The Coalition Government has rushed through changes which would undermine the quality of vocational education and training for apprentices, in a last-minute move as it prepared to go into election caretaker mode.
An official document has revealed the Turnbull Government's plans to fund employer organisation and training providers for “Alternative Delivery Methods” to drastically reduce the face-to-face training done by students in the apprentice system.
Under the proposed changes, to be delivered as a pilot in various regions around the country, training would be delivered in a block at the front end of an apprenticeship.
It will mean that apprentices are encouraged to undertake training up front at their own expense, rather than over the course of their employment with the employer contributing to the cost.
The aim is to cut costs to employers and the government by shifting them directly on to the students, which AMWU National President, Andrew Dettmer, condemned.
“The Minister has rushed through these changes in the dead of night in the hope that no one would notice. These changes are aimed at reducing the quality of training and shifting the cost burden back on students,” he said.
The move will also force many first-year apprentices to take out the Coalition Government’s HECS-style scheme which offers loans of $20,000 - a despised system which would plunge them immediately into serious debt.
“For over a century, our VET system has relied on quality training that is delivered while you work, as you gain experience,” Mr Dettmer said.
You guys pay: the Coalition will make apprentices take the initial debt-load for their course tuition rather than employers.
“These changes seek to dismantle that system so that big business and private training providers can earn a quick buck off the misery of young apprentices.”
The pilot program will be initially tested with employer-designed programs in building and construction, electrical and communications but grants are available to extend it to other industry pilot areas if the Coalition is re-elected.
“This is a system in crisis and the people hurting the most are young people seeking to get decent skills and a decent job,” said Mr Dettmer.
“There is nothing agile or innovative about shifting costs to apprentices,” he said.