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20 September
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Vocation on track with turnaround plan

Troubled education provider Vocation says it is on track with its turnaround plan and will reduce its courses and trading brands in an effort to conserve resources.

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Chief executive Stewart Cummins told shareholders at its annual general meeting on Friday the company will cut back the number of courses it offers to 60, from the current 106, by March 2016.

Vocation will also reduce the number of its trading brands from the current eight, and will consider changing the company name in future, he said.

“We are really doing it in order to have focus. It costs money to retain less economical courses, they continue to be monitored by the regulator, and they won’t generate much return,” he said.

“Our aim is to be recognised for the best courses in a limited number of areas, enabling us to increase investment in quality while benefiting from economies of scale.”

Vocation, once a market favourite, has lost more than 95 per cent of its market value since October 2014, when it announced the loss of Victorian government funding for substandard practices in some of its training businesses.

The decision severely dented investor sentiment in the private education and training sector, with the regulators stripping funding from several other businesses after finding irregularities.

Vocation posted a $300 million loss in 2014/15, and has since had a change of management and massive restructuring of its business.

In June, it announced a turnaround plan with a target of a return to profitability within three years.

While the business is seeing an uptick in student enrolments, Vocation’s financial performance will continue to lag because of the impact of earlier problems, Mr Cummins said.

His priorities in the coming year would be to restore the relationship with regulators and government funders, and to counter the legal claims against the company, he said.

The firm has said it will vigorously defend the three class action suits it is currently facing.

Vocation shares closed steady at 14 cents.

 
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