Sage Institute staff and students had ‘gut feeling’ about closures

Sage Institute of Fitness, now facing campus closures, hired sales professionals to serve as career advisers who “had to lie through their teeth” to entice students, according to a former Sage trainer and assessor.

Sage students were told on Wednesday that they “may be liable” to pay VET government loan fees despite their courses being cut short.

The institute spent $6 million on marketing in a one-year period, with heavy promotion by celebrity trainer ‘Commando’ Steve Willis, before going into voluntary administration last February.

On Wednesday, administrators Ferrier Hodgson confirmed the closure of Sydney and Brisbane campuses, with Melbourne classes suspended for a week.

When approached by The New Daily for comment, a former Sage employee said she had a “gut feeling” that the situation was “not going to end pretty”.

“There was a whole lot of lying. They did so much for financial gain, not for staff or the students,” she said.

“We were often shifting location and told we were making our final move, only to move again.

“Their career advisers were sales guys who had to lie through their teeth to get students in. It wasn’t their fault though, they were just doing their job.

“Students were told that Certificate 3 and 4 were part of the diploma, but for whatever reason our diploma did not have that. They were told they would be able to start working eight weeks into their course but really, they needed to wait until they had their final piece of paper.”

Now, students have been left in limbo with no qualifications and few answers, while the Sage phone lines continue to ring out to message bank.

Brisbane student Tiffany Field was three months away from completing her diploma when she arrived at Sage on Tuesday to find the institute had closed its doors.

She wrote in a Facebook post (see below) that she plans to seek compensation if she is not transferred to another institute to complete her diploma.

0309-facebook-sage.jpg

Sydney-based Sage student Jerome Estephan told The New Daily he paid $2000 up front and has a $18,750 VET debt.

The 21-year-old said he stopped attending classes about three months ago in an attempt to save money as he anticipated the business was going downhill.

“Sage pretty much wasted my time. I’ve complained and complained and no one gets back to me.

“It was all dodgy from the start; the high turnover in teachers, the ‘diploma’, the campuses that kept moving everywhere … It’s nearly one year down the drain and I’m just hoping I get everything back.”

Another student, 44-year-old Queenslander Fiona Terare, said she was ‘devastated’ about the closure.

“I’m left with no class, no college, no diploma and no refund,” she told The New Daily. “I feel like I have wasted the last six months of my life.”

Ferrier Hodgson administrator George Georges said there had been no proposal to allow Sage to continue its operations.

“Discussions are ongoing with an interested party for the continuation of the Victorian classes,” he said.

“The Administrators will be working with the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) and the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) to determine the current position of the students and the assistance that will be made available going forward.”

The New Daily understands Sage has battled WorkCover claims in the past and is currently in the process of facing at least one other case.

Sage has about 1600 students and 200 employees across its campuses in three states.

More than 100 staff were made redundant on Tuesday.

Originally published at The New Daily and re-published via SmartCompany.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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