HOW TO CHOOSE A TRAINING PROVIDER

Teacher aide training

HOW TO CHOOSE A TRAINING PROVIDER


Cheap 'online-only' providers are only initially cheap – they become much more expensive when you miss out on employment opportunities because employers don’t think you have learnt the necessary skills to be effective.


supporting students in groups or individually

Above: Choose a provider who offers classes and weekly live webinars – even if you don’t plan to attend either.


Because choosing a provider is somewhat difficult, we’ve put together a few questions to help you select the best provider for your needs. While we mainly focus on teacher aide courses in this article, this advice applies to most nationally recognised courses in Australia whether it be IT, aged care, childcare, business, mining or any other course. These questions are something of a checklist for when researching potential providers.


In no particular order of importance, here are the questions you should ask:


1. What is the total and true cost of the course?

2. Does the provider run classes?

3. Does the provider offer regular webinars?

4. How many trainers does the provider employ specifically for this course?

5. Is the provider a specialist in their field?

6. Does the provider use an integrated course structure?

7. If enrolling in a dual or combo course, is it a true ‘combo’?

8. Does the provider use a research-based curriculum?

9. Does the provider visit each student on placement?

10. Is the provider well-know and reputable?

11. Who is your trainer going to be?

12. Does the provider develop their own resources?

13. How long has the provider been around for?

14. Is the CEO an industry expert?

15. Has the provider been sanctioned by the VET regulator?
ITAC logo

1. What is the total and true cost of the course?

If a graduate finds a permanent position 6 months sooner than a person who enrolled with a less reputable provider, they will earn $25-30,000 more in that year alone.

When comparing two providers, there are two calculations that you should do:


First, determine the total cost of each course. Ask the provider if there are any other costs such as 'placement fees' or 'resource fees'. A $60 per unit resource fee is around $1000 (16-17 units) in addition to the main 'course fee'.


Second, consider the true cost of enrolling with any given provider. A high quality provider may cost more initially but it means potentially earning much more in the long run. If a graduate finds a permanent position 6 months sooner than a person who enrolled with a less reputable provider, they could earn up to $25-30,000 more in that year alone. Plus, graduates from reputable providers tend to get the more sought-after positions and are promoted faster.


The fact of the matter remains that employers avoid or 'blacklist' certain providers (usually the cheapest 'online-only' providers).


The fact of the matter remains that employers routinely 'black-list' certain providers (usually the cheaper 'online-only' providers). This is because their graduates simply don't have the same level of skills as those from a reputable, specialist providers. At the end of the day, employers want the best trained people.


Note that many "free" or "government subsidised" courses often require students to be in class several days per week. Compared to a good-quality online course, when you factor in travel costs, lost income, childcare fees etc., subsidised courses may be deceivingly expensive.


Another important point to consider is what types of services the provider offers as this is what you're ultimately paying for. For example, many providers still think an online course means giving students a pile of boring e-books. Students then do some 'activities' which basically means answering a heap of true/false questions after reading a chapter, and then they write 50-100 short answers to a series of rather impractical and irrelevant assessment questions.


High quality online courses include supplemntary activities and resources, interactive e-learning modules, the opportunity to learn from peers, live webinars, regular contact from trainers, expert trainers e.g. schoolteachers, and a large library of pre-recorded lectures. So, when comparing costs, think about what you're really paying for.


2. Does the provider run classes?

Even if you are not interested in attending classes, enrol with a provider who offers classes. 100% online providers have a reputation as being of lessor quality and many employers avoid their graduates - they don't want to take the risk of having to re-train under-performing staff.


3. Does the provider offer regular webinars?

Regular webinars e.g. once a week, are critical to students' success as it provides a structure to work around and a regular point of contact. Even if you don’t attend them regularly, having the option is important. A provider who doesn't offer this service may be trying to save money or they might not have staff who are capable of running live webinars.


