Why on the job learning is as important as the classroom

Tony Rowe from myrealestatetraining.com.au explains recognition of prior learning (RPL) as part of a license qualification and why good workplace experience can count for so much.

Back in the day, I had a couple of friends at university who were studying accounting. One was a full timer, (in classes for half the day and hanging out for the rest of the day having a ball); the other a part time student, who was working full time and completing classes and studying at some very odd hours.

While these two individuals may have been studying the same thing but they didn’t seem to appreciate each other very much. Why? The full time student felt the part timers were slack with their study because work and work deadlines sometimes had to come first. The part timer felt that the full timer spent too much time in the bar and only had theoretical knowledge & skills which were not terribly useful – & without practical application.

In fact, she mentioned on more than one occasion, that every time a new graduate was taken on at work, they didn’t know much and needed a lot of hand holding with everything. Her comment to me at one stage was “the last one couldn’t even complete a bank reconciliation. All these full time studiers have is a bunch of theory in their heads and no way to practically apply it. We have to teach them everything”.

I found it a little amusing that someone who was not that far through their course could speak as though they were more qualified than someone who was, at the time, much further progressed in her studies.

Our part time student, was of course, speaking from the invaluable and rich experiences she had gained in the workplace, working day in and day out with other more experienced professionals -learning the ins-and-outs of the trade on a daily basis, along with all the tips and tricks that come from being personally and  practically involved in the day-to-day application of the theory she was learning at night.

And I’m here to say the same dilemmas (and principles of learning) apply in the real estate profession.

Who would you rather hire? Someone who has lived and breathed real estate through extensive workplace experience, or someone who has studied the theory but hasn’t had to ‘walk the walk’?

In fact, I might go so far as to say that on the job training is just as valuable, sometimes even more so, than just theory learned in a classroom.

Take simple customer service for instance. Dealing with the public is a skill you learn pretty quickly in a real estate office and first impressions, especially, cannot be reversed. So it’s important to learn it quickly & practically.

Undertaking a listing presentation with no experience, and never having been involved in one before going to meet a potential vendor, would be crazy, right? Even though you may have spent several weeks on the process in a uni, TAFE or other classroom “learning, practising & rehearsing the skill”?

So, what is “Recognition of Prior Learning” (RPL) and can it help an experienced agent get their License qualification?

The answer is yes, and it can allow them to also learn how to deliver a better level of service!

“Learning” occurs in the classroom, and on the job.

However, a better educated agent, with a mix of on the job training as well as classroom training, is in a great position to claim an advantage over other agents who do not have the same level of on-the-job, practical experience, training and development or professional accreditation. RPL should be seen as a ‘badge of honour’ for everyone – it sets out to recognise practical experience, on many levels, and that acknowledges an invaluable skill set in the individual.

Experienced agents should be exploring RPL when looking to gain the required educational qualifications to get the full licence in each State. It should be part of a blend of training & assessment options provided by all RTOs.

How does it make for a better industry? I believe a greater understanding of RPL and the benefits of gaining a well-rounded blend of practical & theoretical education may well result in fewer complaints to the various regulators across the country, as well as fewer nasty headlines from the sensationalist media programs and newspapers who thrive on stories of agents doing the wrong thing.

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Tony Rowe

Tony Rowe is the CEO of TT Rowe and Co, a compliance, education and training consultancy providing specialist advice to the property industry in Australia.