Making training organisation agreements work

An agreement is not just the signed piece of paper outlining how an arrangement will work. It includes the reasons why the agreement was reached, policies and procedures to be used, the expectations of both parties and the expected benefits for each side.

For this reason, and to avoid an acrimonious divorce, it is sensible to be upfront with how and why each party wishes to work. Articulating the arrangement by deciphering the needs of each party can help.  When describing the arrangement in a formal written agreement a balance must be struck between a concise, flexible arrangement verses a thorough, prescriptive one. Test your formal agreement by asking if you would sign it. Consider if the following would be appropriate to address in agreements you create;

Who will benefit and how?

This might go so far as doing a cost benefit analysis.

What are the top risks associated with this agreement?

A primary aim of an agreement for both parties is to limit risk impact on your business. Any agreement is, in effect, an extension to your business.

Are the terms balanced?

It is seldom helpful for terms to favour one party over another, e.g. one party should not have rights to terminate the agreement immediately while the other does not.

Are there clear roles and responsibilities specified for each party?

It is recommended that a 'swim-lane diagram' or table is created showing who is responsible for each of the major components of each course, and another table for the management of the agreement in its entirety including any audits and a final agreement review.

What is the period of the agreement?

Having an expiry on the agreement can allow for a revision and confirmation that the agreement is still beneficial to both parties.

Is a schedule required per delivery/event?

If so what should it include, when does it need to be completed and who agrees to the schedule?

Is there scope to change the agreement, if so how?

Consider who authorises changes and the way the change must be recorded, is email or phone sufficient?

Failure to follow the agreement should result in what penalties, if any?

Clear triggers and circumstances that enable either party to suspend the agreement e.g. no more enrolments until problems are addressed, and if not addressed then the provision to cancel the agreement.

Does each party have the skills and knowledge to deliver to the agreement?

Setting up a table listing the skills or knowledge required together with the names of the people who have those skills will allow quick identification of any gaps that could

jeopardise the agreement's smooth running.

How can intellectual property rights (IPR) be transferred/used?

Will the IPR in the development of new material be shared or not, and how will the IPR of third parties be catered for? eg. ideas from evaluation forms.

Why would this agreement not work?

This is a final review considering the agreement from the viewpoint of all parties in an attempt to identify & forestall problems.

Policies and procedures for the agreement to follow

If you have obligations to others, eg. to follow standards specified by accreditation bodies or trainer arrangements, these should be reflected in any agreement with those who use your services. The obligations gap between your existing agreements and those you plan to enter into is the level of risk your training organisation is absorbing, ensure this is a level of risk that is acceptable to you.

Any agreement relies on policies and procedures to be followed and articulated, these are usually referenced rather than included in a formal agreement:

  • Communication management procedure
  • Risk management procedure
  • Issue management procedure
  • Escalation procedure
  • Confidentiality & privacy standards
  • Intellectual property rights standards
  • Safety standards (including insurance requirements)
  • Compliance and audit standards
  • External standards, eg. legislative and governing body standards

Agreement types

There are different agreements used in a training organisation. These include agreements with trainers, resellers, licenses, venues, customers, governing bodies and partnerships.


These agreements are usually on going, they outline under what terms to engage a trainer. It includes confidentiality and performance terms, intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, payment obligations, and will also tend to have a per delivery schedule outlining location, daily rate and date.


These are companies who may simply pass on warm or hot leads to you. Others may take payment, and manage the customer until the point where the delivery is then taken over by training company. This is a commercial arrangement that is likely to include clear cancellation and transfer terms and client ownership.


These are organisations who license to use your course materials or processes but under their own brand or registered training organisation. This usually outline IPR ownership, course material update obligations, licensing costs and usage reporting frequency.


Often supplied by the venue the agreement will usually stipulate the cancellation terms, items to be provided, eg. flip charts or projector, a catering schedule and public liability insurance requirements.


Customer agreement could come from the customer or training provider. It  usually covers IPR obligations, in particular the creation of new course materials, and reuse of existing IPR. The dates and itemised cost of the training course, the individual delivering the training, insurance, cancellation penalties and payment schedules.

Governing bodies

Agreements supplied by governing bodies usually leave little room for negotiation. They include references to auditing and compliance obligations that the body will fulfil, procedures around complaints procedures, obligations of the training organisation regarding accreditations and reporting, eg. AVETMISS. These even include policies and procedures around the establishment of agreements with other organisations. They might be backed up by legislation. Examples of governing bodies include Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) requirement for RTOs to follow NVR standards.


These are usually a variant of one of the agreements above however a partnership tends to suggest a tighter arrangement that extends the other party to taking some degree of risk in the delivery of training by doing the delivery with their own staff, providing equipment, resources and/or the participants.

Business is about creating inventive ways to work, one way is a closer engagement. Here is an example:

Industry partnership arrangements

This is when a training company works very close with a customer. The customer supplies the trainer, venue and/or the equipment. The training company focuses on the administration, accreditation services, and auditing when necessary. This arrangement works where the equipment is large and expensive, where the training in low demand, but essential, or trainers can earn more money doing the job rather than teaching it. The responsibilities of the training organisation must be clear in the agreement. In effect this is a commercial arrangement to outsource part of an internal HR training department function. It is important to clearly outline roles and responsibilities regarding confidentiality of personnel files.

Should you seek legal advice for your agreement? While legal advice is not always required if the failure of the agreement poses a  threat to your training company you may wish to seek legal advice from a third party - while the per hour costs can be great it could save financial pain later.

Further reading

Industry enterprise and RTO partnerships - December 2012, TVET

Assessment using partnership arrangements - July 2001, Department of Training, Education and Youth Affairs

List of partnership publications from NCVER