ITAC class

4. How many trainers does the provider employ specifically for your course?

Ensure the provider has at least 4 or 5 trainers. Many training providers only have 1 or 2 and they may even be part-time, casual or contractors. If they become ill or leave – who will mark your assessments? Who will answer your questions when you need help? If this happens you might have to wait several months before a new trainer can be hired or, worse still but not uncommon, the course may even be cancelled and you will need to find and pay for a second course.


5. Is the provider a specialist in their field?

You really want to study with a provider that specialises in a single area.


You really want to study with a provider that specialises in a single area. This means their admin staff, curriculum, trainers, management, processes etc. is all 100% geared towards your industry. In the training industry (VET) really good trainers tend to work for specialist providers.


Think of it like this: if you need surgery, you want the best - a specialist. The same goes with courses – find a specialist provider who lives and breathes that sector - they will have the best trainers, resources, reputation etc.


Providers who specialise are generally well-known by employers and have strong relationships with many of them - this is good for students when it comes to finding work. Specialist providers are often operated by industry experts which means your qualification means more to employers. In other words, a qualification from a specialist provider is a big advantage in the job market (employers heavily favour certain providers and avoid others).


6. Does the provider use an integrated course structure?

This sounds technical but it's one of the more critical points on the list – an integrated course saves you months of repetitive assessments.


This sounds technical but it's one of the more critical points on the list – an integrated course saves you months of repetitive assessments. Most courses are delivered one unit at a time or in clusters which means 2-3 units at a time. The problem with both of these structures is that there is a large amount of repetition. This means students have to study for much longer – often up to 6 months or more.


For example, if you studied the CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support on a unit-by-unit basis, you would be assessed on ‘confidentiality’ or similar terms around 15-20 times – once or twice in each unit.


An integrated course combines these 20 or so instances into a single assessment item. All of these instances are ‘mashed’ together into 4 practical modules as opposed to 17 separate units. In this example, you would only be assessed once on this term, and not 20 separate times.


What does this mean in terms of course duration? It means students can finish their course months earlier (up to 6-9 months earlier in some cases) while still having studied the exact same content. This is critical because studying for an extra 6 months means foregoing around $25,000 in additional earnings (for a full-time teacher aide).


Developing integrated courses is a very time consuming, advanced and difficult task for even the most experienced VET expert. For this reason, only a few highly specialised providers in Australia design and offer courses in this way - such as ITAC.


We have written an article explaining integrated courses if you wish to learn more.


ITAC class

Above: 17 units are mashed together to form 4 modules that represent work-like tasks and functions. This is a much more effective and logical way of learning.


7. If enrolling in a dual or combo course, is it a true ‘combo’?

The proper way to deliver a dual or combo courses is to combine both qualifications into one streamlined program where students study both courses at the same time.


Dual or combo courses are popular these days and you will see these programs in all industries and with both TAFEs and private providers. There is a trap to be aware of however: ensure the course is not simply one course followed by the other. If this is the case, it’s not really a combo or dual program at all, and you may as well just enrol in the higher level course on its own.


The proper way to deliver a dual or combo courses is to combine both qualifications into one streamlined program where students study both courses at the same time. This can really only happen with an integrated course structure (see point 6 above).


In fact, an integrated structure is even more important when enrolling in a dual/combo program because there is twice the number of units and hence twice the potential repetition or duplication. You could end up studying up to 32 units, one at a time, and each covering overlapping or identical content.


ITAC is the only provider in Australia delivering a 'true' teacher aide combo using our unique integrated design. Instead of studying dozens of units, students complete 4 modules.


8. Does the provider use a research-based curriculum?

Employers don’t want to waste time and money training new staff that should already have the necessary skills, so they look for well-trained graduates from reputable and specialist providers.


Few providers use the latest academic research as the basis for their curriculum, and this is very unfortunate. It is very important that you enrol with a provider who teaches skills, knowledge and methods based on the latest research as this is what employers expect - especially schools.


