20 Oct 2014 GEELONG businesses are up to their ears in a State Government-sponsored rort that is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
In its rush to privatise skills training the Napthine-Baillieu government has taken a blowtorch to the state's TAFE system, while at the same time creating a cash cow that is now being milked freely by private industry.
The rapid deterioration of the traineeship system has been obvious for some time, but the depth to which it has plunged became clear while I was having dinner with friends at a local hotel recently.
We had just been served by a very nice young bloke wearing a name tag that revealed he was a trainee. My friend asked him what he was studying.
"Certificate III in Holiday Parks and Resorts," our young server proudly announced.
My friend and I almost choked on our chorizo.
Holiday Parks and Resorts?
This kid is supposedly learning front office, housekeeping and grounds maintenance skills by waiting tables in a pub and he is doing it not at the expense of the hotel owner, but of the Victorian taxpayer. Apparently Holiday Parks and Resorts certification attracted more funding than hospitality qualifications.
The State Government's decision to strip cash from the TAFE system and channel it into the private sector sparked a massive boom in the training industry, not unlike the explosion in installers when the Rudd federal government unveiled its home insulation scheme.
In fact, the two programs are similar on many levels. Both triggered a rush of new businesses designed to take advantage of huge government handouts. Like the insulation scheme, the privatised skills training system is poorly regulated and monitored. And both have led to a massive flow of funding from government coffers to business.
The lack of quality controls in the privatised training sector allows providers to take shortcuts and offer qualifications in a fraction of the time allocated by reputable organisations such as TAFE.
Recently I heard a radio ad offering the opportunity to complete childcare certification in just a few months. The same course at TAFE takes between 12 to 18 months. How is it possible to provide adequate training in such an important field in such a brief amount of time?
The fitness industry provides another worrying example. It takes up to 12 months to gain accreditation as a personal trainer at TAFE; some private providers are offering it in just two weeks.
Then there are those who don't bother with training at all. Last week Channel 9's A Current Affair highlighted the case of a Melbourne man who was able to gain two qualifications as a motor mechanic in half an hour. This bloke proudly displayed his certificates while admitting he hardly knew his spark plugs from his brake pads.
Like the insulation scheme, there is far more than public money at risk here. While so-called training providers get rich at the expense of taxpayers, students are emerging from courses with hopelessly, and sometimes dangerously, inadequate skills.
And because of the eligibility requirements, they are unable to access further government subsidies to obtain the skills they need to get a job.
I need to be clear on one thing not all private providers are evil.
But the fact that they are able to cherry pick the most lucrative courses while leaving badly underfunded TAFE colleges to pick up those that have high costs and low returns, is a recipe for disaster.
It is a mess that is of the Napthine Government's making and, sadly, it shows no interest at all in cleaning it up
PRIVATE training providers have attacked the Victorian Opposition’s plans to restore community service obligation funding for public TAFEs arguing that private providers should also be eligible for any additional funding.
VICTORIA’S services industries say employers are losing confidence in the quality of graduates of the state’s open training market, as providers struggle to maintain quality in the face of falling government subsidy rates, course closures and dwindling enrolments.
VICTORIA’S services industries say employers are losing confidence in the quality of graduates of the state’s open training market, as providers struggle to maintain quality in the face of falling government subsidy rates, course closures and...