Alena Smith, Axial General Manager (L) and (R) Michael Smart, Axial Head of Administration at Axial Head Office in Underwood.

Axial Training: Teaching Vocational Training and Transitioning to a New Digital Student Platform

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Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on Mar 05, 2017 – Click here for the Spanish version

Axial Training was founded in 1982 with the establishment of a large-scale heavy engineering workshop near the Port of Brisbane. Val Llewellyn, along with other members of his family, established the business to provide custom machinery and fabrication for the marine and manufacturing sectors.

After a successful period spanning from the 1980s and into the 1990s, a downturn in the local engineering and manufacturing industry led Llewellyn to diversify and take on new business ventures, utilizing his many years of engineering skills and knowledge.

In 1996, the Australian Federal Government introduced a new “user-choice” vocational training initiative that allowed private training organizations to enter the marketplace, adding flexibility and choice to students and employers alike. With many years of experience in the engineering and fabrication business, Llewellyn noticed the need for greater skilled apprenticeship training. His love for the industry and his passion to see the next generation come forth, along with a viable business proposition, brought to life the establishment of the training company that would become Axial Training.

From the outset, Llewellyn founded Axial with a strong set of ethics and values that still hold true today. He built his engineering business based on integrity, honesty, service, quality, and results, and with these values in mind, Axial Training entered the educational marketplace in 1997.

Initially delivering engineering training, Axial diversified quickly into training delivery for the retail meat and business sectors. One of the key differentiators that Axial Training brought to the educational marketplace was the commitment to deliver on-the-job training to apprentices and trainees, regardless of their location in Australia. This commitment saw Axial’s trainers traveling to all corners of the country to deliver training and quality education to thousands of students.

With the ever-increasing scope of cyberspace, digital connectivity, and interactive online platforms, Axial Training began to explore transitioning to the digital training space as early as the year 2000.

After several versions and iterations, Axial Training developed a digital training platform in-house, which launched online to satisfy the need for Blue Card inductions. 

This soon expanded to cover many other legislated safety inductions, which were in turn linked directly to a newly implemented digital administration and student management platform.

The introduction and transition to an outsourced student learning suite is a complex task that involves the consolidation of numerous platforms, programs, and procedures. For a business like Axial Training, such a move represented the biggest change that would revolutionize how the business operated. With this in mind, it was essential that the chosen digital platform not only be industry current but also industry leading.

The transition to a digital student learning space would not only keep Axial Training students on top of the latest learning platforms but would also present Axial Training with the opportunity to digitize thousands of pages of resources, manuals, and reference materials.

Essentially, a move to an advanced digital platform would streamline Axial’s training operations and delivery to the extent that, if done correctly, they would be in a position to offer their students an effective online learning space that would be easily accessible from any place, at any time, with the addition of blended learning, as well as their existing online and face-to-face delivery modalities.

Axial’s idea was to combine the proposed digital platform with the existing high standards of the face-to-face delivery they were well-known for, together with the first-class training provided by their trainers and facilitators. This bespoke build and educational offering would provide a truly blended learning proposition that would deliver quality education to their students, providing them with the best industry experience available in the vocational training space today.

That was the plan for Llewellyn and his team, but which digital platform should they choose?

Selecting the Right Digital Platform

In 2016, Alena Smith joined Axial Training as general manager and was assigned the task of heading the ‘Axial Digital Project.’ The brief was clear, and no corners were to be cut. Axial Training was moving to a digital learning space and not only did the new platform have to deliver, but it also had to innovate and provide high outcomes, as well as improve operational effectiveness.

Many years of success in the educational sector had honed Smith’s skill set perfectly for this type of project, which she took on with absolute passion and respect for Axial’s ethos “All about people,” taking a student-centered approach.

Smith thoroughly researched the market and soon decided on the Blackboard Open LMS digital learning platform. This was the only platform that provided Axial Training with the features and flexibility required to facilitate the entire scope of requirements for the company’s transition to a complete end-to-end digital learning space.

Blackboard Open LMS was not only the best-suited platform for Axial’s needs. It was also the robust onboarding process and ongoing support offered by Blackboard, along with a very controlled transitional process, which provided Axial’s staff with sublime training and support to correctly tailor and structure the Blackboard Open LMS platform to their students’ and trainers’ needs.

Additionally, Smith’s educational knowledge and background ensured a build that was flexible enough, as Axial acknowledges that no two students learn in the same way. The Blackboard Open LMS platform and Axial’s additional customization and use of the LMS has allowed for course delivery and design to be tailored to the needs and wants of each individual student. Axial has successfully achieved outstanding results following the launch of Blackboard Open LMS in November 2016.

The flexible and interactive design of Blackboard Open LMS allows Axial Training to provide each student with the feeling that once logged into their personal “LIME Room” dashboard, that entire system has been developed just for them. “LIME” is an acronym for “Learning Is Made Easy.”

The quality and flexibility of the Blackboard Open LMS digital platform also triggered Smith and Llewellyn’s canny marketing sense to see the opportunity for Axial Training to not only add a new digital learning space to the company but to brand and market the platform as a promotable sub-brand of Axial Training. After internal management consultation, the brand name “The LIME Room” was rubber-stamped for Axial Training’s Blackboard Open LMS digital learning platform.

“This name gave Axial a fresh new sub-brand to present to the market, a modern new suite of colors, designs, and an interactive educational brand and space that would gain greater traction in all of our markets,” affirmed Llewellyn.

Axial Training launched the LIME Room in late 2016 to a warm reception of their existing cohort of over 2,500 students. The transition has been successful and the response from both students and Axial’s trainers has been nothing short of outstanding. The LIME Room is exceptionally user-friendly, which has certainly helped dispel the fears of individuals who may not be technology savvy, and Axial mentors are available to assist with any questions or concerns that their trainers or students may have.

The use of Blackboard Open LMS as the platform on which the LIME Room is built has enabled Axial Training to bring its delivery of training to a new level of accessibility and quality.  Blackboard Open LMS has also enabled Axial to set a clear and smooth path for its present expansion in its overall delivery of vocational training.

Axial has recently expanded its training program into the thriving hospitality and cookery industries. It has been hired to deliver staff training for large hotel chains including Mantra, Hilton, Marriot, and Sofitel, among others. A large factor in securing these contracts was Axial’s promotion and demonstration of “The LIME Room,” what it means to the student, and how it can benefit the employer. Axial has built on its strength in areas like involving the employers in the bespoke design of their students’ (the employees) training courses and programs. Digital platforms like Blackboard Open LMS make this process more streamlined, refined and user-friendly.

Axial Training’s transition to the Blackboard Open LMS digital learning space has been the catalyst for change across their entire business. Alena Smith mentioned that the best piece of advice she could offer anyone considering such a system would be to take an all-encompassing approach to the transition. “The use of this product is limitless. At Axial we have ensured we have educated ourselves and our people to use every corner of this suite and extended it into areas to transition all of our operational and internal staff requirements, training inductions, HR systems, forms and policies into the LIME room, and utilized this as a one-stop shop for all our company requirements.”

With over 60 different qualifications offered covering a myriad of sectors, Axial Training’s partnership with Blackboard sees Val Llewellyn and his team well positioned to continue their long history of educational excellence and growth in the vocational educational industry on a national scale.

Photos: AFP Patrick Hamilton.