PIQ College

In October, Professional IQ College welcomed new CEO, Simon Casford.

A business leader who has been at the helm of change, innovation, and growth many times, Simon brings extensive experience in the education sector, having held strategy and leadership roles at The Skills Organisation and Skills International, Unitec, and Manukau Institute of Technology.

Shortly after Simon joined the College, we sat down to talk about his experience in the sector, supporting advisers, and plans for the future.

Looking back, what drew you to the education sector?

From a strategy and development perspective, there’s a continuing wealth of opportunity to do things differently, to explore new services and ideas.

In my time at Skills, as an example, the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) sector was undergoing rapid change. One of the strategic initiatives I led was setting up Skills International, a venture that, for me, really drove home the immense value of taking a “yes we can do that” attitude. Within two years from launch, we grew the business to a $6 million annual turnover, providing services to Education New Zealand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and international clients, including designing financial services qualifications and assessments for Saudi Arabia.

Developing new services and relationships was also a key focus in your time as General Manager of Business Development at Unitec. What’s key to success?

In a nutshell: getting a crystal-clear picture about what your clients and students need and delivering on it.

At Unitec, we delivered project management training programmes for Hawkins Construction, set up The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab joint ventures, amongst other initiatives. But the key theme in all was keeping the needs we were delivering to front-of-mind: from developing the training programmes and material, through to how students experience the learning.

In addition to business development and strategy roles, you’ve consulted on regulatory change for the vocational training sector. What did this highlight for you?

It’s a big subject of course, but a key focus of the Reform of Vocational Education is to seek efficiencies and ready the sector so that it can swiftly respond to fast-changing needs in skills and learning. The wider vocational sector is undergoing huge change – the amalgamation of all the polytechs, the dissolution of Industry Training Organisations etc., so a big part of our job is to navigate these changes, so that the industry doesn’t have to.

As financial advisers have experienced, it’s crucial to have access to a trusted education partner to attain required qualifications and to source training for ongoing professional development.

In partnership with IBANZ, this is a key focus for the College: Level 5 of course, but also ensuring financial advice businesses and advisers have a partner they can turn to for a broad – and continually evolving – range of skills development and training needs.

Your role with the College signals the potential for collaboration with LearnPlus. Four weeks in, are there opportunities you have already identified?

As the CEO of both Professional IQ and LearnPlus, I can see some potential to leverage systems and resources, and the broader team and I will take a close look at those in time.

In the short term, the focus is all about people – the PIQ team and our more than 500 current Professional IQ students. We want to make sure that the College is well resourced to deliver a great experience and that advisers can smoothly achieve their Level 5 qualification. I’ve been in listening mode in the past few weeks – reaching out for feedback from our IBANZ partners and the PIQ Learning team – with the focus on efficiency and student experience.

The Level 5 Certificate is a key focus for Professional IQ College and the industry in the medium term. We’re focused on becoming the industry preferred partner in delivering this.

Compared to other academic providers, PIQ is industry relevant, and uses Strand-relevant assessors. What’s more, the PIQ Level 5 Certificate addresses the different learning needs of existing – and often busy – advisers: it’s an in-work qualification, reinforcing learning as you go and using examples from your practice, rather than more generic, academic examples.

Is there anything you would like to add for our IBANZ members and advisers?

I’d like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the PIQ Learning team – it has been a very busy period and they have risen to the challenge. We’ve been examining our processes and are highly focused on student experience and fine tuning how we support advisers through attaining the qualification. 

As I said earlier, Level 5 has been and will continue to be a key focus for advisers. But putting this to the side for a moment, we’re also seeking thoughts and insights on what the industry wants for their ongoing training and professional development needs. From business administration, sales, various soft skills – nothing is off the table. We want to hear about what would be useful from the perspective of the industry.

To get in contact with Simon or the PIQ Learning team, call 09 306 1731, email info@professionaliq.co.nz, or visit the website at professionaliq.co.nz.

December 2021

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