Highlands students despair: Sage Institute of Fitness collapse

Devastated: Moss Vale's Brad Johnson, 18, was initially optimistic about his Diploma of Fitness Coaching with Sage, pictured with 'Commando' Steve Willis. Photo: supplied.
Devastated: Moss Vale's Brad Johnson, 18, was initially optimistic about his Diploma of Fitness Coaching with Sage, pictured with 'Commando' Steve Willis. Photo: supplied.

So close, but so far.

Two Highlands students, both less than three weeks out from completing their qualifications, have been caught up in the Sage Institute closure.

Now, after 11 months commuting to Sage’s Sydney campus for the Diploma of Fitness Coaching, they find themselves with up to $18,000 invested in qualifications that are up in the air.

The Australian Careers Institute Group, trading as Sage Institute of Fitness, went into administration on February 8. The company closed on March 8 and classes in Sydney and Brisbane were cancelled.

Brad Johnson, an 18-year-old student from Moss Vale, just wants to know if he’ll get the qualification he’s worked so hard for.

“I had finished all my course work, and I was part-way through my 120 hours supervised placement. Now I’m stuck and have no idea what to do,” he said.

The young student enrolled in the fitness diploma at Sage when he hit a stumbling block during his HSC.

“I was halfway through Year 12, I wasn’t excelling and decided school wasn’t for me. I wanted to do something I was passionate about and I wanted to help people.”

Brad’s goal was to train elite athletes, but his experience with Sage has left him feeling jaded about the fitness industry in general.

“Other places were only offering up to Certificate IV, and because Sage had a diploma I thought it would be better for what I wanted to do. Now I’m not even sure I want to do it at all,” he said.

Another student, a 23-year-old Highlands man who asked not to be named, was even closer to his course completion. He had finalised and submitted all coursework and completed the requisite 120 hours of supervised training.

“Sage’s management of the whole course was ridiculously poor, but to leave students in this position at the end is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Since the administrator was announced on February 8, the man said he had contacted Sage via phone and email more than 50 times. “Never once did they answer a single call,” he said.

Administrator Ferrier Hodgson has been in touch with students and is working with the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) and Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) to assist students.

An ASQA spokesman said the authority was also trying to obtain copies of student records from the administrator to make them available to students.

ACPET chief operating officer Kit McMahon said a key priority of the council was to obtain the necessary data so Statements of Attainment could be issued to students.

“If they decide to draw a line in the sand, our student support centre will try to help them have their fees refunded for subjects not studied,” she said. “We’ll try to place other students with training providers who will close the gap in their studies.”

She said every student had their own individual journey ahead of them, but processes were underway to provide them all with advice.

“It is hard, it’s disappointing and it’s a unique journey for each student,” she said.

Ms McMahon said as student data was provided to ACPET, it would make direct contact with students to discuss and advise their options moving forward.

“It’s a knock in the teeth for students on their study journey, but it’s important to know the journey will continue.”

An ACPET meeting for NSW students will take place in Sydney on March 20, but Ms McMahon said webinars would be held for regional students.

Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell said although it was a federal issue, he would make representations to appropriate ministers on behalf of affected students in his electorate.

I’m a Sage student and I need help, now what?

Students looking for more information can visit http://www.acpetactivations.com.au/students/ and are advised to register their situation with ACPET by contacting support@acpetstudentservices.com.au or 1800 875 474.

A specific overview of options available for Sage students is available here.

Read a list of frequently asked questions for Sage students.