Jenny Patrickson is the Managing Director of Active IQ, one of the UK’s leading awarding organisations for the leisure and wellbeing sector. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, a reputation for strategic business planning and a deep understanding of the industry’s regulatory framework, Jenny has an almost unrivalled understanding of what it takes to become a successful training provider.
We met with Jenny to learn how training providers can establish strong foundations while differentiating themselves from an ever growing sea of competition.
1. Don’t join the race to the bottom
Too many providers focus on cost and duration, making their courses as short and cheap as possible. In the short term it may sell a few extra seats, but in the long run everyone suffers; trainers struggle to make ends meet because they lack the right skills to attract and retain business, clients receive a sub-par service and training providers slowly erode their profit margins and reputation until there’s nothing left.
2. Get your mix of learning techniques right from the start
Digital learning has its place, but it has to be part of the overall mix. Students need human contact and that cannot be delivered through an exclusively virtual experience. The best providers create a blend of one on one classes with broader support and online content.
“As a provider you need to think about how you can offer wrap-around support in the most engaging way possible.”
Furthermore, as students progress through the course they will inevitably lose focus so giving frequent support is essential, both online and in person. As a provider you need to think about how you can offer this wrap-around support in the most engaging way possible.
3. Be clear on your point of difference and create your own CPD
This is a competitive market so if you don’t have a clear point of difference you will struggle to cut through the noise. Very often I find the most effective in doing so are the small businesses that provide a really clear journey for the student, which almost always involves developing some of their own CPD. For example, Primal Academy is a training provider in the North of England that have built an outstanding reputation as training specialists through constantly developing their programmes whilst bolting on CPD that they have produced themselves.
“If you don’t have a clear point of difference then you will struggle to cut through the noise”
4. Your choice of trainer is critical
Very often the course is made or broken by the trainer delivering it. The best are always well qualified, experienced and most importantly, still practicing in the industry. Those that have done nothing but train other trainers for the last 5 years will be out of touch and incapable of illustrating their material through real world examples.
5. Offer a route into employment
You need to understand as a training provider that you are not selling the course, but a future, and for most that will involve finding a job. You therefore need to ensure you have close links with employers throughout the industry.
“You are not selling the course, but a future”
6. Don’t underestimate the importance of further training
You’ll be far more profitable if you focus on delivering greater levels of training on an ongoing basis to a smaller number of trainers, than if you try to just sell single courses to the masses. One of your most important Key Performance Indicators should be the lifetime value of your customer base.
7. Remember that this industry is built on word of mouth
The industry is smaller than you think. If you cut corners and fail to provide sufficient wrap-around support, not only will you risk losing your accreditation as a training provider, but the awarding body is required by Ofqual, the regulator, to inform other awarding organisations, making it challenging to gain accreditation elsewhere. Conversely, those that provide a great educational experience, are well regarded within the sector and benefit greatly from student referrals.