Anna-Louise Allen has been a leader in education and a catalyst for change and innovation in teaching and learning throughout her career. Anna-Louise commenced as a technical school teacher in the western suburbs teaching Geography. She had held leadership positions in schools, run the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria and worked in a variety of government agencies.
Anna-Louise has published textbooks, industry articles and a wide range of training materials for use in both the school and vocational sectors. More recently Anna-Louise was well known for her fair and informative audit style, conducting audits for both the State and National Regulator and a range of funding bodies. She is a strong advocate for the Learn Local sector and has a passion for assisting some of the more vulnerable members of our community.
Here is a copy of Anna-Louise Allen’s interview conducted by Sukh Sandhu.
Q1: What led you to choose a career in the field of vocational education and training, and how has your entire experience been thus far?
I have always been a person who feels passionate about my career choices. This coupled with a touch of Happenstance theory has led me on my exciting and varied career in education and training.
As a technical school teacher, I have always forged strong connections with industry. I have seen myself as a conduit between education, industry and government which meant that working in the vocational education and training sector was a natural progression.
Q2: It has been a pleasure to attend a number of your professional development workshops, which you have been conducting since the early 2000s. Do you have a favourite topic that you prefer presenting and why?
Quality is a big driver in both business and education. In the VET sector this can sometimes be viewed as a dirty word particularly when it is called Compliance!
Quality is a habit which is inherent in everything we do. It drives ongoing continuous improvement, where small incremental improvements make a big impact on quality and your bottom line. It is about doing great work that inspires learners to engage and enjoy their learning. It is also about ensuring that they have the skills and knowledge to make valuable employees. I like working with trainers and teachers to come up with creative approaches to topics that encourage the application of knowledge and skills to do a great job.
Q3: How can RTOs maintain a balance between the quality of the services they provide and the number of clients to whom they can provide those services, based on your extensive knowledge and experience?
Satisfied customers can become raving fans for your business, which means they will not only come back to study with you again, but will also tell their friends. Quality is not the enemy but rather the strategy to ensure customers for life.
Think about the car you drive or your favourite pair of shoes or handbag. If it is quality, it was probably produced by a quality production system. Often that system involved extensive automation, coupled with innovation and creative thought. Education is no different. A quality system that is informed by industry and clients coupled with creative designers and trainers will produce engaging learning and satisfied students who excel and achieve.
Q4: What are the five most important characteristics of a successful CEO of an RTO?
The CEO must have:
- High level communication skills
- Leadership skills
- A great listener.
Q5: What are the five most imminent risks to RTO businesses, and what should RTOs be doing to mitigate these threats?
- Relationship management
- Complaints management
- Clear lines of communication
- Strong brand
- Policies, procedures and systems that are understood by all.
The five strengths are potentially the greatest risks. Without strong relationship management an RTO or any business can very soon be out of business. Relationship management is also critical when communicating with both the happy and dissatisfied client. Everyone in the RTO has a key role to play in relationship management.
How you manage and handle complaints is also critical to success. Aim to solve them before they escalate. Make sure that your marketing and branding clearly defines what a client can expect from your business and then make sure that you deliver.
Your systems and internal training will be critical in making sure that clients receive the service they expect. Empower all your staff to be proactive and aim to solve problems as they arise.
Q6: What improvements would you like to see made to our standards and regulatory frameworks in order to improve the overall quality of training and assessment?
I am not a fan of the big stick approach. Unfortunately, over the years I have seen a lot of bad behaviour that has required stern and often legal intervention. It will be a great day when we can provide education and training that supports the development of the individual while providing a safe and welcoming learning space for everyone.
The VET sector has often been characterised by a significant movement of talent in and out of training providers. The loss of skills and knowledge resulting from this churn has a large impact on the overall quality of training and assessment. It also means that we are continually re-skilling the workforce in the expectations of clients and government.
Regardless of the sector, there needs to be standards and modes of operations. I would like to change the way we view the regulatory framework, seeing it as a basis for supporting quality within the Vocational Education and Training sector.