Vocation collapse hurts students and shows the disaster of privatised vocational training

27 November 2015

The collapse of private training company Vocation, which will affect up to 12,000 students, is another symptom of the crisis in privatised vocational training, the AEU said today.

AEU Federal TAFE Secretary Pat Forward said that taxpayers had paid millions in subsidies to Vocation which had delivered nothing of value.

“This collapse is another sign that our privatised vocational education system is not working, and is doing nothing except lower the quality of courses and reduce trust in vocational education,” Ms Forward said.

“Vocational education must not be left to people who want to profit from young people. We need to ensure that TAFEs are properly funded so they can continue to provide a quality alternative to poorly-regulated private providers.

“The current policy of funding private providers through VET Fee help is just not working. It is allowing dodgy operators to pocket government funds and not deliver the quality of education students have a right to expect.

“It is undermining trust in the quality of courses, and employers’ trust in the skills they can expect from young people entering the labour market.

“One of Vocation’s subsidiaries, BAWM, has already had courses cancelled and been required to pay back $19 million to the Victorian Government for failing to provide quality training, yet Vocation has been able to continue operating.

“Students deserve to be able to begin a course knowing that they are getting a quality education and that their provider will be there at the end.

“Recent Australian Competition and Consumer Council investigations into potentially misleading conduct by providers, including the Phoenix Institute have also shown that the privatised system is delivering huge amounts of taxpayer funding for little return.

“The real losers in this are students who accrue thousands of dollars in debt for low-quality courses.

“Governments backing these providers through VET FEE HELP sends a message to students that these courses are legitimate, and makes it easier for them to attract students.

“The Federal Government is currently making a third attempt at tougher regulation of private providers, but unless there are restrictions on the amount of money that goes to private providers, rorts in the sector will continue to flourish.

“Total VET FEE-HELP debt for 2014 was $1.7 billion, but 2015 debt had reached $1.74 billion by mid-May and is on track to reach $4 billion by the end of the year. This explosive growth is creating a huge liability for taxpayers and channelling funding away from TAFEs.

“Overall VET funding has declined by 25 per cent per student contact hour since 2004, and has driven the growth in VET FEE-HELP debts.

“We need to ensure that at least 70 per cent of funding for VET is reserved for TAFEs to ensure that they can remain at the heart of the training system. If we lose the quality, capacity and experience of TAFE, the standards of vocational training in Australia will fall.”

Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291