Students fear for their qualifications

Credit: Stuff / Fairfax media 2016

Thank you to the Southland Times and Stuff for publishing this story. We are simply trying to get to the bottom of what has happened to Fitlink, plus how our staff can get their courses completed without any further cost or inconvenience.

As a mum of three young children, Invercargill woman Melissa Beckett was looking forward to gaining a qualification as a personal trainer and doing a job that she loved.

But now she is questioning whether the qualification is in jeopardy, after claims that the online training provider, Fitlink, cannot complete the course.

Beckett is one of many students who have been working towards gaining their certificates through online education provider, Fitlink. She has invested 18 months of her time, and $3000.

But a series of statements and communications sent to the students have left Beckett fearing all her hard work has been for nothing.

An email on October 21, which claimed to be from the company, warned ownership of Fitlink New Zealand was in dispute, meaning a “long and protracted High Court case is now pending to determine the rightful owner”.

As a result businesses associated with Fitlink “will be unable to deliver their services”. Students were offered the option to transfer to iFit, a new provider Fitlink claimed to have partnered with.

While the email promised no students would lose money, three days later a second email said the transfer would cost $240.

The confusion deepened on Thursday, when the New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) announced that as a result of the dispute, it would not recognise qualifications issued by Fitlink after October 21.

REPs registrar Stephen Gacsal added that iFit – the new body students were being urged to join – was not registered as an education provider, meaning any qualifications it offered would not meet its requirements for registration.

Gacsal said on Thursday that it was seeking information from both sides of the dispute, and would issue an update when it received a response.

A third email to students, this time signed by “Fitlink Team” says Fitlink was not transferring students to iFit, and the new business was trying to illegally transfer students to their new company.

Meanwhile the Facebook page of Fitlink is urging students to move over to iFit.

It is unclear how many students are caught up in the drama, dozens have been posting questions on the Facebook page.

The students appear to have been drawn into the troubles of the Australian parent company, also called Fitlink, which had collapsed in December 2015.

The New Zealand business appears to have been unaffected for months, but at the end of September receivers were appointed to Fitlink New Zealand by its secured creditor, Violet Eliuk, after it failed to meet a demand for repayment.

However, just three weeks later, after receivers from Meltzer Mason were prevented from entering the business premises “by those in practical control”, the receivership was ended.

Companies Office records show that throughout October, the company which was previously known as Fitlink New Zealand, went through a series of name changes

Another company, with different owners, was renamed at almost exactly the same time, to became Fitlink New Zealand.

Requests for comment from Fitlink and iFit have not been responded to.

Beckett said she was in tears on Wednesday night. She is due to complete her qualification in just two months.

“I want to finish. The work I have done, I have achieved. I was promised to be REPs registered.

Fellow student Rebekah Bootsma, of Invercargill, said she had been paying her fees off during her study.

She had cancelled her payments, even though the emails she’d received said all accounts had been “frozen”.

“At this stage I just want out and no more money taken.

“Then I’ll look at fighting for my money back.”

Bootsma said she had reported Fitlink to the Commerce Commission.

Melanie Ryding, who already holds qualifications as a personal trainer through Fitlink, had been mentoring Bootsma and Beckett while they studied.

She owns and operates her own personal training business, Ryding2Health, based in Invercargill, and employs Beckettt as well as another Fitlink student.

Ryding said the people she mentored couldn’t afford to start another course, but she was also concerned about her own qualifications.

“It could actually discredit the qualification I worked hard to complete in the eyes of the public.”

CREDIT: Stuff / Fairfax media, article written by Hannah McLeod and Hamish Rutherford. Original story can be found here.

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