Strong strategy and networking are key to Canberra RTO’s stellar rise.

When Australian Capital College was sold in 2019, it was considered by some to be a poster child for how not to run an RTO. The ink was barely dry on the purchase agreement when the new owners found  themselves facing an undisclosed ASQA audit likely to shut the college for past failings.

Today, on the two year anniversary of being under new management, the rebranded Capital College is a rising star. A recent audit reveals top marks for legislative compliance, and student satisfaction levels far in excess of the national average.

New leadership has encouraged a culture of individual accountability and empowerment in students and staff. Consistent class attendance above 92 percent and five-star Google Reviews attest to the school’s  popularity with students from a diverse mix of 40 countries.

In a year when immigration has shut down, classrooms are shuttered, and international students are struggling financially, many registered training organisations have hit the wall. Yet in the past 12 months,  Canberra-based Capital College has:

  • Opened a second campus on the Gold Coast;
  • Extended its Business and IT scope of training courses;
  • Rebranded for a broader national and international audience;
  • Recruited a larger faculty, administrative team and senior leaders;
  • Invested in state-of-the-art technology;
  • Successfully implemented a blended approach to skills delivery;
  • Added dozens of carefully selected education agents to increase student diversity;
  • Launched partnerships with English language and Higher Education providers, to offer students more options on a longer timeline;
  • Applied industry consultation to build student cohorts in off-shore markets, and establish a brand overseas;
  • With enrolments up 17 percent, running costs down 15 percent, and net profit up 97% on pre-pandemic levels, Capital College is an example of thriving in the face of adversity.

Nic Read, recently appointed as CEO after a year on the College Board, attributes the results to having a clear strategy and drawing on a wide network for support inside and outside the College.

“It starts and ends with people,” says Read. “Recruit for attitude, train for skill, and give your team clear direction on goals and standards. Then trust them to magnify their roles. When you create a safe environment for innovation and back your people, magic happens.”

The same approach has been applied in treating education agents as extensions of the College marketing effort, and not as middlemen. Staff in the College participate in research, webinars and student chat rooms to hear the needs of students, and to have the College’s needs heard by government regulatory and education departments, and peak bodies like ITECA.

“People see the trajectory we’re on now and think it must have been easy. It wasn’t”, says Read. “In early 2020 we were about to launch in disability and aged care. Then the pandemic hit. Care facilities closed their doors, and practical student placement became impossible. We had to pivot. That meant researching our options, making data-driven decisions and being agile enough to jump through windows of opportunity when they opened. It was an opportunity to practise the management principles we teach.”

Capital College is now a candidate in the 2021 ACT Training Awards.

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Chay Flannery

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