provider is registered.
- Are your trainers properly qualified? Look for providers with trainers who have industry experience and are prepared to mentor you.
- Last, but definitely not least is the big F word, FUNDING. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, you need to make sure you can afford them. Find out if there are Commonwealth Supported Places available or government loan schemes such as HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP. Most institutions also offer scholarships and awards or even a number of payment plans, so be sure to have a good chat with your provider about what options are available to you.
No matter what provider you choose, one thing you should be looking out for across the board is what student support services are on offer. Ask about academic support, online resources, health services and career counselling services. You might not think it now, but when the going gets tough it’s important to have a good support network that you’re comfortable turning to.
Avoid Making The Wrong Decision
The NSW Department of Fair Trading urges everyone to make an informed decision when choosing the right provider. Avoid pressure tactics and scams. Don’t be fooled by ‘on the spot’ sign-ups or feel obliged because of their ‘limited time only’ prices. Training providers should always offer you time to consider the course and offer you adequate information on their institution and the course itself. Oh, and never ever give your tax file number to a provider unless you’re 100% sure you want to sign up.
Want more guidance around your studies? Our FREE study eBook, Study for Success, is loaded with tips and advice to help you along every stage of your learning journey.