7 April 2020

Government tries to keep VET afloat as industry stumbles

| Dominic Giannini
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CIT has stopped all classes until the Easter break because of the threat from COVID-19. Photo: CIT Facebook.

The ACT Government has set aside $2 million from its economic stimulus package to prop up the Territory’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

A further $1 million was also announced as part of the ACT Government’s second economic stimulus package to fast track the Canberra Institute of Technology’s (CIT) Study Work Anywhere Anytime project which aims to move more course components and teaching online by July 2020.

On 24 March CIT suspended all of its classes until after the Easter recess (10 April).

The government will also release additional Skilled Capital places to address emerging workforce needs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The new Minister for Tertiary Education, Chris Steel, who recently stepped into the role to allow Chief Minister Andrew Barr to focus on the COVID-19 crisis, said it was a difficult time for the sector.

“To support the capacity of the VET sector to carry out training during the current crisis, the government will delay pricing measures introduced in January 2020 to address budget pressures in our User Choice and Skilled Capital programs until 2021 at the earliest,” he said.

“Australian Apprenticeships (User Choice) and Skilled Capital qualification subsidy amounts will largely reflect 2019 levels, and be backdated for User Choice commencements and Skilled Capital enrolments from 15 January 2020.”

Mr Steel said the government would work with other jurisdictions to ensure training continues to be delivered during the COVID-19 crisis as education institutions move towards online learning classes or enforced hiatuses.

Some legal services, business administration and accounting courses are already available either partially or fully online through CIT; however, it is unclear how apprenticeships and traineeships in industries such as hospitality will continue.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in some cases it will not be possible to avoid pushing people back a year.

“We will try [to make sure that students are not left behind] but it may not be possible in some circumstances just because of the nature of the training or the course,” he said.

“For some it may be that this period is lost to them in terms of their training and they will have to resume where they left off at some point in the future and that may, unfortunately, mean another year.

“We are working with the CIT to get them into a position where they can deliver a lot more online for the second part of the year.”

CIT said it welcomed the funding and subsidies from the ACT Government, but the situation is changing rapidly and they are unable to predict what will happen to staff and students in the coming weeks.

“Given the range and scope of the training offered at CIT, we are working to determine how classes can continue with the current restrictions,” CIT said in a statement to Region Media.

“The current pause on classes will allow us the opportunity to address these issues as well as funding, subsidies and future enrolments in an appropriate and considered manner.”

Chris Steel and Andrew Barr

Chris Steel and Andrew Barr have announced new measures to help the VET industry move towards online learning. Photo: Region Media.

Registered training organisations (RTO) can access 50 per cent of a course payment if a student has commenced a unit of competency, but were unable to finalise their assessment because of access to the workplace and social distancing laws.

Skills Canberra will publish advice on how RTOs can access support, while some trainers who are small or medium businesses will have access to other support schemes from both the Federal and Territory Governments.

Training providers can call the business liaison line on 6205 0900 to get advice on what support is available for them.

For further information please contact Skills Canberra at skills@act.gov.au or 6205 8555.

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