Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

A great man falls

Monday, December 14 2015

It is with a very heavy heart that I pass on my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Harry Ennis. Harry passed away last week, after a very fast battle with cancer.

Harry played a very important role in the vocational education and training sector, as CEO of South Australia’s Construction Industry Training Centre. Harry was the absolute character and was always a real pleasure to see. He stood for quality and ethics in all that he did. He was a long serving contributor to ACPET and the broader industry, both as a member of our State Committee plus a very energetic contributor in every forum he ever attended.

He will be sorely missed.

I must say I don’t feel it appropriate that I mix this news with other events in the sector, but alas I must.


Of course this is the topic of the day, again. I remain very frustrated at Government’s rushed amendments. When it was government inaction over a number of years that brought this upon us all, it is now government actions taken with no foresight or connection to consequences that will bring many quality Colleges to their knees.

I must reiterate that like all of us I am appalled at some of the stories I read about the treatment of students. However, I am not sure what was expected when Providers with no educational history, limited facilities and no student support were allowed in to print money. 

We as an industry have said long and loud we will not stand for poor quality and wanted government action. We are taking our own actions and will report to you when we can. Regulators are now making progress and government did need to introduce some further strong measures. It is perhaps a sign of their lack of confidence in their own capacity that action was taken against all providers, regardless of their reputation or risk ratings.

This makes no sense. The rorters are already out there offering training places, when quality colleges are being told by government to both put off students and staff. Is this really the outcome government wanted? To stall training  for the future economy.

Australia is blessed with a top tier of tertiary education providers that are as good as anywhere in the world. This is the platform on which a student loan scheme should have been built.  What are the key elements to meet the future skills needs of the economy? A quick list from me:

  • A crystal clear national skills strategy
  • Well designed training markets to meet the vision for the sector
  • A qualifications framework designed to meet future skills and employment needs and facilitate portability in the labour market
  • A National partnership between the Commonwealth and States and Territories crafted to ensure an efficient national system and growing investment in skills where it is needed
  • A mechanism for genuine Industry leadership and ownership of the system and its outputs
  • Strategies to help industry identify its skills needs and deploy technology and human capital
  • Private sector investment in Tertiary Education capital
  • Strong national regulation,
  • Close government monitoring of the training market, and
  • A student loan scheme designed to both broaden educational opportunities  and supplement government investment

Oh dear.

An analysis of this list demonstrates where this has gone wrong. The VET FEE HELP Scheme has been implemented almost in complete isolation of most of these elements. In what is obviously a panic move, the changes of last week will again fail the future proofing test.

Why didn’t they just stop the rorters. Any even cursory look at their own data shows where the problems are. Our research shows how easy it is to identify the risk indicators.

I thank everyone in the industry who have already shared their stories of having to advise students that they will not be able to continue their training next year, together with the real financial risk this creates. Yes good colleges who invest in real facilities who have had their business model taken away with no notice.

I have raised these issues with government and have been advised that no change will be made.

However, it can not end there. We need to hear from everyone as to what this short sighted decision means to them. Of course don’t just tell us, tell all Ministers and MPs.

I fully support that the government needed to introduce these types of powers. It was their decision to treat everyone the same that makes no sense.

On a final note I am pleased to inform you that one of out great staff members, Mr Martin Powell has been announced as the new CEO of the VET Development Centre. While Martin has been an outstanding contributor and is a real loss, the role is a fantastic opportunity for him and one he will take with both hands. I look forward to working with him in his new role.

Rod Camm


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