Today, the Senate Education and Employment References Committee has tabled its final report into the operation, regulation and funding of the private vocational education and training (VET) sector.
The committee’s report reinforces what Labor has been saying for over 18 months now – that the Abbott/Turnbull Government needs to act urgently to clean out the sharks and shonks that are targeting vulnerable Australians, providing little or no training for over-priced courses and saddling those that can least afford it with debt.
The committee heard that this is not just an issue of a few dodgy providers but one of widespread and systemic rorting.
The Government now needs to do more than just talk tough; it needs to take firm and decisive action against the unscrupulous providers who are destroying public confidence in our vocational education system.
The cost of their activities is being borne by individual students, Australian taxpayers and the economy.
Australian business is being deprived of the skilled workforce it so desperately needs.
As recently as Tuesday there were further reports of training providers being investigated for significant non-compliance with quality requirements.
Education and Training Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham has already admitted that the system is “susceptible to shonks and fraudsters” but has done nothing that actually fixes the flaws in the system.
Minister Birmingham has trumpeted the new National Standards which are nothing more than a bit of tinkering around the edges, and all too little, too late.
The combination of the Committee’s previous report on TAFE and now the private training sector report provides abundant evidence that the vocational training sector must be underpinned by a strong, viable public provider.
A Shorten Labor Government would guarantee TAFE funding into the future by working with Premiers and Chief Ministers on a comprehensive National Priority Plan that defines the role of TAFE and places it squarely as the public provider within the VET sector.