Narelle Henry

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Local training provider Equalis has just been recognised with a major award. Narelle Henry tells us about this enterprising business, which is truly setting the benchmark for quality training in the community services sector.


Narelle, give us a bit of background on yourself and Equalis …

The business was established about 10 years ago by a group of clinicians, who were working for the government at the time. Some colleagues of mine and I then started our own private consultancy business, providing clinical support to various services. As a result of this, the services we were helping wanted specific training – so we became a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).

About 6 or 7 years ago the partnership dissolved, and I retained the Directorship of the company.

We’re a Registered Training Organisation – similar to a TAFE, but we’re private, not government-funded. Our niche is in the community services sector, so we work with children’s services, disability, youth, mental health and aged care. We also work in the industry, so my staff, contractors and partners all come from this particular industry.

Distance education is obviously a core strength of your business?

We have national coverage – national recognition – so we work across Australia. Most of our students are based in New South Wales, but we are growing into other states as well.

We have so many flexible training options – from classrooms through to online training ‘webinars’.

We do training on site; for example, an organisation may have 20 staff they want to train, and we’ll go to them to complete the training. Most of our staff are mobile and travel regularly.

What are some of the courses Equalis offers?

Certificate III and IV in Aged Care; Certificate III or Diploma in Children’s Services; Certificate III, IV or Diploma in Disability Work; Certificate IV or Diploma in Frontline Management; Certificate III in Home and Community Care; Certificate IV in Mental Health; and Certificate IV and Diploma in Youth Work.

We also offer specialist short courses, traineeships, workshops/seminars and training partnerships.

What is the prestigious award Equalis won recently?

It was the NSW Small Training Provider Award for 2011. There were 1,000 applications for the award. This was short listed to 10; then we were visited by the judges and interviewed. The three finalists chosen then attended the award ceremony at the Darling Harbour Convention Centre. We were announced the winner!

The good thing that happens is we now go on to represent our state against the rest of the country for the Australian Award. We’ve been told that we are one of the final three! We will have an auditor visit us on site to do an interview, and then two of us will fly to Canberra to do a presentation to a panel of 5 judges.

It’s very exciting to know that we’re one of three chosen from across the country! We’ll find out more this month.

How did you feel when you actually won the award – and especially considering what’s happened since?

I’m not interested in being the biggest training provider, but I am interested in being excellent.

The fact is, it was a competition where we were being judged against our competitors. It gave me validation that the work we’re doing is excellent and that we’re going in the right direction.

What qualities do you believe the judges based their decision on?

I actually did ask the judges why we’d won the award – what differences were in our favour – and they said there were several things. They liked our systems: the way we support our students. They really liked our culture and the fact that we invest in our own professional growth. I have a very strong sense of always needing to have our own mentors and coaches to help us grow both professionally and personally – and I instill this in our staff.

I’m currently being mentored by Siimon Reynolds and Brian Sher. Every month I get advice on how to progress in and build my business.

Why did you personally decide to become involved with training in the first place – what was the drawcard for you?

I’ve always been involved with the community services industry – right after doing my HSC and all the way through university.

One of the things I’m very passionate about is getting good support around the most vulnerable people in our community – children, people with disabilities, mental health problems and the aged. If I can enforce the way this support is provided, this gives me a sense of achievement.

I don’t think it’s necessarily all about having more money in the industry, but I do think it’s a mindset about how people work and how they view their position. The industry is maybe seen as a non-professional industry and more as a caring industry. I’m trying to elevate this to say that the work that’s being done is professional.

Why do you think some people might prefer a private training provider, as opposed to a government institution?

Regional based students tell us it’s because of the flexibility. In regional NSW, trying to get to a training centre can be difficult. Completing a webinar means people can complete their training at a time that suits them.

Even though government institutions offer some flexibility, they don’t offer it for all of their courses.

If people are interested in enrolling or finding out more information about Equalis, where should they go?

They should go to our website:

We’re about to launch a new website, which will be easy to navigate and will allow people to do direct online registrations. It will be a much more automated and streamlined site.

Thanks Narelle. Congratulations and best of luck with the National Small Training Provider Award.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

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