A listed Vocation can ride out problems, says co-founder Brett Whitford

Brett Whitford, a co-founder of embattled education firm Vocation.
Brett Whitford, a co-founder of embattled education firm Vocation.

Brett Whitford, a co-founder of embattled education firm Vocation who has just lifted his stake to 15 per cent, says the company is in crisis but a privatisation isn't needed and the problems can be fixed while it remains a listed company.

He said he was also buoyed by the small rise in Vocation's share price on Monday after lifting his holding to 15.04 per cent from 9.11 per cent previously, confirmed in a substantial shareholder notice with the Australian Securities Exchange.

Mr Whitford was already the company's largest shareholder and scooped up extra shares last Thursday when Vocation plunged to a record low after slicing its 2014-15 profit forecast in half, further damaging its credibility with investors.

Mr Whitford, who was forced out of the company in June by chief executive Mark Hutchinson and the Vocation board, is calling for the resignation of Mr Hutchinson as part of a five-point plan to try to restore the company's fortunes. Mr Whitford wants to take over in the short term, and may consider it as a permanent role.

He said privatising the company to give it time to fix its problems away from the glare of being listed on the ASX was not needed, and was not something he would pursue.

"I think there is definitely a place in the public markets for an education sector. At some point you've got to be first," he said.

New Vocation chairman Doug Halley spoke briefly with Mr Whitford on Monday.

The notice to the ASX on Monday revealed Mr Whitford and his entity, the Whitford Family Trust, now own 34.6 million shares in Vocation.

Confirmation of the large increase in Mr Whitford's stake helped Vocation climb off its lows in early trade on Monday morning. The shares fell to a record low of 17.5¢ in early trade but recovered slightly to close at 19¢. "Maybe this is a first small step in restoring some value."

But it is a far cry from the $3.40 Vocation shares fetched in early September.

"We're in crisis at the moment," he said. His five-point plan, which includes the removal of Mr Hutchinson, making Vocation a "house of brands" where each individual business forges its own identity, and having a sharper focus on the international business, is a practical solution to the woes.

Mr Whitford was the driving force behind the Customer Service Institute of Australia, one of the three main training and education businesses that were combined to form Vocation, which listed on the ASX in December 2013.

Mr Whitford also wants to appoint a senior lawyer to the Vocation board to manage three separate potential class actions the company is facing.

This story A listed Vocation can ride out problems, says co-founder Brett Whitford first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.