The answer is not choosing between TAFE and FTTA - but choosing the best provider for you.
Problem: you’re thinking about enrolling in a teacher’s aide course such as the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support and don’t know where to enrol? Maybe you weren’t aware that there are plenty of options available, each one catering to a different type of student. With so many options, how do you know what to do and how can you be sure that you made the right decision?
Answer: We’ll explain the difference between the two main types of providers so you can make an informed decision. We explain the pros and cons of both TAFE and private RTOs, and we’ll provide you will some statistics showing where students are enrolling.
Disclaimer: Obviously you may have noticed by now that FTTA is a private provider so you would think that we are a bit biased (and maybe we are). However, TAFE and private RTOs are not in competition, at least in our view – they serve two separate markets - which we’ll explain below.
RTO = Registered Training Organisation
I recommend reading my article A Guide to Government Funded Teacher’s Aide Courses and specifically the section “Is free really free? Why cheap courses can be really expensive.”
Key recommendations from this article:
TAFE is known as the provider for younger students and they enrol the majority of students under the age of 18. For example, as a high school teacher myself, I worked as a trainer for one of the big TAFEs, training students in year 11 and 12. I never trained anyone over the age of 18.
The TAFEs also do a fantastic job in areas where private RTOs simply don’t have the government funding and infrastructure such as in regional and rural areas. Again, there are no hard and fast rules here – but almost all private RTOs are based in big cities such as Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
School leavers who enter the training system, often apply directly to TAFE. Effectively TAFE is year 13 in many respects. If you have walked past any TAFE campus, you will inevitably notice that the majority of students are very young, and you may even noticed groups of school kids in their uniform touring the campus – schools funnel their students into the TAFE system.
Private providers such as FTTA on the other hand are popular with mature age students. Interestingly, the largest group of students who enrol in VET courses are 25-40 year olds (according to national statistics). These students overwhelmingly enrol with private providers who are geared and specialise in case managing adult learners who need flexible, self-paced and structured programs taht fit around their family and work commitments.
Both TAFE and private RTOs follow the same ‘rules’ that govern how providers operate; this includes the Standards for RTOs 2015, the Australian Qualification Framework and Training Packages.
Finally, the most important point that I want to make in this article, is that you should not be thinking TAFE versus private, but thinking about researching and finding the best RTO for you – who meets your needs the best? Who do you feel comfortable with? You will spend a lot of time with that provider – maybe a year or more – not a little commitment by any stretch of the imagination.
Each provider, whether a TAFE or private provider will structure their course differently. No two providers are the same. Most providers deliver their courses on a unit by unit basis. This means that students complete one unit, finish that unit, then start on the next unit. This is similar to a university structure and can take much longer to complete.
In some cases, students study more than one unit at a time, however they are still studying each unit separately. I have seen TAFE courses for example, where a single unit has several hours of class-based delivery per week for an entire semester - students enrol in 5 or 6 units per semester. This is great for students with no previous experience with children such as high school leavers – but a waste of time for adult learners in most cases - the sooner you can start earning.
Some providers cluster their units. At FTTA we do this for several reasons. Firstly, there is a huge amount of repetition in almost all courses in the community services sector (any course code that starts with CHC). As an example, there are a number of very similar safety units in each course. Naturally, putting all of these together seems logical – it means you don’t have to answer simple questions like ‘what is a hazard’ over and over again.
We prefer to cluster our courses – this saves you considerable time, stress and the annoyance of answering the same assessment questions over and over.
In short, TAFE and private RTOs like FTTA, set up their course in very different ways. You should choose an RTO that suits your needs. We do however recommend a clusters program as it saves you time.
Work placement is mandatory for all students enrolled in a teacher’s aide course (nationally recognised). A minimum of 100 hours is required to be logged in a registered school. This is a requirement set down by the government. Even RPL students need to log 100 hours – although this is easy if you already work in a school as the hours can be either paid or unpaid.
Some TAFEs will require students to do a significant number of additional hours especially if you enrol in individual units as opposed to a course that is clustered. For example, you may enrol in 6 units in semester 1, and do a placement specifically for those units. Then in semester 2, you will do another 6 units and complete another placement for those units. This may suit some students, but it is becoming less popular as people become busier and realise the opportunity cost of completing well above the minimum requirements.
What do students do on placement? Again, it depends on the provider. A particular TAFE will have different requirements to another TAFE. No two private providers are the same. Some providers for example, structure their placement so that students have focused activities each day. This gives you something to practice and allows the teacher to give you targeted advice - which helps with the assessment activities completed towards the end of the course.
Other providers simply require the 100 hours is completed and don’t visit students in the workplace. We recommend that you enrol with a provider who visits you in the workplace. This service is very important because if there are issues (and there are issues now and then) you need a supportive trainer who will come out to assist you. Also, when your trainer comes out and observes you in the real world, they give you hints, tips and advice that is essential for your professional development. Only when a trainer enters the classroom, will they understand the class dynamic, atmosphere and so forth. It is also likely to be the only opportunity you will ever get, to have a professional educator observe you implementing strategies and techniques, and to provide invaluable advice that will help you improve out-of-sight.
Some students have glaring issues in their performance that is easily fixed, but not noticed until the trainer observes the student in the classroom. The trainer will also speak with the teacher and discuss your progress.
To give you the most unsatisfying answer – it depends! But…really it does depend. There are many factors that you need to consider when choosing your provider.
If you are a younger student, with plenty of time on your hands, and you think you need to be in class 3-5 days per week in order to keep on track, then TAFE may be an option.
If you are an adult learner, with family or work commitments, a private RTO is more likely to meet your needs. Private RTOs tend to be more geared towards supporting adult learners.
It’s important that you do your research and don’t just choose the cheapest option. Consider the following important points:
Most students (Australia wide) enrol with private RTOs according to government statistics – 680,000 TAFE enrolments versus 2.5 million private provider program enrolments according to the government’s National Centre for Vocational Education and Training. This is in spite of the fact that many states have severely restricted private RTOs in terms of being able to offer government subsidised courses to students.
All students are required to complete a placement.
In some instances, teacher’s aide courses are cheaper at TAFE especially when funding is provided by the government. This is not always the case however and sometimes government funded courses are still more expensive that full fee paying courses. In other instances such as in Queensland, funding is provided to students regardless of whether they choose private or public. This gives power to the student to choose a provier that best suits their needs.
We have discussed the main benefit of enrolling in a course with a private provider versus a TAFE provider. However, we believe that both serve different markets and you should choose the best provider for your needs. The best provider for you isn’t always the cheapest option available. If you are a younger student, TAFE is a popular option. If you are an adult learner, a private RTO may be more suitable.
We prefer a clusterd based course as it saves you a significant amount of time - so you don’t have to answer the same questions over and over. Also, its important that you trainer visits you in the workplace. In the end, choose the best provider for you – one that gives you the maximum chance of success and a positive learning experience.
Adam Green is a former teacher, member of the government’s Education Support Industry Advisory Group, MD at FTTA, and a post-graduate researcher at Murdoch university.
Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is general, may not be relevant to you, is not legal advice and no guarantee of accuracy is provided. Users should seek expert advice before relying on any information provided in this article.
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With more than 4000 graduates, FTTA is the go-to provider for teacher's aide courses. 1 in 2 students choose to study the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support with FTTA.