How did we apply for the new TAE40116 Cert IV TAE and TAE50116 Dip VET.


We submitted our application to have the newest Cert IV TAE and Dip VET in early June.  Since then, we have had a steady stream of people asking how we went about it since there seems to be general consensus that the whole thing is a bit of a mess, really (see image of my brain, above, taken during the process of putting together our application).

I’ll try to break it into some simple-ish steps that we followed, and then offer some thoughts on what seemed to work.

What did we do?

  1. Ensure that our house was in order

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The most important word in a Trainer’s vocabulary


Trainers and teachers spend a whole lot of time working with people.  They work out where people are at, and work out how to get them from here to there.  As part of becoming a trainer, they will learn about learning, and about instructional design and assessment and that sort of stuff.

But they will probably not learn the one skill that is arguably more important than all others.

That is the ability to say Read more…

Dear Future Student

Dear future student

Soon, you will be starting a journey of sorts.  It could be an amazingly wonderful experience filled with great moments of illumination, or it could be aching drudgery.  It will probably be a bit of both.  Either way, we will be in it together.

In many ways, it is like going for a walk in the woods.

When we begin, we will Read more…

How I recovered from a 3 star review.



Now, I can tend to take these things personally, so when “You’ve got a new 3 star review” hit my inbox I jumped straight on to it. I wondered? Was it a Cert IV TAE, a Dip VET or a Business Diploma student?  After all, I am constantly telling our staff that the price of customer satisfaction is eternal vigilance.  It’s the small things – those little things we do each and every day that ultimately add up to make the total experience.

So, what did I do?

I read it over, and then took another look.

I paused a moment, and thought Read more…

Wanting RPL for your TAE Cert IV or Dip VET? The first step is to make sure that you are competent.


To get RPL for any course of study, be it a single Unit or an entire Qualification, means that you can demonstrate that you are competent in all areas of the course. This might seem a bit basic, but experience tells me that there are many people who either wish to shortcut the RPL process, or who do not understand what RPL means in the context of the the Cert IV TAE and Dip VET.  Experience tells us that it is better for people to reduce the number of “unknown unknowns”.

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5 Reasons why you should not choose Fortress Learning



We have had several thousand Cert IV TAE, Dip VET-TDD and Business Diploma students go through our virtual doors since 2009.  I don’t say that to brag.

The reality is that not everyone has had a great experience.  To be brutally honest, some people probably wish they never enrolled with us.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying we spend our days fending off constant complaints.  This article was first published in 2016 and since then we have referred 3 people to our Complaints Policy, and none have ever lodged a complaint.  Actually, since 2009, we have never had a formal complaint.

But that doesn’t mean we are great for everyone.

What it does mean is Read more…

What do our students want more than anything else?


There has been heaps written about what people are looking for in a training organisation.

I guess this is not surprising given some of the kerfuffles that are happening.  But, it doesn’t matter if it is the Cert IV TAE, the Dip VET, TDD or one of Business Diplomas, our students tell us that it just comes down to what some might call common sense.

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Do I need to Upgrade my Cert IV TAE?

With the publication of the TAE40116 Cert IV TAE comes the question about upgrading.

Let’s take a look.

What are the differences?

New core units: The newer Cert IV TAE has the LLN411 and ASS502 units as Core.

Changes to old units: A couple of other units have been changed a bit, which means that they are not equivalent.  These are ASS401 and ASS403.

29/8/17 Update:  Fortress Learning has approval to deliver the new TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training & Assessment.  Details about how to do that are available HERE.

I have the Cert IV TAE40110 – what will I have do to upgrade? Read more…

Just because nobody ever told you, doesn’t mean you’re not.

The former Google employee who worked out the value of honest feedback has something that all managers can learn from.  In simple terms, her model of Radical Candour offers hope to those people who feel trapped in a world where being anything but nice is considered the same as harassment, bullying and betrayal.

But, if someone in the Manager’s chair is to do their job, then they will have to Read more…

Why Fortress Learning doesn’t take everyone.


Just as there are training organisations who will issue qualifications to people who may not be competent, there are people who wish to gain qualifications without being competent.   Over the past few years, it appears there are more people who have either first or second hand experience of this.  For Fortress Learning, this presents a challenge since many people now come to our courses with the expectation that what they – or someone they know – has experienced elsewhere is the norm.

The conversation will often end like this: Read more…

Moving out of the Dip VET RPL bog!

Man reviewing papers

Every now and then, a graduating student writes a Review that we believe really captures what we try to do.  Instead of them ending up hidden among the others, we will share them with you, and try to explain why we think they are so appropriate.

Jeuss Polandaya: What did he say?

Q. How painful was the RPL process?

RPL is a tedious process in providing all the necessary evidence but with the support of Fortress trainers, the work becomes manageable.

