Two Fairfax investigative reports published today have revealed that the Australian vocational education sector is in a state of crisis with students and the Australian taxpayer paying the price.
Despite the introduction of new national standards banning inducements in April this year, one report illustrates that shonky brokers and training companies are continuing to go door to door, targeting vulnerable Australians from low socio economic areas with offers of free laptops.
The second report disturbingly reveals that jobactive clients are being referred to brokers to sell diplomas, with a sales target of one diploma per day.
Unemployed Australians who are jobactive clients of the Department of Employment can lose their benefits if they refuse work or are fired from their employment. This places them in difficult position when they are asked to do such unethical work.
The Government must publicly release its investigation into these allegations and outline how it will protect vulnerable job seekers from similar practices in the future.
This is further evidence why the Abbott/Turnbull Government should be supporting Labor’s proposal for a VET Ombudsman (VETO), lift the priority of the Australian National Audit Office audit into the VET FEE-HELP program and a requirement for a stricter opt-in application system for students when taking out VET FEE-HELP loans.
For two years, Labor has consistently called for tough action to stop the sharks and shonks in the VET sector. During the last Parliamentary sitting week, Labor put forward strong, common sense measures and the Turnbull Liberals flatly rejected Labor’s proposals.
Under this government hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on training with low completion rates and low quality. One Minister after another has promised to get VET FEE-HELP under control, and failed. And the victims are thousands upon thousands of Australians – young and old – who have been signed up to a vocational qualification they cannot hope to complete, and with a debt they often don’t know they have.
The only winners have been the rapidly expanding private training providers and the dodgy marketing agents, who are being treated with kid gloves by this Government and its regulators.
Sadly, Minister Hartsukyer appears to be clueless about how to take effective action to crack down on dodgy providers and restore the reputation of the VET sector.
The Turnbull Liberals are determined to bury their heads in the sand, tinker at the edges and hope that the shonks and sharks will just magically disappear.
The Government has got another chance to be a grown-up Government and support Labor’s proposals when they go through the Senate next week. If they don’t, the cost will continue to be borne by individual students, Australian taxpayers and the economy.