For example, in a fitness courses you would expect to learn what the latest research says about stretching, nutrition, muscle development etc. If the course isn't research-based, then you're basically learning someone's opinion of what they believe to be true, and that information could be out-dated or even incorrect.


For teacher aide courses, 'research-based' mainly refers to instructional strategies and behaviour management techniques. It also refers to strategies for supporting students with additional needs. To be 'research-based', these strategies have been tested by researchers and have been shown to have a positive effect on student outcomes. The results of these studies are then peer-reviewed and published in academic journals. Employers tend to keep up with this research and they provide ongoing training to their existing staff. They consequently expect new staff to have such skills.


Pretty much all specialist providers use a research-based curriculum to varying degrees. You can read about the latest research in terms of teacher aides in our literature review here.


Employers don’t want to waste time and money training new staff that should already have the necessary skills, so they look for well-trained graduates from reputable and specialist providers. Generally speaking, only specialist providers will have the capacity to keep up with the latest research and unfortunately many providers teach generic, out-dated and irrelevant skills.


Sifting though and interpreting research also requires a highly-qualified course developer e.g. at PhD level. Unfortunately, many RTOs are operated by individuals who hold only Cert IV or Diploma qualifications, and this has implications for course quality and therefore the employability of their graduates.


ITAC is the only provider in Australia delivering a research-based curriculum for teacher aide courses.


9. Does the provider visit each student on placement?


Employers expect a trainer to attend the workplace. If they don’t, your supervisors will questions the quality of your training which will affect your employment prospects.


Whether its aged care, childcare, mining, IT, fitness or education support, having your trainer come out and see you while on placement is a must. There are a whole bunch of reasons for this, but the most important are as follows:

  • Many qualifications, including childcare and education support, legally require a trainer to physically attend the workplace. For example, the unit CHCEDS046 in the CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support requires practical skills to be 'directly observed by the assessor'. If the provider ignores this requirement (usually to cut costs), students risk having their certificate re-called by the government regulator.
  • Each student will have critical issues with their professional practice, and your trainer will be highly experienced in identifying and helping you to fix these issues. This is often the difference between being offered work while on placement and being politely passed over.
  • Employers expect a trainer to attend the workplace. If they don’t, your supervisors will questions the quality of your training which will affect your employment prospects.
  • Providers who don’t visit students are probably cutting costs. They may not be employing properly qualified trainers with the skills and confidence to go onto a workplace and interact with supervisors e.g. principals, schoolteachers. For example, we have seen instances where providers employ childcare trainers to deliver teacher aide courses - mistakenly thinking that close enough is good enough.
  • If you have any issues while on placement, such as supervisor not willing to sign you off as 'complete', your trainer will need to attend the workplace to help resolve any issues. This happens more often than you think and if it does, you'll want someone there to sort everything out.

Good quality providers such as ITAC visit every student on placement.


ITAC class

10. Is the provider well-know and reputable?

However, if your certificate isn’t from a reputable provider who is well-known in the industry – your potential employer may question your skills.


The certificate you receive at the end of your course is ‘proof’ of your skills and knowledge. However, if your certificate isn’t from a reputable provider who is well-known in the industry – your potential employer may question your skills. If you were to enrol in the cheapest course that you could find online – you could lose out on work to someone who received better quality training.


Cheap 'online-only' providers are only initially cheap – they become much more expensive when you miss out on employment opportunities because employers don’t think you have learnt the necessary skills to be effective.


ITAC for example, has worked with thousands of schools across Australia – ensure that your provider has a good reputation with employers.


11. Who is your trainer going to be?

Your trainer should also be suitably qualified (minimum of degree qualified but preferably masters’ degree).


We advise anyone who is thinking about enrolling in a course to ask questions about their trainers. This person should have at least 5-10 years of experience in the exact industry you are being trained to work in e.g. for an aged care trainer, they should be a registered nurse who has worked extensively in aged care. For a teacher aide course, the trainer should be a former schoolteacher (and not from a 'related' field such as a childcare).