Q. What didn’t work for you?

Minor setback on some submissions but easily resolved due to the diligence of the trainers/assessors in giving feedback in what to improve in my submissions.

Q. What advice would you give to others considering studying this course in this way?

Be prepared to provide all necessary evidence to demonstrate your competency and don’t look for an evidence that you don’t have. Move on, do the work, set a goal and achieve it!

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to include?

Special thanks to Mr. Bryan West with his guidance and great feedback, I have completed the course in much earlier time.

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How does Fortress Learning respond to the challenges of online learning?

Child listeningIt starts by listening.

One thing our staff like to do is listen.  It’s a skill we look for when recruiting our people.  We like to listen because that tells us if our students are succeeding, and we want to know that for the simple reason that if they don’t succeed, then neither do we.

Since we started delivering the TAA Cert IV online in 2009, we have listened to thousands of students.

So, what have we heard?

We have heard that online learning offers many advantages, and our recent survey of 300 people confirmed what we already believed (you can read about that here):  It can be flexible, it can be rewarding, it can be affordable, it can be efficient.  But, it also can be a lonely path filled with anxiety and uncertainty.

But, as with all things, can does not equal is.  It is only when conscious choices are made that the benefits of online learning can be achieved.

For us, online learning is first and foremost about people. Read more…

It just depends: Online versus Face-to-Face?




This article will seek to summarise the recurring themes that emerged from a survey of 300 people, drawn mostly from a number of Linkedin and Facebook groups related to VET and higher education.  Where used here, the responses of participants will be in italics – other than correcting a few typos, the comments are unedited.

Perhaps not surprisingly is the almost universal agreement that one is not intrinsically better than the other.  Or, in the words of one respondent:

…it just depends.

While that may be true, it is not by itself helpful for people trying to decide which way is best for them.

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There is only try. Or, why Yoda needs a footnote.


Do or do not.  There is no try.

Chances are we can all recall the scene.  Yoda was getting Luke to do something that Luke was not confident with – lifting rocks with his mind or some-such.

At the risk of pitting my wisdom against that of Yoda, I must disagree.  Well, until yesterday I agreed fully.  But something happened yesterday that caused me to question it.

So, what happened yesterday?

Well, after 6 terms of turning up to his weekly gymnastics lesson, our 9 year old son has “levelled up”.  (That’s him in the photo, teaching me how to play piano…)

Most kids, we are told, take maybe a term or two to move to their next level.    I suspect the ones that don’t tend to lose heart and give up.

And that is why I think we ought to be a bit cautious with accepting Yoda’s advice at face value.

Do needs Try

If our Tom had accepted Yoda’s wisdom, then he could easily have resigned himself to not being able to Do, and from that decided that there was no point in Try.

And yet, he did the opposite.  And, watching his humble smile as he accepted the handshake of his coach, I could not help but be inspired by his grit and determination to prevail.

When the Do did not come easy, when others came and went, he took the only available course of action, which was Try.

In fact, he stuck to the Try until that became a Do.  And, after the school holidays, he will return to Level 4, and will continue to Try.

Which is why I think Yoda’s words are perhaps best rephrased:

Do or do not.  There is only try.


Respecting the Learner

Most learners enter the process with a little bit of trepidation. They are unsure whether the training they are going to undertake is what they need; unsure whether they can do well in it or not; unsure of their own success; even unsure whether they are smart enough to learn. All that uneasy feeling of being unsure is one of their worst enemies.

Take that person, with all their insecurities, and plop them into a learning environment with a group of people they’ve never seen before. They’ll be wondering if they can even breathe right, let alone give the trainer the right answer when they’re called on. If there’s anything different about them, such as speaking with an accent, a slight disability, or even wearing thick glasses, and their insecurity meter can burst right through the roof.

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3 Keys to Student Motivation

student motivation in classroom

The vast majority of teachers and trainers today agree that active involvement of
students in their own learning – such as through internal motivation – produces better learning outcomes. Research on how the
brain learns supports this view, as does the thinking of revered figures in the history of
education like John Dewey.

While few disagree with the theory, putting it into practice is another matter. Some
teachers and trainers bend over backwards to incorporate the latest educational
techniques in their learning environments only to find some students just do not buy in
with the enthusiasm and passion they expected to see.
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Eleven Tricks for Effective PowerPoint Presentations

It seems like everyone is using PowerPoint and other presentation software these days. Where schoolchildren used to write reports on things, now they create a presentation instead. Salesmen use presentations to show off their products’ benefits, and of course trainers use them to train their learners. Even with so many people using PowerPoint presentations, it’s amazing how few people can put a really good presentation together. Here are 11 points on how to make your presentations stand out.
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