A New Name for a New Direction

Bendigo TAFE

Over 10,000 students learn practical, industry relevant skills at Bendigo TAFE’s state of the art facilities each year. The institute delivers a wide range of vocational courses across its six campuses, which are located in Bendigo, Echuca, Castlemaine and Maryborough, Victoria. Bendigo TAFE has been educating the local community for over 155 years, and remains at the forefront of the latest educational and industry trends.

Staying ahead requires flexibility and innovation. “There have been a number of evolutions throughout our history,” John Rossi, Director of Marketing & Business Development, reports. The institute’s latest evolution is the adoption of a new name. Previously known as BRIT (the Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE), the organization has officially changed its name to Bendigo TAFE. “It was a very confusing name in the marketplace,” Mr Rossi says of the old moniker. “[People wondered] what BRIT actually stood for.”

The institute is rolling out an extensive brand relaunch this month to introduce the new name. The new identity is an exciting move forward, although it will take a substantial amount of work to see it to completion. “There are hundreds of documents that we are going to have to work through,” Mr Rossi explains. Everything is being revamped to bear the name Bendigo TAFE – from signage, print ads and promotional goods to email salutations, uniform logos, and website pages.

Bendigo TAFE’S rebranding isn’t the only major change that the institute is undergoing. “Nothing is staying the same at the moment,” Mr Rossi reports. Indeed, the team is working hard to keep ahead of a rapidly evolving marketplace. “The consumer and business preferences have definitely changed over the last few years. More and more businesses are really looking at a different training model now.” Government funding models are also pushing Bendigo TAFE to rethink how best to deliver its services. “The government is saying that all TAFEs have to become financially sustainable,” Mr Rossi points out. “You’ve got to be a viable business. So the challenge internally is to ensure that viability is a key focus in our planning for 2014

Delivering what the customer wants is, of course, crucial. “We have to consider whether or not our courses are actually relevant to the industry,” Mr Rossi says. “Does the industry want them, and if not, what do they want?” To help make this determination, Bendigo TAFE has sought the advice of industry, “talking to employers about what they want, and how they want it delivered.” The feedback has been invaluable. In fact, it has driven a new, innovative path into the future. “We have been a traditional institution,” Mr Rossi remarks. “But we’ve started moving [in a new direction] the last couple of years.”

While the institute’s traditional business model will remain in place to a certain extent, Mr Rossi estimates that more than half of Bendigo TAFE’s future business will be coming from a new model. “The business model is certainly being refined,” he adds. “It is a very exciting time.” The crux of this new model is to work hand in hand with industry – even if this means leaving the comfort of the traditional classroom. “We have to adapt our delivery model to meet the needs of our customers,” Mr Rossi explains.

Bendigo TAFE’s new delivery model offers more support in the workplace, rather than just staying within the walls of the institute. Instructors now regularly “go into the field” with students to instruct and assess, in addition to providing traditional, classroom based learning. Bendigo TAFE also goes onsite to work closely with organisations that want to deliver their own training programs. The institute is able to support these businesses by providing the accreditation that their programs need. “We actually go in and ensure that the training has been delivered. We ensure that the student – or the employee of that company – has actually met the criteria to be issued some form of qualification.”

This new, in-the-workplace delivery method requires a great deal of flexibility. Traditional working hours no longer apply, for instance. “Flexibility is the name of the game in any business,” Mr Rossi points out. “Gone are the old 9 to 5 days. We have to be adaptable and we have to be available when the client wants us.” Other industries, such as banking and retail, have already learned this lesson, he adds, but education is just going through those changes now. Traditional holidays must also be rethought. “You can’t just close down over the traditional holiday periods,” Mr Rossi explains. “A lot of companies take that opportunity – when business is a little quieter and their major clients are away – to do some personal development for their staff. So we’ve got to be available when they need us.”

Bendigo TAFE is also strengthening its relationship with other learning institutions. “The other big change is working more closely with the universities,” Mr Rossi reports. The institute has developed an articulation agreement such that a Bendigo TAFE diploma automatically provides some credit toward academic requirements at universities taking part in this agreement. “We are well aware that we need to be a feeder into universities,” Mr Rossi says. “And we also need secondary schools within the Bendigo region to be able to feed their students through to TAFE as well. There is a very, very high focus on strengthening those relationships and giving students opportunities.”

While many changes are taking place at Bendigo TAFE, some important aspects are staying the same; most notably, the commitment and dedication of its teachers remains high. “They have an absolute passion for imparting their knowledge and their hands-on experience to the student,” Mr Rossi reports. In fact, while Bendigo TAFE instructors are well compensated, they would almost certainly earn a higher income practicing their trades in the business world. These dedicated professionals work at the institute because they want to, they love to impart their knowledge to students eager to succeed in the industry.

Instructors work closely with students on and off campus, ensuring that they are fully prepared to undertake their new career path. “They will guide the student through,” Mr Rossi explains. “They will tutor them, they will oversee their work. They will actually go onsite with the student to make sure that they are up to speed and have adopted all the practices that they should have.” Bendigo TAFE instructors also work closely with employers to ensure that apprentices have all the needed skills in place for successful employment. “We are constantly talking to the employer on an ongoing basis, getting feedback from the employer. It is an ongoing relationship.”

Bendigo TAFE also has a dedicated team of counsellors who help ensure that students are ready to launch a new career. These counsellors take the time to study each student’s career goals and skills and help place them on the right track. Assistance comes in many forms, from helping students prepare for an interview, to matching them with specific employers. “We work with a number of employers throughout the area who constantly take on our students,” Mr Rossi adds. “It’s an end to end delivery.”

Placing Bendigo TAFE students with employers is relatively easy, Mr Rossi adds, because one of the institute’s key goals is to produce employees who are fully prepared to meet the challenges of the workplace. As a result, “Once they go out to an employer, they are ready to start working.” This is in stark contrast to graduates of many higher learning programs, Mr Rossi says. “I’ve interviewed a number of people who have come out of universities with the greatest qualifications in the world, but they haven’t actually been out to the workplace, they don’t actually understand what makes the business tick. [Bendigo TAFE] students have had exposure to hands-on learning. They understand what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.”

The institute’s willingness to embark in an innovative, industry relevant direction helps ensure that these students – and their employers – will continue to receive the support that they need. “We’ve got to be adaptable, flexible, think outside the square,” Mr Rossi points out. By doing so, Bendigo TAFE will remain a viable business. But, more importantly, the team will be able to successfully achieve the institute’s underlying vision. “We want to support and guide our students to believe in themselves,” Mr Rossi explains. “We want to make a difference in the student’s life.”

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January 18, 2019, 3:37 AM AEDT