Your trainer should also be suitably qualified (minimum of degree qualified but preferably masters’ degree). Good providers actually have a mix of trainers e.g. some degree qualified and some VET qualified – this gives students a range of different perspectives to learn from. Another reason for why enrolling with a specialist provider is worthwhile - they have specialist trainers who contribute to your learning in specific areas e.g. a specialist in early childhood education, a special needs teacher, a former high school teacher etc.


ITAC class

12. Does the provider develop their own resources?

Our advice is to ask for sample resources and to also check who developed them – they should have been developed in-house by trainers from the provider.


Following on from our advice about enrolling with a specialist provider, it’s important to understand that the resources provided to you is critical to your future job prospects. Providers can easily purchase training and assessment materials; however these products are inferior, often written by people who don’t work in the industry, and are sometimes even from overseas. Purchasing training materials from so-called ‘curriculum developers’ is a big issue in the industry at the moment.


Our advice is to ask for sample resources and to also check who developed them – they should have been developed by trainers from the provider - never purchased elsewhere. This includes learner guides, assessments, presentations, lectures, e-learning modules etc. At ITAC for example, we develop all of these resources ourselves – in fact, some other providers use our learner guide.


13. How long has the provider been around for?

Ensure that the provider has been operating for at least 10 years. You can check this on training.gov.au (see registration tab – initial registration date). Experience is important when it comes to delivering courses.


14. Is the CEO an industry expert?


If there is no information about the CEO, either ask or simply avoid the provider altogether.


Check the about page of your provider to ensure the CEO is an industry expert in the sector that you are studying. They are ultimately in charge of designing the curriculum (most actually buy their curriculum – avoid these providers), hiring and training their staff (who are your trainers), setting rules and policies around placement, and many other important tasks that directly affect you in a significant way.


ITAC’s CEO for example, is a former schoolteacher and is completing a Doctorate. The CEO should be at least degree qualified as a minimum - preferably masters' degree or doctorate level. If there is no information about the CEO, either ask or simply avoid the provider altogether.


15. Has the provider been sanctioned by the VET regulator?

Check that the provider has not been sanctioned by the VET regulator at some point in the past. You can do this by searching for the provider at training.gov.au (see ‘regulatory decision information’ tab). Providers who have been sanctioned in the past should probably be avoided.


Final thoughts

You may have initially thought that all providers are the same, after all they are delivering the same course right? Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth - and future employers know it. At least now you will have the knowledge to make informed decisions instead of going with the provider with the best website. We hope that these suggestions will help in your search to identify a high-quality training provider that meets you needs and that of your employer as well.


Happy Learning


The ITAC Team

About the author

Image of the managing director of ITAC.

ADAM GREEN

Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.

INTRODUCTORY COURSE

CHC30221 Certificate III in School Based Education Support

The introductory teacher aide course for anyone seeking to work as a support worker.

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SPECIAL NEED'S COURSE

CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support

Maximise your job prospects and skills with the highest level teacher aide course.

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TEACHER AIDE COMBO

A streamlined program saving you time and money

Turbo charge your resume and save $2100 with our most popular teacher aide course.

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SAMPLE RESOURCES

Sample course resources and materials

View resources and materials from our research-based, best practice teacher aide courses.

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ITAC'S RESEARCH-BASED TEACHER AIDE COURSES

CHC30221 Certificate III in School Based Education Support & CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support

INTRODUCTORY COURSE

CHC30221 Certificate III in School Based Education Support

The introductory teacher aide course covering all the basics of working in a school.

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HIGHER-LEVEL COURSE

CHC40221 Certificate IV in School Based Education Support

The industry standard TA course with a focus on disabilities and disorders.

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TEACHER AIDE COMBO

Study two courses in one streamlined program with the Teacher Aide Combo

Save time and money by completing ITAC's popular Teacher Aide Combo.

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SAMPLE RESOURCES

Have a look at our range of sample course resources and materials

Be sure to ask your provider for a sample of their resources and assessments before enrolling.

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